Bhubaneswar, Jan 27: The 4th National Chilika Birds Festival was inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today.
He eloquently described the destination as “a pilgrimage for over a million-winged visitors of varied species, which undertake flights to the mighty but calm Chilika Lake – Asia’s largest brackish water lake.”
Patnaik applauded the efforts of Department of Tourism, Department of Forest, Environment and Climate Change and Chilika Development Authority for having organised the event which promises to add another feather in Odisha’s hat – a soaring birding hub.
The festival, organised by Department of Tourism, Department of Forest and Chilika Development Authority, kicked off in grandeur with the inauguration of a captivating photo exhibition. This visual spectacle showcased the extraordinary talents of renowned photographers such as Shakti Nanda, Umakanta Biswal, Dhritiman Mukherjee, and other eminent photographers. The gallery unfolded a mesmerizing array of photographs, capturing the diverse and enchanting avian wonders that grace the Chilika region. The images not only reflected the skill of the photographers but also served as a powerful testament to the rich biodiversity of Chilika Lake.
The three-day programme witnessed the participation of 52 selected birders from across India.
Offering a gist of the focused conservation campaign by the government, Tourism Minister Aswini Kumar Patra said, “While the elusive wildlife deep within our forests evades our sights, Odisha can proudly claim to be a birding hub – thanks to pioneering efforts in wetland and bird conservation and special initiatives like the National Chilika Birds Festival. This year’s census has revealed a total count of 11.37 lakh birds across over 187 species. I wish all the participants, birders, photographers, and delegates to have a great time in Mangalajodi and Nalabana.”
OTDC Chairman Dr. Lenin Mohanty applauded Odisha Tourism for its stellar handling of the tourism ecosystem through unmatched promotion and publicity. “Mangalajodi in Chilika is a trailblazing example of community-led conservation, establishing itself as an unmatched birding destination. From initiatives like removing encroachments to recent extensive census activities and promotional campaigns like the National Chilika Bird Festival, our collective goal is to position Odisha as the most sought-after birding hub in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Dr.Mohanty.
Additional Chief Secretary Surendra Kumar offered a perspective on the strategic commonalities between eco-conservation and tourism and reminisced on the history of the Chilika Bird Festival.
“This year, we have engaged local communities of boatmen in the festival ensuring their active involvement in conservation efforts that fosters a sense of responsibility towards sustainable tourism practices. As I speak at the inaugural ceremony, the festival also has parallel events like the Bird Walks at Nandankanan and EkamraKanan and Lecture Walk,” said Kumar.
Articulating the strategic agenda of Department of Tourism, Director Tourism, Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav said, “The representation of birders across the nation makes the 4th National Chilika Birds Festival a grand success. Each participant is a brand ambassador for us. Next year we will soar higher, with foreign participants joining in large numbers. I welcome everyone to participate in the parallel events like Birds Walks, Lecture Talks and many more to get a vivid idea of Odisha's biodiversity as a whole.”
Complementing the joint vision, Director Nandankanan & Chief Executive Chilika Development Authority Dr. Manoj Nair said, “It will not be an exaggeration to say that the soul of Odisha Tourism resides in Chilika. Our conservation efforts will continue to be synergised with our tourism development efforts.”
The State of India’s Birds poster and video was launched at the inaugural ceremony. The State of India's Birds video encapsulated the scientific report that asseses the birds of India. This periodic assessment examines the geographic distribution, abundance trends, and conservation status of the majority of bird species commonly found in India. 13,000 bird watchers have contributed to the report.
The talks by Director Nandankanan& Chief Executive Chilika Development Authority Dr. Manoj Nair, Scientist, Wildlife Institute of India Dr Suresh Kumar, Birder and Author PanchamiManooUkil and Eminent Photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee contributed significantly to the festival's goal of promoting awareness and appreciation for the rich avian fauna around Chilika Lake. Their collective expertise spanned scientific research, birding experiences, and visual storytelling, creating a well-rounded and engaging program for all participants.
The Parallel Session on Citizen Science and Bird Conservation brought together a diverse group of delegates passionate about leveraging citizen engagement for the preservation of avian biodiversity. This workshop provided a platform for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and the exploration of innovative approaches to integrate citizen science into bird conservation efforts.
Over the next two days, participants and delegates will undertake birding tours to Mangalajodi – Nalabana.