Seaside villagers set example in mangrove conservation

Kendrapara: In the times of massive deforestation and large scale conversion of forest land for industrial and housing purposes, the inhabitants of a seaside village in Jamboo panchayat of this district have set an example of sorts in conservation of mangroves, a report said.

Kandarapatia in Mahakalapara block has a fragile ecosystem. However, its 500-odd residents have been protecting the mangroves surrounding the village over the last 18 years and to a large extent have been successful in preventing felling of trees by the timber mafia.

Mangroves act as protective shields during cyclones and play a major role in maintaining the ecological balance. Besides, mangroves are the earth’s natural filtering system, capable of absorbing pollutants and carbon dioxide, thereby lessening the impact of global warming.

Samal Majumdar, the village head, says, “Some people from Digha, Contai and Midnapore of West Bengal settled in the forest land here in the 1960s. Like others, they also destroyed the fragile ecosystem by cutting mangroves for their day-to-day use. But everything changed after a team of the MS Swaminathan Foundation visited the village in 1997 and educated the locals about the significant role of mangrove vegetation in coastal pockets.”

“It was the mangrove forest that acted as a bio-shield during the 1999 Super Cyclone and saved our village from nature’s fury,” says Satyaranjan Bera, member of a forest protection committee.

The devastation the cyclone left in its wake in other villages of the district made the locals realise the adverse impact of destroying mangroves, he added.

Following the suggestions of the MS Swaminathan Foundation, the villagers started planting mangroves on a large scale and took conservational measures.

“A forest protection committee comprising 11 villagers was formed in 1999. Women of the village pledged before the presiding deity –Maa Budhi – to lend their helping hand in guarding the mangroves,” said Arati Majumdar, a woman engaged in mangroves protection.

For the last 18 years, the villagers have been engaged in protection and conservation of mangroves. The lathi-wielding forest protection committee members, who are mostly fishermen, guard the mangroves and restrict the entry of timber smugglers into the forests.

“Some poor villagers, who depend on firewood for cooking purposes, are allowed to collect firewood from the forests that too only after getting the committee’s consent. The villagers are restricted from cutting trees and are asked to collect dry mangrove branches that fall off trees,” said Pradip Mandal, another member of the forest protection committee.

It is the mangrove forest that has been protecting their village from tidal ingression though the village is located just 2 km away from the coast, said Amol Adhikari, a villager.

According to Bijaya Kumar Parida, Mahakalapara forest ranger, Kandarapatia villagers have been voluntarily conserving the mangroves and it’s good to see the villagers setting an example for others to emulate.

“The periodic low pressure formation and cyclone warnings have made the coastal people understand the importance of mangrove species,” said Panchami Mandal, sarpanch of Jamboo panchayat.     PNN

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