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Lake Profile

Chilika (Chilka)

General Information

Description Lake Chilika, Asia’s biggest salt water lake in the eastern coast of India, has a long history spanning over more than five thousand years. It has inspired philosophers, poets and naturalists for its picturesque beauty of its vast water area with a panoramic view of the Eastern Ghats in the background.

The Lake was once a part of the Bay of Bengal and has provided excellent port facilities in the past. Commercial boats would sail from the lake to distant lands of Cambodia and Indonesia. To this day the villagers around Chilika Lake observe an annual festival called “Bali Yatra” (Journey to Bali in Indonesia). A place called Manikpatna is considered the site of this ancient port.

Chilika Lake is well known to bird lovers for winter birds migrating to the lake from distant lands; more than 100 of 211 species recorded from Chilika are intercontinental migrants flying from the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and Southeast Asia.

Country India
Latitude 19° 38' 0" (19.6333)
Longitude 85° 25' 0" (85.4167)


 Chilika global index map (LakeNet Explorer)
 Chilika locator map
 Lakes of India
 Lake Basin Management Initiative (LakeNet Explorer)
 USAID-supported Lake Basin Management and Biodiversity Conservation Technical Assistance 2003-2004 (LakeNet Explorer)

Physical Characteristics

Description Chilika's surface area varies between 740 square km to 1,165 square km. 35 rivers and streams drain into the lake.
Surface Area 1,100.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 1.4 m
Maximum depth: 2.4 m
Residence Time 1.0 years
Origin Shorelines
Type Saline
Catchment Catchment size: 4,300.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 4:1


Economic Value The Chilika lagoon remains a vital life line for more than 200,000 people in 141 villages who live in and around the lagoon. The historical records indicate the use of the lagoon system for capture fisheries through the formation of 92 primary fishery cooperatives. Six different types of traditional fishing methods were used. The steady fish landing records provide evidence of a sustainable fishing strategy, using ecological zones, different contraptions and traditional experience.
Major Cities State of Orissa

Watershed Management

Description To save this unique ecosystem a number of measures have been taken by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA). One of the major interventions was the desiltation of the outer-channel of the lagoon by dredging, and the opening of an artificial mouth along the sand spit at a distance of 11 kilometers from the lake proper. This has been an historical, and successful, hydrological intervention to save the eco- system of Chilika.

Other important components were – treatment of the catchment, restoration of eco-system of Nalabana island, weed management, improvement of the communication network, fishery resource development, upliftment of economic condition and other allied activities of the stake-holders of the peripheral villages, creation of mass awareness, development of an interpretation center at Barkul, and a research centre on wetland management at Balugaon.

An action plan has been formulated for four years covering a period from the year 2000 to 2004. The action plan is now under active consideration of the state empowered committee.

Watershed Action Plan Implementation underway
Issues Due to the choking of the inlet channel as well as the shifting of the mouth connecting the sea, Chilika was faced with a shrinking lagoon cut off from the sea and growing less saline, the intrusion of freshwater invasive plants, and siltation. Many of the fish and shrimp species that previously thrived in the lagoon were disappearing, since many needed to spend part of their life cycle in the ocean. Fish productivity and over-all biodiversity declined. Fishermen, unable to make a living fishing, began to collect rare bird eggs.
Other Issues Biodiversity Conservation
Cultural Heritage
Watershed habitat alteration

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Chilika Lake is a hot-spot of biodiversity and shelters a number of endangered species listed in the IUCN red list of threatened species. The lagoon is the wintering ground for more than one million migratory birds. Chilika is home to 225 species of fish. Approximately 156 bird species frequent the lake area.
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
Ramsar Site
Species of Concern


Chilika Lake Development Authority

LakeNet Programs

World Lake Basin Management Initiative
USAID-funded Technical Assistance
India: Workshop on Management of Wetlands Through Integrated Management Planning
LBMI Regional Experience Sharing & Review Workshop for Asia


Chilika  (PDF) Experience Brief. Final. 2/27/2006.
Chilika: World Bank Comments on Experience Brief  Experience Brief. Draft. World Bank. 3/22/2004.
LakeNet News, Winter 2003-2004 (PDF)  Newsletter. Final. English. 12/20/2003.


Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Biodiversity Stats & Projects at Chilika Lake
Chilika Lagoon
Current Status of Irrawaddy Dolphin in Chilika Lake and Measures of Conservation
Heavy Metal Pollution in Chilika Lake
ILEC Database
Ramsar Advisory Mission: report 50, Chilika Lake, India (2001)
RAMSAR profile on India
Restoration of Chilika Lagoon Slide Show
What are the Problems and Threats of Chilika?


1/10/2005 - Chilika Lake receives some "rare" guests
11/10/2004 - Migratory birds come 'home' to Chilika Lake
4/23/2004 - Towards a Lake Basin Management Initiative
1/10/2004 - Chilika Lake receives some "rare" guests
2/4/2003 - India may become hot spot for mercury poisoning
1/21/2003 - Poachers turn Indian lake into killer lagoon for migratory birds
1/13/1999 - India's Ramsar sites under threat
12/14/1998 - Plan to save Chilka lake

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.

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