Women Self Help Groups in Orissa have taken upon themselves the task of conserving and caring for Olive Ridley sea turtles found in abundance in coastal Orissa. The fisher women of the state realised how important the turtles’ conservation was for the ecosystem and in turn to their livelihood and have therefore set to save the turtles.
The benefit for these women who depend on fresh catch from the sea everyday was simple to understand. Jelly fish prey on fishes in the sea, thus destroying their population and depriving the fishermen of their catch. The Olive Ridleys in turn feed on jelly fish thus keeping their population under control. If population of these turtles are preserved the fish population also increases, benefitting the fisher folk.
Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik has supported and praised the efforts of these women whose active efforts have helped conserve the local sea turtles. In a statement released by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), he said,
“Conservation of Olive Ridley Turtles is critical to the livelihood security of Orissa’s coastal communities.”
Costal Orissa is well known for the presence of generous number of Olive Ridley turtles. Orissa is host to more than 50% of total turtle population and coastal Orissa is the biggest of their nesting sites in the world. They have three nesting locations they being Devi river mouth, Gahirimatha and Rushikulya river mouth. The Government of India recognised Olive Ridley turtles as ‘Endangered species’ and included them in Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
Members of Samudram Women’s Federation who were economically marginalized, were able to correlate that population of fish depended on the well being and conserving of Olive Ridley turtles.
A coordinator at Samudram, Mangaraj Panda, said “Conservation of turtles helps increase the population of fish. This helps the fishermen and fisherwomen increase their income as fish is their bread and butter.”
Protecting of turtles’ nesting sites in coastal Orissa had begun as early as 2004. The corrective measures included
- Preserving the beaches,
- Protecting the breeding grounds
- Planting of mangroves.
Women of Samudram went further; with a view to strengthen marine biodiversity, they have,
- Introduced artificial coral reef.
- Encouraged men to adopt sustainable fishing practices by training them to adopt turtle friendly fishing techniques.
- Initiated awareness campaigns for turtle conservation.
Samudram was awarded the 2010 Equator Prize for “outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity” a UNDP initiative to encourage such activities as poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. With 15 women’s organizations in 1993, today it has grown to women self help groups numbering 229 with strength of 3000 members.
The result of their involvement has assisted in restoring the coastal ecosystem with star fish and soft corals amounting to nearly 130 species. Besides contributing to a healthy ecosystem and increase in turtle population, which in turn has increased fish population, women’s status as community decision makers has also been elevated. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
“Turtle population has increased in Orissa due to the active efforts of the community and mortality rate has reduced by 50% during 2005 and 2009, as per a field-based study in a particular region”, said Mr. Panda
This is how local communities are impelled by their day to day needs of food and income security to conserve on the natural resources; in this case, the turtles, on which their tomorrow depends, a UNDP official Srinivasan Iyer opined.
It is a perfect example of how humans and animals can live in tandem helping each other and their environment.With womens’ involvement, the effort becomes all the more praiseworthy.
Article source: WSJ