The extremely severe cyclone, Fani, has created four new mouths in Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, connecting to Bay of Bengal, officials said.
Chilika Development Authority (CDA) officials have started studying the impact of saline ingression into the lake.
“Chilika lagoon had only two active mouths — the point where it meets the sea before Fani hit the Odisha coast on May 3. Four new mouths have opened due to wave energy with high tidal prism,” said Susanta Nanda, Chief Executive, CDA.
While three new mouths have come up between the two functional mouths near Sanpatna and Arakhakuda, a smaller mouth has been noticed on the northern side.
“In the meantime, a lot of sea water is entering Chilika Lake. We are now monitoring its salinity level at different stations. If sea water ingression goes up, fish migration will increase and the biodiversity will get richer. But its long term impact is something we will have to keep a watch on,” said Mr. Nanda.
When asked if the rise in salinity would alter Chilika’s ecosystem, he said: “Three of the four sectors are more or less marine ecosystems. The rise in salinity will lead to increase in productivity. Chilika Lake is a mixture of saline and fresh water. We will keep observing and consulting with experts.” The three new mouths may ultimately merge with the two functional mouths, Mr. Nanda added.
On the issue of its possible impact on the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, the CDA chief said: “Increase in salinity will not have an impact on dolphins as they can survive in salinity. We are noticing that a lot of rolling dolphins are not visible in Chilika water. They seem to be under stress because the lake witnessed a seven feet high tide coupled with strong winds.”
Though nesting grounds at Panchakudi and Mangalajodi have been affected, they would be ready to host migratory birds by the time they arrive in winter.
“We will, however, give a detail report to the government after studying the rise in salinity in the lake for a month or two,” said Mr. Nanda.