Odisha`s Chilika lagoon, which is a hotspot for biodiversity, has been named `destination flyways` by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) following its inclusion in a list of eight such sites worldwide.
Chilika is the only site to be selected from Asia by the UNWTO and was recommended by six international agencies such as Secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity, Convention of Migratory Species, Ramsar Convention Secretariat, World Heritage and Man and the Biosphere Programmes of UNESCO.
The UNWTO has constituted a mission team for Chilika in January, which is being headed by Virginia Trapa and Dr Taej Mundkur. The team met top brass of Union Ministry of Tourism and Odisha Tourism Department during its visit to Chilika last week. They also held discussion with CDA’s Chief Executive Ajit Patnaik on the management of the lagoon.
There are about four mouths in Chilika including the old Palur mouth.
The other three are Gabakunda inlet, Dhalabali inlet and new Phailin inlet (opened after the cyclone Phailin).
The water body also boasts off about 211 bird species, largest Irrawaddy dolphin population, 217 fish species and more than 30 migratory species, according to CDA estimate.
Strategic Partnerships have been made with a number of voluntary and community based organisations and a close monitoring system has been put in place by the authorities.
Following such steps, there has been a seven-fold increase in alternative sources of livelihood for local community.
At present, about Rs 40 crore per annum is being earned from community-based eco-tourism activities.
Near about 850 boats are being used for dolphin watching and 400 vessels to conduct the tourists for bird watching.
The boats of the local fisherman have been engaged in these activities which has reduced the pressure on fishery.