By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, November 29, 2017: While promotion of tourism pertaining to Odisha has been focused mostly on the golden triangle -Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark, but magnificent Chilika – a place not very far from this triangle, has not received the same attention which it richly deserves.

This brackish water lagoon approachable from both Bhubaneswar and Puri attracts exotic migratory birds all the way from Siberia. It is home to rich marine life, a source of livelihood of the local population. This is indeed a lagoon littered with beautiful islands, a virtual paradise for tourists.

The name Chilika has inspired many Oriyas to write poetry and compose lyrics. For decades patriotic Odias have been quoting memorable lines of Utkalamani Gopabandhu on Chilika to get inspiration. The lake is not merely a geographic entity. It represents the cultural ethos of people of Odisha just as the lord Jagannath at Puri binds the people of this land. Hence the cultural solidarity of Odias is built around not only the famous triangle but it also extends to quadrilateral and beyond.

Although efforts have been made in the past by the government of Odisha, especially the Department of Tourism, Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) and Chilika Development Agency (CDA) to promote the place to attract tourists both domestic and international, by providing resting places, disseminating information about its scenic attractions and providing infrastructure for local livelihood, there is a strong case to have a more holistic approach to this destination as there is tremendous scope for establishing linkage between tourism and livelihood.

Tourism by itself will give tremendous opportunities for local employment if more and more hotels, resorts and lodging facilities are encouraged. In addition, conscious attempt should be made for introducing the concept of bed and breakfast as one sees in Britain, Canada and other developed countries. In fact, the idea of homestay has taken roots in the area. It must be ensured that the hygienic conditions are maintained.

Restaurants, eateries, and places to serve local cuisine will not only facilitate service to tourists but will also promote to the world the delicious traditional Odia food which is distinctly different from other Indian food. It is healthy, balanced and extremely tasty.

Fortunately access to Chilika has vastly improved in last ten to fifteen years. What is needed now is creation of way side facilities like clean toilets and cafes en route which can be close to the gas stations.The department of tourism of both the sate and central governments should dovetail the clean India programme, “Swatcha Bharat” initiative with tourist destinations including Chilika.

This area with local food, local homestay and local art and culture can be an ideal example for promotion of rural tourism for which Spain and Quebec in Canada are famous.Therefore, the department of culture of the government should encourage local folk music and folk dance with local artists. The initiative taken by local people to establish a local museum is indeed highly praiseworthy.

If there is Konarak festival, Puri beach festival, Dhauli festival, Mukteswar festival, Chou festival and Chousathi Yogini dance festival, why should not there be an attempt to organise a Chilika festival either at Barkul, Rambha or Parikud? It is laudable that Satpada has developed cultural festival.

In the last 25 years, resurgent Odisha has made a dent in the cultural domain. Emergence of a number of TV channels, FM radio stations, highly modernized Yatras organized in the rural areas, production of films, and music festivals in towns and cities and even in rural areas what is locally called as “melodies” are direct testimony to this rising soft power of Odias developed mostly with private initiative and occasional assistance from government.

Why cannot film on Chilika theme be produced? Why Kalijai, Parikud and Malud cannot be the inspiration for film producers, dramatists, novelists and story writers? Their products would be the best brand ambassadors of Chilika. Let an attempt be made to ensure that school children and college students in Odisha know more about the geography, history and ecology of this splendid place and in addition to its culture.

Chilika is famous for its crabs, prawns , shrimps, and fish.Crabs,when they become softer, are vulnerable to predatory attacks from other aquatic creatures reducing its population.The silted area in the lake has created its concomitant obstacles for development of fishery which can give a big scope for employment and livelihood to the local people.

It is pertinent to mention that ornamental fishery can generate good income. Lion fish sells at a fabulous price in India for the home installed aquarium. Its demand in Japan is immense, so also in other developed nations.Therefore, value addition to the product should be given priority by the governmentby creating facilities for the same.It is generally felt that income from this sector are unevenly distributed as higher percentage is cornered by outsiders while local people are not able to make much profits to increase their wealth. This is a long-standing problem generating inequality in trade.

The lake has approximately two thousand boats of different variants. They hardly serve the purpose of tourism or for pursuing the profession of the local people. More reliable boats, facilities for repairs and maintenance, and skill development of local youth would a go a long way by making the industry more viable and sustainable.

To address the salinity of the soil which inhibits the agricultural potentiality of the land in proximity of the lake the experts with technical knowledge must be involved with much more focus than it has been hitherto attempted. Bamboo cultivation has been suggested for the local population as it would relieve them from making long journey to reserve forest and this would also encourage local employment both in the agriculture also in local village industry.

There are innumerable islands located in the bosom of this beautiful lake.Time has come to develop these locations for tourism. Hotels, resorts and restaurants can be developed with eco-friendly materials. Transportation to these places can be done by safe mechanized boats. To certain destinations helicopters can be used. Charter flights can be organized by developing small airports.

More important is to harness the information technology to promote tourism potential not only of Chilika but also other parts of Odisha. Tourists both foreign and domestic who visit Chilika should be encouraged to enter the dedicated Blog meant for them. Bloggers of Odisha should unite to promote Chilika.

The Odisha government has been advertising Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark for last five decades. It should now go beyond the ‘golden triangle’ and on their run up to centenary celebration promote Chilika in addition to Bhubaneswar, Puri, Konark as “Quad of Diamond”.

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Tourism should be looked upon as a business. For this to thrive, especially in India, where all states have attractions to lure the toursit, some USP also need be created. And prosperity comes with Dollars & Pounds only.
While temples and historical sites may attract a (small) group of tourists, the vast coastline of Odisha could provide ample opportunity for the non temple, non-aracheology toursts. As mentioned by the author of the post, Nature in Chilka, Gopalpur beach and similar places need get into the tourist map.