Velas is a tiny coastal hamlet, in Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra, with a population of about 1500, tucked away amidst the Sahyadri mountain range. It is a one-street verdant village, in which the families have been living for generations, tending to their mango and areca palm orchards. Life is simple but hard - electricity is erratic, and internet access is a precious commodity. It is also renowned as the nesting site of the threatened Olive Ridley turtles.
GIZ’s Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, through its Coastal and Marine Protected Areas (CMPA) project, has partnered with the Forest Department, Government of Maharashtra, to support the conservation and sustainable use of the rich coastal and marine biodiversity in select areas, Velas being one such.
This year, Biodiversity Day was celebrated at all the pilot sites in Maharashtra, and saw active participation from the local population. The Mangrove Cell of the Forest Department organised all events. At Velas, school children were taken for a nature walk by the local Forest Department coordinator who explained the benefits of the indigenous flora. The coordinator also helped the children to identify several birds that thrive on the rich natural mangroves along the coast. The children then participated in a drawing competition, on the topic “What I love about Nature”, held on Velas beach, under the shade of swaying casuarina trees. This was followed by a screening of the film ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’ and interactive discussion.
Mr. N. Vasudevan, Chief Conservator-Forests, Government of Maharashtra, expressed his appreciation of GIZ’s selection of Maharashtra as a target state, and in particular, remote villages along the Konkan coast. He stated that the interventions, that included strong community participation, had gone a long way in putting the spotlight on local issues, including the Turtle festival. According to him, it had also helped encourage tourism, which, in turn, had given a fillip to the homestays in the villages.
“We are very appreciative of the support and interventions of the Forest department and GIZ, because this has helped us to really understand the significance of our rich habitat”, says Mrs. Joshi, a local homestay owner.
A robust discussion was held with the Gram Panchayat (village governing body) at Velas, where various measures were discussed to strengthen community participation. A similar meeting was also held with the Gram Panchayat at Anjarle, another nearby coastal village. The Panchayat members were happy to learn about GIZ’s proposed initiatives, and committed to their active participation.
A drawing competition and a film screening were held at Ansure village. School children also attended a dialogue on the mangrove ecosystem, the flagship species in the area, sustainable use of biodiversity and its importance for the village.
The CMPA project uses a multi-pronged approach comprising focussed information, education and communication initiatives to sensitise key stakeholders on the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. All its initiatives include a strong community participation component, and are targeted to beneﬁt the local population.