Chilika Seaweed Cultivation – A Blue Revolution


Author – Nandini Kumar

Chilika Seaweed Cultivation

Growth of macro algae in Chilika Lake

Chilika Lake, a wintering ground for millions of migratory birds, home to thousands of fisher folk, a paradise for tourists and nature lovers, is the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia. Located along the coast of Odisha, this 1,100 sq km lagoon filled with water with salinity between that of freshwater and sea water. Rich in fishery resources housing about 205 species of fish, this highly productive area has been a source of livelihood for 150,000 fisher folk.

Problem – Loss of livelihood

However, over the years, the lagoon bore the brunt of various intensive and rash agricultural activities including the conversion of paddy fields into prawn ponds, which eventually caused heavy pollution in the area. Furthermore, the rapid expansion of the commercial aquaculture led to a significant decline in the fish and bird population of the lake. This drastic change adversely affected the livelihood of the community that depended on Chilika, forcing them to abandon their ponds. With no food to eat, nowhere to go, not enough fish to catch and severe unemployment, the once flourishing lagoon became a dismal and hopeless place for the locals.

When all seemed lost, renowned marine biologist, Dr.Dinabandhu Sahoo made an effort to apply his scientific knowledge and findings for the socio-economic development of the people living in coastal areas. Chilika seemed the perfect place to implement his extensive research on microalgae and he spent 20 years studying the area and its problems in an effort to arrive at a sustainable solution.

Solution – Seaweed cultivation

Chilika Seaweed Cultivation - Dr.Dinabandhu Sahoo
Dr.Dinabandhu Sahoo | Hindustan Times

After detailed work in the field of seaweed cultivation, Dr.Dinabandhu Sahoo developed a model called the ‘Chilika Model’ based on the concept of generating wealth from waste. This model is aimed at the socio-economic upliftment of disadvantaged communities by generating employment around the lagoon.

Dr.Sahoo based his project on the fact that the seaweed industry is economically rewarding that is worth around $8 billion per year. Furthermore, the demand for seaweed is increasing at the rate of 10% every year due to its wider applications in the manufacture of toothpaste, ice-cream, textile printing, teeth filling, cosmetics, tissue culture, plywood and biofuels.

Along with his team, Dr.Sahoo studied 14 different algae species, which were suitable for the Chilika Lake region and narrowed down on four species that were the most economically beneficial. Next, his team carried out the task of determining which species to grow where based on an analysis of salinity, pH and turbidity conditions of the lagoon. The subsequent task was on educating the locals about the technique of seaweed cultivation in a simple manner. It was not an easy task to encourage the villagers to shed their orthodox beliefs and apprehensions and become a part of this new project. The entire activity was handled by NGOs and self-help groups (SHGs) under the able guidance of Dr.Sahoo.

The beauty of Chilika seaweed cultivation lies in its sustainability and simplicity. The technique used in the project requires common local materials like bamboo, nylon rope, torn fishing nets and hammers, and therefore can be easily carried out by the people of nearby villages. The crop is ready to be harvested within 45 days of planting and cultivators earn INR5,000 per month on an average. An added advantage is the continuous cycle of cultivation unlike some traditional crops. Along with harvesting, seeds are sown for the next cycle of crops, thus paving the way for continuous daily income for cultivators.


Initiated in 2009, the Chilika seaweed cultivation project was a great success allowing the dislocated people to move back to Chilika and engage in this new form of livelihood. Today, several self-help groups, especially women are involved in seaweed cultivation. Apart from financially empowering the people around the Chilika lagoon, the seaweed cultivation activity is also environmentally beneficial as it restores the carbon absorption capacity of the water. The only setback for the project is that it is a slow process. Expanding it to areas beyond Chilika would require prior research on the climatic and soil conditions in order to determine the species of algae that would grow most abundantly in a given area.

This pioneering Chilika Model has been used as the base by the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, to develop the first nationwide project of seaweed cultivation in different coastal areas of India as an alternative source of livelihood for local people. Its success was also highlighted in detail in the bestseller book, ‘I Have a Dream’ by Rashmi Bansal. In order to sensitize the masses about the situation in Chilika Lake, Dr.Sahoo also co-directed a documentary, ‘Chilika – The Untold Story’.

A scientist with a mission, he says, “We have seen the green revolution, and the white revolution. My dream is to see a ‘Blue Revolution’, by harnessing the vast potential of the sea.” The fruitful outcome of his project at Chilika has definitely brought him closer to realizing this dream. Dr.Sahoo’s relentless efforts beautifully exemplify the power of innovation and the importance of using theoretical knowledge for the progress of society at large.

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Nandini Kumar is currently studying for BA Honors in Economics at the University of Delhi. Apart from her main focus on Economics and statistical research, she has a keen interest on entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility. Having done her early schooling in Thailand, she has studied the cultural links between India and Thailand as well.


  1. Hello Ms. Nandini. I have just gone through the article on sea weeds in Chilika Lake. I am researcher at IIT Delhi and our group is working on sea weeds. This article is really helpful for us. I want some more details about the sea weeds in Chilika lake ; About the particular region where the algae is grown and the present status of the cultivation. Can you please help me on that?

    • Hi Falguni, Thanks for your interest. Nandini wrote this article four years ago and she is not working with us anymore. so you need to search for the innovator on Google and find out yourself

    • This project could not take up due to lack of marketing. I visited this place in 2012 and lot of stock lying with SHGs.

      If anybody wants to work on this, as an agri entrepreneur I maybe helpful for them.

      • Hi Dr. Jasobant Naik, I am surprised to hear that. We at Ecoideaz can help you find the right buyer for your stock

  2. In Chilika cultivation of Gracilaria was successfully done during 1978-1982 at Pathara region with salinity gradient between 8 to 12 ppt and obtained Ph.D. from Berhampur University. He is now about 72 years old and living in Bhubaneswar. The cultivation was not taken up further as there has been no industry in Odisha since then, and that in Odisha this is the only cultivable species occurring in Chilika. Though 22 seaweeds were reported from 460 km coast line the others are neither economically important nor cultivable. Introduction of Euchema or Cappsphykos seaweeds is not desirable being exotic and having the dander of changing ecology of the region. Gracilaria cultivated at other regions of Chilika is not recommended as even if biomass obtained if cultivated at higher than 14ppt salinity do not form a gel to be used in industry for agar production or asbiostimulant/seaweed liquid fertiliser.

  3. Nice article and lot of information, i am working on different value added products obtained from seaweeds and developed agriculture product too also and looking for viable utilization of this and wanted to set up seaweed manufacturing at orissa. if any way is it possible and may i get enough quantity…
    i am also looking for Sargassum seaweed if collected at coast of orissa

  4. Dear Editor,
    With reference to your article on Chilika sea weeds, could you please connect to below dignitaries or like minded people to to take it forward.

    Dr. Jasobant Naik
    Dr. Dinabandhu sahoo
    Prof. Siba Prasad Adhikary

    Best Regards,
    Mishra Food Innovations


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