Pulicat Lake Timings : 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Entry fee: Regular Ferry across the Lake, to the Lighthouse – Rs 2.00 per person. Exclusive boat, for the day – Rs 400/- per day.
Pulicat Lake is the second largest brackish – water lake or lagoon in India. It straddles the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states on the Coromandal Coast in South India. The lake encompasses the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary. The barrier island of Sriharikota separates the lake from the Bay of Bengal. The island is home to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
In the 1st century, the anonymous mariner who wrote Periplus of the Erythraean Sea listed Podouke (Pulicat) as one of the three ports on the east coast of India. In the 2nd century, Ptolomey’s list of ports on this coast included Podouke emporion.
In the 13th century, Arabs migrated to the shores of this lake in four boats after they were banished from Mecca for refusing to pay tributes to a new calif. Streets with dilapidated masonry houses, once occupied by these Arabian Muslims, are still found in the area. Some remaining resident families claim records in Arabic testifying their migration to this area.
The next recorded history of foreign colonizers is that of the Portuguese. In 1515, they built a church dedicated to Nossa Senhora Dus Prazeres (Our Lady of Joys), which is now in dilapidated condition. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch.
Dutch people drifted to this lagoon as their ships got stuck on the shores of the Karimanal Village, on the opposite side of the mouth of the lake, from where the coast line got the name ‘Coramandal’. During the Dutch rule Pulicat was known by the name Pallaicatta Pulicat today bears testimony to this fact (period 1606 to 1690) with the Dutch Fort in ruins, dating back to 1609, a Dutch Church, Dutch Cemetery with 22 protected tombs (1631 to 1655) and a Dutch Cemetery with 76 tombs and mausoleums protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Dutch built Fort Geldria at Pulicat, from where they transacted business with the British East India Company and other countries in the region.
A scientific study of the palynological characteristics of the lagoon was conducted by taking sedimentary soil samples from four test pits. It shows that.
Geography and topography
The lagoon’s boundary limits range between 13.33° to 13.66° N and 80.23° to 80.25°E, with a dried part of the lagoon extending up to 14.0°N.; with about 84% of the lagoon in Andhra Pradesh and 16% in Tamil Nadu. The lagoon is aligned parallel to the coast line with its western and eastern parts covered with sand ridges. Area of the lake varies with the tide; 450 square kilometres (170 sq mi) in high tide and 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi) in low tide. Its length is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) with width varying from 0.2 kilometres (0.12 mi) to 17.5 kilometres (10.9 mi).
Climate of the lagoon coast line is dominated by Tropical monsoons. Air temperature varies from 15 °C (59 °F) to 45 °C (113 °F).
The large spindle-shaped barrier island named Sriharikota separates the lake from the Bay of Bengal. The Satish Dhawan Space Centre, located on the north end of the island. is the launch site of India’s successful first lunar space mission, the Chandrayaan-1.
The sandy barrier islands of Irkam and Venad and smaller islands in the north are aligned north–south and divide the lagoon into eastern and western sectors. The morphology of the lagoons is categorized under four types with large areas under mudflats and sandflats.
The fishing village of Pulicat is at the south end of the lake. Dugarajupatnam and Sullurpeta are two important towns on the periphery of the lagoon.
Three major rivers which feed the lagoon are the Arani River at the southern tip, the Kalangi River from the northwest and the Swarnamukhi River at the northern end, in addition to some smaller streams. The Buckingham Canal, a navigation channel, is part of the lagoon on its western side. The lagoon’s water exchange with the Bay of Bengal is through an inlet channel at the north end of Sriharikota and out flow channel of about 200 metres (660 ft) width at its southern end, both of which carry flows only during the rainy season.
The water quality of the lake varies widely during various seasons – summer, pre–monsoon, monsoon and post–monsoon – as the depth and width of the lake mouth varies causing a dynamic situation of mixing and circulation of waters. The resultant salinity variation and DO (dissolved oxygen) affects the primary production, plankton, biodiversity and fisheries in this lake.
Salinity values vary from zero during the monsoon to about 52 ppm (hyper saline) during post and pre–monsoon seasons. Adjustment to this wide variation is difficult for sessile and sedentary species in the lake. However, euryhaline species still dwell in the lake.
The benthic or the bottom habitat of this lagoon is classified into three zones. The southern zone, the first zone, is dominated by sand with some admixture of mud. The second zone at the northern region is wholly muddy. The third zone with sand and mud in equal parts is overgrown with patches of weeds and is reported to be rich in benthic biodiversity.
Toxicity levels of heavy metals such as magnesium, lead, zinc, nickel, cadmium, aluminum and copper and chemicals such as ammonia, sulphate and fluoride in the lake are well within permissible limits.
Flora and fauna:
The lagoon has rich flora and fauna diversity, which supports active commercial fisheries and a large and varied bird population.
Fishing is the major occupation in the many villages located around the lake periphery and on the islands.The lake has rich fish diversity, mostly marine species, some truly brackish water and a few freshwater species. Mullets and Catfish are the major brackish water fish, which have supported sustenance fishing for the lake fishermen. The lake is a nursery for several species of fish. Two thirds of the settlements in the lake area are in Tamil Nadu and the balance in Andhra Pradesh. 12,370 fishermen live on fulltime fishery in the lake (6,000 in Andhra Pradesh and 6,370 in Tamil Nadu).
An average 1200 tonnes of fish and crustaceans are harvested annually, of which prawns constitute 60%, followed by mullets.Seafood exports of white and Tiger prawns, jellyfish, finfish and live lagoon Green crabs are also economic benefits from the lagoon. 168 total fish species are reported. The frequently found ones are the Mullets: M. cunnesius, M. jerdoni, M. dussumieri, M. cephalus, M. bornensis and Blowfish T. nigropunctatus, T. leopardus, Barbus dorsalis, Catfish Macrones vittatus, Sardines, Sardinella fimbriata and milk fish. Finfish, Green crabs, Clams and Prawns are the most commercially exploited fishes of the lagoon. Endangered Green sea turtles are found on the beaches of Sriharikota beach.
Apart from prawns salt is also produced from the lagoon.
The shallow lake is known for its diversity of aquatic birds and is an important stopover on migration routes and is reported to be the third most important wetland on the eastern coast of India for migratory shorebirds, particularly during the spring and autumn migration seasons. In view of the rich avifauna of the lagoon, two bird sanctuaries are established in the lagoon, one in each of the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The Andhra Pradesh portion of Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary, established in September 1976, has an area of 172 square kilometres (66 sq mi) within the lagoon’s total area in the state in the Tada Taluk of Nellore district. The Wildlife Division of the state has listed 115 species of water and land birds in the sanctuary.
The Tamil Nadu part of the lagoon of 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi) area, extending over the Ponneri and Gummidipundi taluks of Thiruvallur district was declared a Bird Sanctuary in October 1980.
Every year approximately 15,000 Greater Flamingos are reported to visit the lake along with pelicans, kingfishers, herons, painted storks, spoonbills and ducks.
The highest concentrations of flamingo are found in the periphery of the lagoon where the water level is below40 centimetres (16 in). The concentrations of flamingos are also associated with high algal, fish and benthic diversity. Other water birds in the area include Spot-billed Pelican, seven species of herons and egrets, Painted Stork, Greater Flamingos, ducks, 20 species of shorebirds, gulls, terns, Little Grebe, Indian Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Asian Openbill Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Lesser Whistling Teal, Spotbill Duck, Great Thick-knee and Stone Curlew.
Several species of wintering waterfowl have been noted including Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Whiskered Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Caspian Tern.
Birds of prey which appear in winter are the: White-bellied Sea Eagle, Osprey, Harriers and Peregrine Falcons. The largest concentrations of Flamingos occur in the Andhra Pradesh part of the sanctuary, around the islands of Vendadu and Irukkam.
On the Andhra Pradesh side, a vantage location for bird watching is from Sullurpet (on the National Highway 5 (India)) turn east by the SHAR Road to the lake, to see feeding flocks of water birds, particularly flocks of flamingoes.
Aquatic vegetation reported are 59 species, including eight Cyanophyceae, seven Chlorphyceae and two Rhodophyceae. Patches of residual, dry, evergreen forest and large areas of littoral scrub in woodlands in fishing villages bordering the lagoon are seen. Invasive phytoplankton species of Prosopis juliflora, Spirulina major, Oscillatoria spp., Anabaena spp., Rhizosolenia castracanei, Eucampia cornuta and Climacodium fravenfeldianum in the plains on the periphery of the lake have been recorded.
How to reach :
Nayudupeta Railway Station 46.7 km
From Gummidipundi Railway Station 18.6 km
From Sulurupeta Railway Station 20.5 km
From Chennai 90 km
From Ponneri 19 km
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