The rued lagoon

The rued lagoon THE abundance of fish and crab in Chilika will soon become a thing of the past, if there is no check on the increasing pressure of human activity in the region. A recent study which voiced these concerns, claimed that human- made hindrances are responsible for the shocking 70-80 per cent decline in fish and crab production in Chilika - Asia's largest brackish water lagoon. While Chilika produced 8,872 metric tonnes of fish and crab in 1986-87, the figure fell to 780 tonnes in 1996-97.

The extensive use of motor launches and boats for fishing, the spraying of pesticides in nearby paddy fields, increasing shrimp culture near the lagoon's banks and the practice of collecting shrimp seedlings have damaged the habitat of fish and crab in Chilika.

Environmentalists and ecologists who have been studying this trend, pointed out that the decrease in the percentage of salinity in the water due to siltation in the lake has also affected the growth of aquatic species. The lake's area has shrunk from 904 sq km in 1914 to 785 sq kin in 1996. The average water level, which was about three meters in 1924, has also declined to about 1.5 m at present. These are the major natural causes affecting the lake's biodiversity.