|Location||Ecosystem Type||Conservation Type||Area(hectare)||Legal status|
|Ganjam, Odisha||Wetland||Species Protection||150||Ramsar Site|
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|Location||Ecosystem Type||Conservation Type||Area(hectare)||Legal status|
|Ganjam, Odisha||Wetland||Species Protection||150||Ramsar Site|
Chilika lake situated in the state of Orissa in India is a haven for birds both resident as well as migratory. Interwoven in an intricate human-nature pattern, Chilika lake is the country’s largest brackish waterbody. Every year lakhs of migratory waterfowl descend on these wetlands coming from far-off countries.
Poaching of birds in the Chilika lake has been going on for hundreds of years. Different forms of killing have been practiced, which include use of nets, traps, guns, poisoning, etc. The method of poisoning employed in these wetlands has been responsible for maximum deaths. Poison is placed inside the tubers/roots of a few varieties of aquatic plants, which form a regular diet of the waterfowl. Upon feeding, thousands of birds die.
Although poaching is practiced in almost all villages around Chilika Lake, the extent of poaching has been maximum is certain villages like Sorona, Mangalajodi, Bhusandpur, Kalupada, Chilikasahi, Jatiapatna, Satpada, Sundarpur, Kumandala and others. Each of these villages is inhabited by 20 to 80 poachers, proficient in the use of various techniques which have been passed down the generations. Birds are considered a major delicacy and a good quantity are consumed locally. The bird meat is sold in the open market, at rates varying from Rs 20 to Rs 60 a piece, depending on the species and method of kill. This income attracts many poachers. A proficient poacher could earn anything between Rs 10,000 and Rs 40,000 in a year.
Chilika also harbours many waterbird breeding habitats, where many species of birds lay eggs. Collection of bird eggs from areas such as Mangalajodi and Sundarpur for consumption and sale in the open market was another major source of income for many villagers. The government authorities were helpless in dealing with this situation because of the sentiments of the local people as also high-level political patronage.
In the year 1996-7, an environment group called Wild Orissa was constituted by a number of residents from around Chilika Lake. These residents were concerned about the incidents of bird hunting and their impact on the bird population. Those who initiated and registered the group hoped that involvement with the activities of this NGO would bring many others out of poaching activities. The beginning was difficult but slowly Wild Orissa managed to involve persons who were concerned about the birds. Slowly the group managed to get a toehold in Mangalajodi village, sharing the villagers’ grief and happiness, solving their small day-to-day problems, and discussing sundry matters with them for many hours and days.
In the early part of the year 2000, the then Divisional Forest Officer of Chilika Wildlife Division, Anoop Kumar Nayak, invited Wild Orissa to involve its members in controlling poaching/hunting of waterfowl in Chilika Lake. In this programme, the sarpanches (panchayat heads) of many villages were involved. This cooperation of local village heads in controlling poaching continued for a few months.
In December 2000, a bird protection committee, Sri Mahavir Pakhshi Surakshya Samiti, was constituted in Mangalajodi. Consequently, from the winter season of 2000-01 till this case study was written, there has been a drastic fall in poaching activities. This samiti involved some of the leading poachers/hunters of the village, which has helped tremendously in curbing the poaching of waterfowl, prevention of poaching of bird eggs for human consumption, etc. The members, who once hunted birds, now participate in the activities of the NGO and undertake surveillance and patrolling, on their own or in co-ordination with members of Wild Orissa and the state forest department (FD) staff.
In 2001 the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) for the first time got involved in these bird protection activities, and undertook a survey of the waterfowl breeding habitat in Mangalajodi along with members of Wild Orissa and Sri Mahavir Pakhshi Suraksha Samiti.
Some of the activities of Wild Orissa and Sri Mahavir Pakhshi Suraksha Samiti include:
1. Monitoring the lake, especially in the poaching-prone areas adjoining Mangalajodi.
2. Patrolling during odd hours against poaching of bird eggs.
3. Holding regular meetings of members of the bird protection committee of Mangalajodi.
4. Holding meetings with the forest staff of Tangi Wildlife Range and Mangalajodi Section.
5. Outings with visiting scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society to the breeding habitats.
6. Involvement of school children in boat excursions to the bird-breeding habitats.
7. Organising competitions on Chilika Lake and its birds amongst school children of the area.
8. Seeking interventions of the chief wildlife warden, irrigation department, Chilika Development Authority, etc., on the more fragile waterfowl breeding habitats.
9. Ensuring some income generation for the poachers-turned-conservationists, which could help mitigate the poor economic conditions of these people, and ensure their continuous involvement in waterfowl conservation.
A unique initiative in involving one-time poachers to undertake wildlife conservation, Mangalajodi has attracted the attention of many people from far and wide. This experiment at Mangalajodi was recognized by the state government of Orissa when the Chief Minister of Orissa awarded the Pakhshi Bandhu Award to the Sri Mahavir Pakshi Surakshya Samiti of Mangalajodi during the wildlife week celebrations of 2001.
Wild Orissa helped in procuring small wooden boats, which are being utilised for patrols and monitoring, as well as by two erstwhile poachers for income generation. This second facet is worth noting, because, through only a small expenditure, these poachers-turned-conservationists could use these small boats for monitoring the bird breeding habitats as well as engage in fishing, which provided them with a certain amount of income. As per calculations, each such boat enabled a poacher to earn Rs 25 worth of fish per day, which comes to about Rs 9000 per year. This step therefore helped in bird conservation/preservation and was also a small step towards rehabilitating the people whose income had been impacted because of giving up hunting. Wild Orissa has also helped in attracting visitors to this area to enhance the income of the villagers through ecotourism. Additionally, relatives of the members of the bird protection committee have also been provided employment opportunities outside Orissa since 2006.
Memebers of Wild Orissa and the samiti are currently involved in wildlife awareness and education in local schools to sensitise children towards the birds that visit Chilika Lake.
Mangalajodi villagers now attach great importance to conserving and preserving Chilika as a waterfowl-breeding habitat. Along with the members of Wild Orissa, villagers have identified an area, locally called Mangalajodi Ghera (an area of Chilika Lake of about 1.5 sq km adjacent to the Mangalajodi village, and enclosed by the construction of an earthen embankment), as the area of prime importance for protection. This area retains water for much of the year, and the protection activities of the villagers has ensured that this site is safe for birds. Wild Orissa is helping the villagers in negotiations with the state wildlife wing as well as the irrigation department, to ensure that water after the rains is retained inside this closed embankment at least till the month of March every year. Part of this area is used by the villagers for agriculture; however, the villagers have resolved to use methods of agriculture that would not harm the birds.
The monitoring of this area has shown that in the dry months, the dried-up bed was being profusely used by the Oriental pratincole, red-wattled lapwing, yellow-wattled lapwing, etc. to breed; while during the monsoons months, the purple moorhen, Indian moorhen, bronzewinged jacana, pheasant-tailed jacana, common coot, water cock, spotbill, large whistling teal, etc. laid eggs in big numbers.
Participation in protection of birds and involvement with the local NGO has encouraged the local villagers and has also lead to self-belief and self-esteem. The members of the bird protection committee learnt the English names of the birds found in Chilika Lake. They already had immense traditional knowledge about the birds, their habitat and habits. Their knowledge helped the members of Wild Orissa in identifying some previously unknown nesting and breeding sites of many uncommon birds that visit Chilika. This information has been shared with the state wildlife department and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). Information on the breeding habits of the following species of birds was obtained through their help: little cormorant, Indian cormorant, grey heron, purple heron, great egret, intermediate egret, little egret, cattle egret, heron, Indian pond heron, cinnamom bittern, black bittern, yellow bittern, night heron, painted stork, Asian openbill, lesser whistling teal, fulvous whistling teal, cotton pigmy goose, white-breasted waterhen and brown crake.
These activities have attracted the attention of many government departments towards Chilika Lake. Many government officials have visited Mangalajodi in recent times. Members of the bird protection committee take the visitors around the area. Certain rules and regulations have been laid down jointly by the protection committee and Wild Orissa to ensure that some areas remain inviolate and the number of people visiting does not exceed a certain number, so as to avoid excessive disturbance to the birds.
By participating in programmes like the IBAs in the year 2002 and the BNHS project for conservation of Mangalajodi waterfowl breeding habitat, Wild Orissa has been able to procure some funds for its own activities and supporting the activities of the bird protection committee.
Since 2001 the CDA has also been closely involved in the bird protection initiatives in the Mangalajodi. CDA has financially assisted for continuing bird protection activities, including the construction of a building at Mangalajodi for bird conservation and bird interpretation work. CDA has also initiated dredging operations to deepen the channel connecting Mangalajodi with the main Chilika Lake in order to enable easy movements of boats. Plantations have also been earmarked by CDA at Mangalajodi. In 2006, as part of an Indo-Canadian Environment Project, CDA assisted Wild Orissa in publishing an information brochure and organizing a boat rally on World Wetlands Day.
The following factors identified by Wild Orissa could be detrimental to the Mangalajodi wetland:
1. Increased human movements leading to disturbances to nest-building and nesting/rearing. The bird protection committee is so far ensuring that these places are not overused by visitors.
2. Possibilities of causing disturbance while monitoring the nests and eggs, by boats or on foot, especially inside the Mangalajodi Ghera area. Once the nesting birds get disturbed, they leave the nest leaving the exposed eggs to the mercy of the crows (ravens). This problem could be solved by minimizing the movements of boats/people inside the Ghera area to the bare minimum level.
3. The increased population of crows is one major threat to the population of birds. The crow menace is less seen in waters outside the Ghera, as crows probably do not find a suitable perching place to poach.
4. Increased cattle movement as the dried lakebeds are browsed upon by buffaloes and goats, which stamp upon the nests. The members of the bird protection committee have already been successful in controlling this cattle movement to a small extent, after successful interventions through the village panchayat.
5. Oil spills from motorboats. A number of boats are plied in these waters all the year round by the villagers for fishing as well as transport. Care should be taken to ensure that when ecotourism takes place in a bigger manner, eco-friendly modes of transport should be resorted to. The area is prone to ill-directed developmental activities like-well digging, artificial fish feeding, etc., which would cause demise of this habitat. It is imperative that only such activities should be encouraged which do not cause any harm to this fragile wetland.
6. The involvement of the local people, most importantly the poachers-turned-conservationists, in all aspects of bird conservation is a must, as this would keep their involvement intact as well as ensure them a say in decision making. But many members of the bird protection committee have had to give up their major source of income. It is important that attention is paid that they could earn some livelihood while protecting the birds. Wild Orissa has already addressed letters to the authorities concerned for involving these persons in the eco-tourism projects, so that they could earn a livelihood as well as monitor this bird habitat. It is important to understand that without this the future of this wetland would be bleak.
7. Both Wild Orissa and the bird protection committee face a resource crunch to undertake many activities like regular patrolling, awareness campaigns for the inhabitants of Mangalajodi and nearby villages, etc. Many schemes and programmes are not able to take off due to this financial crunch and lack of boats, binoculars, documentation equipment, etc.
Eco-Tourism Project at Mangalajodi
An eco-tourism project has been started at village Mangalajodi since October 2002 for the benefit of those involved in the conservation activities. An advertisement and write-up was inserted in the daily newspapers. This project has already drawn a good response and since the winter of 2002-3 about 500 people have annually visited this village and availed of the meagre facilities offered. For the benefit of the tourists, the villagers have taken the following steps with help from Wild Orissa and CDA: 1. In 2004 a bird interpretation centre has been constructed for visitors to Mangalajodi. 2. CDA, Directorate of Tourism Orissa, etc. have undertaken steps to impart eco-guide training to about 50 persons from Mangalajodi and Sundarpur villages. CDA has constructed watch-towers, nature trails, benches, jetty, etc. for visitors.
Mangalajodi presents an excellent example of how local people, if taken into account, can turn into the best protectors of an ecosystem and its non-human inhabitants. If convinced, they can undertake conservation even at tremendous personal and economic costs. However, sustaining any effort at a loss is unrealistic. It is therefore imperative that the members of Mangalajodi bird protection committee are supported in their efforts through working out ecologically sensitive livelihood options. As reported by Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh, ‘In the winter of 2005-6, two of the ex-hunters rowed us through the marshes, proudly gave us the names of various brids (in English and Oriya), and explained their motivation for protecting the birds. A part of it was ethical (they had earlier sworn by the Chilika lake deity, Maa Kalijai, not to harm nature), a part of it was pride in being able to harbour such a spectacular assemblage of birds, and a part was the hope that visiting birdwatchers would bring some income their way.’ Mangalajodi’s villagers, Wild Orissa, and the Orissa Forest Department are now trying to see if this initiative could spread to neighbouring villages, which would help spread a ring of protection around Chilika.
It is also important that some legal protection is offered to this area. However the legal support would need to take into account the fact that the Mangalajodi birds would not be safe but for the efforts of the local villagers. In any decision that is taken about the area, the consent of the local villagers is a must.
|This case study has been put together by Ruchi Pant. The material for the case study has been extracted from S. Chatterjee, S. Dey, A.R.K. Sastri and R.S. Rana, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Natural Bioresources: A case study on Apatanis in Arunachal Pradesh (World Wide Fund for Nature, New Delhi, 2000); R. Pant, ‘Conflicts, Resolution and Institutions in Forest Resources Management: Experiences from the traditional mountain communities of Arunachal Pradesh’, in K.Seeland and F. Schmithusen (eds.) Man in the Forest (Delhi, D.K.Print World (P) Ltd., 2000); People’s Commission on Environment and Development, ‘Report on Public Hearing on Environment and Development’ (New Delhi, The People’s Commission on Environment and Development, 2002).|
Nand Kishore Bhujbal
District Khurda, Orissa.
Secretary, Wild Orissa,
BJ-29, BJB Nagar,
Surya Sachi Swain
N3/89, IRC Village,
From a village of bird hunters, Mangalajodi in Orissa is now a village of bird protectors.
How nandakishore Bhujbal's guilt over killing a bird, motivated him to start conservation initiatives for an entire sanctuary.
From a village of bird hunters, Mangalajodi in Orissa is now a village of bird protectors. A story of how the transformation happened.
In the northeastern fringe of Orissa’s Chilika Lake, Mangalajodi village is well known to the best birders in India. Here, visitors accustomed to focusing on tiger tourism, are discovering the joys of birdwatching.
Paper attempt to analyse and share experiences from a yearlong experience in initiating Ecotourism activities at Mangalajodi and, suggesting it as an alternate livelihood option for other villages in Chilika, its role in management and conservation of biodiversity and required policy and institutional mechanisms from forest and other concerned departments.
Asia’s largest brackish water lake and lagoon, Chilika, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), was considered a dying wetland until the late 1990s. But thanks to scientific restoration by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA), it is once again a vibrant refuge for wildlife and a reliable source of livelihood for local communities.