Hyderabad: The 1999
super cyclone in Odisha destroyed their houses and livelihoods,
but a group of women from Gundlaba village in the state took
charge of rebuilding their lives by taking measures to conserve
mangrove forests and marine species. The UN Thursday held up their
model of conservation as worthy of emulation across the world.
Odisha's Pir Jahania Jungle Suraksha Committee, along with three
other communities from across the country, were given the India
Biodiversity Awards for good work done in the conservation of
The United Nations Development Project (UNDP), which also came out
with a report, said that the next generation of biodiversity
governance models across the world can emerge from the knowledge
of existing approaches in India.
The report 'Conservation Across Landscapes: Indian Approaches to
Biodiversity Governance' explains India's extraordinary biological
diversity and the variety or resource-use patterns which it has
given rise to.
"The 1999 super cyclone wrecked havoc in our village. Houses were
completely destroyed. Drinking water body turned saline, and trees
were left uprooted. It was then that we formed a forest committee.
We focused on conserving mangrove forests and managing nesting
grounds of Olive Ridley turtles," Chathu Devi, who is member of
the committee, told IANS.
Beaming with joy after winning the award, the 50-year-old, clad in
a cotton sari, said the regeneration and conservation work taken
by the committee has transformed the area.
"In the last 12 years, forest cover has gone up by 63 percent.
Fish catch has increased from one kg to five kg per family.
Migration has declined and coastal erosion has been controlled by
mangrove regeneration," she said.
The experience of Udaipar-based Van Utthan Sansthan, which
protects and manages 67,000 hectares of forest lands in 240
villages, was also similar.
"We have been working in several villages to address the issues of
overgrazing, mining and illegal privatisation of forestlands.
Conservation efforts have increased vegetative cover, important
floral species and population of animals," said Kirtan Kumar of
the community, whose efforts found recognition from the UN.
According to UNDP, the awardees were selected from 150 entries by
a committee headed by renowned scientist M.S. Swaminathan.
The other conservation efforts to have won the UN award were the
eco-development committee in Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady,
Kerala, and the Joint Forest Management Committee at Shankarpur
village of Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra.
Lise Grande, UNDP Resident Representative, India, said: "India's
approach to balancing conservation and development has immense
relevance for the world. Key to the Indian approach is using the
economic potential of natural resources to reduce poverty and
accelerate inclusive growth."