Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik opens National Chilika Bird Festival that attracts bird lovers from all over the country

Published : January 08, 2021 21:15 IST

A gallery of migratory birds displayed during the inagural day of the Chilika Bird Festival at Mangalajodi, Odisha. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Visitors registering before entry to the migratory birds photo gallery. Photo: By Special Arrangement

The third National Chilika Bird Festival was inaugurated virtually by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on January 8 at Odisha’s Mangalajodi, situated in the northeastern part of the brackish-water lagoon. “It is an experience of a lifetime to be with the winged guests in this birds’ paradise during winter,” said the Chief Minister, while welcoming all to spend time in Chilika amongst the largest congregation of avian guests from all over the world.

The three-day-long bird festival witnessed the participation of 55 selected birdwatchers representing nine States, including the host, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and West Bengal. The freshwater wetland of Mangalajodi, known as the ‘Birds Paradise of Asia’ since it attracts lakhs of winged guests from all over the world during winter, and Nalabana Island, which form part of Chilika, have been identified as important bird areas.

A wide variety of birds are found in the marshy waters of Mangalajodi throughout the year. Local people have long given up poaching, and turned the ecosystem into a sustainable source of livelihood through well-managed low-impact tourism.

As part of the inaugural function, Chief Secretary S.K. Mohapatra spoke about the Government’s conservation initiatives. Terming Mangalajodi a “pioneering work in community-led conservation”, he described the place as an unparalleled birding destination.

The timing of the festival makes the event unparalleled; lakhs of migratory birds congregate in Chilika during the winter. A total of 11,42,000 birds have converged this year, according to the findings of the annual bird census (conducted on January 5). The removal of 160 sq. km. of encroachments in Chilika in 2018-19 has resulted in a record arrival of guests this time round, according to the chief executive of the Chilika Development Authority, Susanta Nanda.

One can reach Mangalajodi by travelling about 70 km southwest from Bhubaneswar on NH-16. Nalabana Island is opened for nature-lovers during the bird festival. Organised jointly by Odisha Tourism and Ecotour Odisha, it offers bird-lovers the opportunity of a sanctuary visit, nature walks, boating, photography and technical sessions by wildlife conservationists.

S. Balachandran, Deputy Director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), attended the festival as a keynote speaker. Balachandran said that the initiative would promote sustainable tourism and boost conservation efforts of migratory birds and wildlife in general. He made a presentation on the diverse species of birds sighted in the lagoon.

While the first day of the festival saw the inauguration and presentations by expert speakers, the second day will give participants a chance to visit the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary, which is on an island that is the core area of the Ramsar-designated wetlands of Chilika. The third day will have optional tours to the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary near Bhubaneswar, and the Satkosia Tiger Reserve (Badmul) in Nayagarh district.

Satkosia is one the five eco-tourism locations in the State where Eco Retreat Odisha, eastern India’s foremost glamping (glamourous camping) festival, is being held since December 9. The four other locations are Bhitarkanika, Daringbadi, Hirakud and Konark. The Eco Retreat Odisha festival is scheduled to continue till February 28.