A Visit to the Velas Turtle Conservation Area in Maharashtra

20 Apr, 2016

Velas, a village in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, is taking the lead in setting an example for ‘eco-tourism’ in India. Velas, an important pilot site of the GIZ's CMPA project, is enriched with diverse ecosystems such as sandy shores, rocky shores, and mangroves, and is also a very significant nesting area for the Olive Ridley turtles, along the Maharashtra coast.


The community members of Velas, local NGO SNM, Dr. Christiane Paulus and the GIZ team at the Velas Turtle Conservation Area

Participatory process, capacity development, and awareness and communication are the three crucial pillars for the implementation of the CMPA project in the coastal states of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The CMPA project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. The CMPA project is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of BMUB.

The results of joint efforts by the Velas' community, local NGO Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM), and the GIZ's CMPA team are clearly visible in Velas, as this year, the ‘Turtle Festival’ witnessed an exemplary participation of more than 5000 tourists. The festival, held in March, was jointly hosted by the community members of Velas, the local NGO Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM), and supported by GIZ.

“We want eco-tourism, and not just tourism, which will just benefit the village community, but harm the environment at large. Through the Turtle festivals and the home-stays provided in Velas, we want to promote ‘eco-tourism,’ where village community and tourists learn to care about the environment. We always insist even to our tourists to not to use plastic bottles and especially avoid taking them to the beach,” explained Mr. Milind Nijasure to Dr. Christiane Paulus, during her interaction with the community members of Velas, and members of SNM.

Dr. Paulus, Deputy Director General, Nature Conservation Department, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), was visiting the 'Velas Turtle Conservation Area,' as part of her four day visit to the various pilot sites of GIZ's CMPA project. Dr. Paulus, was accompanied by Mr. Edgar Endrukaitis, Director, Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, and Dr. Jan Michael Vaikly, GIZ Team Leader, CMPA project. In her address to the community members, Dr. Paulus remarked, “the efforts of the village community, SNM and GIZ has transformed the Velas conservation area into a success story. Where apart from providing an opportunity to the tourists to explore the beauty of Velas, and get closer to the nature; an awareness is also being created amongst them to conserve the environment for the present and the future generations.”

In picture 1. (from left): Ms. Supriya Jhunjhunwala, Dr. Christiane Paulus, Mr. Milind Nijasure, Mr. Edgar Endrukaitis, Dr Michael Vakily. In picture 2. (from left) Dr. Christiane Paulus, and Mr. Mohan Upadhyay.

The ‘home-stay' options provided by the village community in Velas, create an interesting opportunity for the tourists to get aquainted with the traditional ways of living, and food at a reasonable price of Rs. 500-700. While explaining the concept behind the 'home-stays,' Mr. Mohan Upadhyay, Project Associate, Dapoli GoI-GIZ-CMPA Project shared, “home-stays and the Turtle Interpretation Centre inform the residents and visitors about the species and lifecycle of the turtles. The idea was to introduce the species of this turtle to villagers and tourists, who come from outside and educate them of the importance of co-existence of this species. While also creating opportunities of income generations for the families in Velas.”


Dr. Christiane Paulus, and the GIZ team with the school children

Dr. Paulus further visited a school, where she was welcomed by the students with colourful and beautiful ‘rangoli’. Ms. Supriya Jhunjhunwala, GIZ Advisor, CMPA project explained to Dr. Paulus that “efforts are also being made to create awareness amongst school children about the importance of conserving the ecosystems, as well as in enhancing their knowledge about the flora and fauna found in Velas. As a part of its efforts, CMPA project has supported the school in providing various books, posters, games and puzzles on biodiversity for school children.”


In picture (from left) Dr. Michael Vakily, Mr. Edgar Endrukaitis, Dr. Christiane Paulus, Mr. Pralhad Todankar, and Mr. Kishore Savant released posters to create awareness on 'Waste Management' amongst the community members and the tourists visiting Velas

The next stop for the school children, community members, Dr. Paulus and the GIZ team was the turtle conservation area. At the turtle conservation area, Dr. Paulus, Mr. Endrukaitis and Dr. Vakily, along with the village Panchayat released the Marathi and the English version of a draft manual on 'How to Conduct Turtle Festivals.’ On this ocassion they also released posters to create awareness on the topic of 'waste management' amongst the community members and the tourist. These posters on 'waste mangement' and the draft manual on 'How to Conduct Turtle Festivals' have been jointly developed by SNM and Ms. Supriya Jhunjhunwala. The manual provides a detailed summary of how to integrate effective and efficient plans to organise a turtle festival, based on the experiences of the last festivals.


The lamp being lit by Mr. Pralhad Todankar , President, Joint Forest Management Committee

Keeping the local tradition alive, the Interpretation facilty at Velas conservation area was inaugurated with the breaking of a coconut and lighting up of the lamp by Mr. Pralhad Todankar, Dr. Paulus, Mr. Raghu from SNM, Mr. Endrukaitis and Ms.Jhunjhunwala from GIZ. In his address to the people present during the inauguration, Dr. Michael Vakily, emphasised that "the interpretation symbolises the joint efforts of the village community, SNM and the GIZ team in conserving the rich ecosystem of Velas, as well as in creating awareness amongst the community, and the tourist through the various exhibits."


School children at the Interpretation Centre at Velas

Photo credits: Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, GIZ

 
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