Located in southeastern India, Chilika Lake is best known as a mecca for birds, which are attracted by the hundreds of species of fish and other aquatic life. During peak migratory season, the lake hosts more than 1 million birds from more than 200 species. Also, the number of shrimp farms around Chilika has increased dramatically in recent decades.
Chilika is the largest lagoon in India and one of the largest in the world. The interplay between fresh water—draining into the shallow lake from rivers to the north and west—and salty tidal water—encroaching from the Bay of Bengal to the south—gives Chilika’s waters a brackish quality, with salinity varying significantly throughout the lake. These variations open a range of ecological niches and promote a rich diversity of species.
One satellite-based study found the percentage of land being used for shrimp farming had increased from about 4 percent in 1999 to 13 percent in 2013. The expansion of aquaculture has created conflicts with traditional fishermen, who claim shrimp ponds disrupt the lake’s natural flow and ecosystem.
Image courtesy of NASA.