Chilika Lake is a brackish water body that is spread across it's Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state, located on the eastern coast of India situated at the mouth of Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal. It is the largest lake in India. The lake is the biggest coastal lagoon in India and is the second largest brackish water lake in the world, just after The New Caledonian barrier reef.
It is the biggest wintering site for the migratory birds in the Indian subcontinent. It is also home to many endangered species of animals and plants. It is the largest ecosystem with a large amount of fishery resources. It supports more than 150,000 fisher folk living in 132 villages along the shore and on islands. It is believed that the lagoon has more than 160 bird species during the peak of migration. Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and even other remote regions from Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Kazakhstan, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas are found in this area. They travel long distances. Some could travel up to 12,000km to get to Chilika Lake.
According to the results of a survey that found 45 percent of birds are terrestrial and 33 percent of them are waterfowl while 23 percent of them include waders. The lagoon also houses 14 species of Raptors. About 152 endangered and rare Irrawaddy dolphins are also reported. In addition, the lagoon hosts approximately 37 different species that include reptiles and amphibians.
The extremely prolific Chilika Lagoon ecosystem with its abundant fishing resources ensures the existence of many fishermen who live within and around the lagoon. The area of water that is spread out over the lagoon varies from 1165 to 906 kilometers during monsoon as well as summer, respectively. A 32-km long, narrow, and outer channel connects this lagoon with its neighbor, the Bay of Bengal close to the village of Motto. In the last few years, a new channel was inaugurated via CDA which has given a new energy in the waterway.
Microalgae marine seaweeds, seagrasses as well as crabs and fish thrive in the brackish waters in the Chilika Lagoon. Particularly, the increase in seagrass beds over the past few years is a positive trend that could eventually lead to a recolonization of threatened dugongs.