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| Last Updated:: 01/06/2016

Fisherman pitch in for unique flamingo tourism initiative in Vidarbha









In an example of how a participative model involving local communities can help conserve and manage wetlands, local fishermen have been roped in for a first-of-its-kind flamingo tourism initiative in Vidarbha.


These fishermen, who benefit from revenues generated through tourist inflows, have been involved in the protection of flamingos and the larger ecosystem at the Saykheda water reservoir in Yavatmal, which saw a large fresh water sighting of flamingos this year.


The fishermen take tourists and birders in their boats to watch the flamingos, who have settled on an island in the water body located at a distance of around 18km from Pandharkawada. They work to ensure that there is no poaching, illegal farming and grazing of animals near the dam, which can damage the water body and disturb the birds.


At present, it has around 13 flamingos and tourists are charged Rs300 per boat for viewing them from a distance of around 300m for 20 minutes. Each boat can accommodate two tourists and there are around 13 such vessels in the dam.


"People's participation with some profit sharing with local communities is essential for the conservation of natural resources and wildlife," noted Ramzan Virani, a wildlife researcher and faculty member in the department of zoology at S M College in Pandharkawada, Yavatmal, who came up with the idea.


"The fishermen get around Rs300 from a group of two tourists per trip in addition to tips," said Virani, adding that this supplements their income from fishing and makes them stakeholders in the conservation and protection of the birds.


"Last year, the fishermen had cultivated watermelons near the dam using fertilisers. This damages the wetlands, which are dynamic systems, and also affects breeding. Micro-net fishing, which affects fish, also happens here.


This avenue of tourism is a substitute for their employment and can help us wean them away from such activities due to the profit sharing element as it helps supplement their livelihood," said Virani, pointing to how a tourist from Nagpur had given a fisherman a Rs1,000 tip.


The fishermen were also preventing poaching and illegal grazing near the waterbody, practices which disturbed the birds, whose conservation the fishermen have stakes in.


A similar scheme for joint forest management is in place for areas outside protected areas where the forest department and locals protect and manage forests in return for a share in forest produce revenues, and Virani stressed on the need to extend the same to wetlands management.


"Such tourism can be put in place for perennial and rich wetlands," he said. The birds, whose numbers once touched 32 including four sub-adults, are expected to be there till the onset of the monsoon.


"Local people have been included in showcasing tourism… this flamingo tourism is the first of its kind in Vidarbha," said G Guruprasad, deputy conservator of forests (territorial), Pandharkawada, adding that tourists came to Saykheda from Nagpur and even Andhra Pradesh.


"This participatory effort can ensure wildlife conservation," he said, adding that activities like illegal grazing and the washing of animals in the reservoir had stopped due to the efforts of the fishermen.