Turtle Festival 2015, Velas, Maharashtra
Velas, a village near Ratnagiri, hosts a Turtle Festival every year, jointly organised by local NGO, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra and the village community. The village is renowned as being the nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles, and the festival, being held since the past decade, not only showcases the natural environs, but also puts the spotlight on the urgent need to conserve this threatened species. GIZ’s Indo-German Biodiversity Programme supports the NGO in its diverse conservation and awareness-raising endeavours, the festival being one such, at which newly born sea turtle hatchlings are released into the ocean.
This year, delegates from the German Embassy and GIZ visited the site, and also met stakeholders in the village- homestay owners, school teachers and students. The delegation included Mr. Heiko Warnken, Head, Economic Cooperation and Development, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Edgar Endrukaitis, Director, Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, Dr. Michael Vakily (GIZ) and other GIZ team members.
The team visited homestays and the Turtle Interpretation Centre set up by the NGO near Velas beach, where they were informed about the species and lifecycle of the turtles. The delegates also visited a government school, where they interacted with students who had designed colourful drawings depicting topics like turtle conservation, environment conservation. As a part of this visit, a school library was inaugurated.
Mr. Warnken, who was fascinated by the beauty of Velas, said, “I am absolutely impressed by all the efforts undertaken by the local community to protect their environment. Our visit to the local government primary school showed us that this also holds true already for the school children. These impressions are very encouraging, and I would like to thank the combined efforts of GIZ’s Indo-German Biodiversity Programme and their partner NGO, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra for their valuable contribution in achieving this. It is evident, from the number of visitors here, that the Turtle Festival is very effective in increasing awareness about the necessity of conserving not only this threatened species, but also the environment as such.”
The festival draws hundreds of nature lovers and photographers from across India every year, and has played a key role in turtle conservation efforts and in spreading awareness.