A success story of a tempestuous love between human and nature inside a Tiger sanctuary

For the first time in history any village could do to both environmentally and economically as well. A success story that showcase the power of community projects and unveils the splendour of nature on the bosom of Odisha    Anshu Pragyan Das & D.N. Singh 

The row of a few cottages couched in the foliage  and beautiful tents pitched at one end of this gorgeous  expanse , creating an illusions as if motionless  Pelicans from a top angle view, get usually lost in the solitude of the evenings when the slatey smokes snaking out of the  the formidable mountains engulf the landscape.

It is an ethereal touch one can only feel being  there that how an ordinary area burnt by the festering sores of summer or pounded by a ruthless monsoon  can be transformed into a bosom of tranquil. The mornings are fantastic while one trudge through the surrounding foliage smiling with the ear-drop pearls on blades of grass. 

One of the rich bounties in Odisha inside the Satkosia Tiger Reserve that subtly blends beauty of nature and the footprints of a heritage. The spot in focus is the Badmul Ecotourism undeniably kept as best secrets of the State’s Nayagarh district. Till the recent times the district was only known for temples.  

 In 2016 that Forest Department started an Ecotourism Project at Badmul, a village in heart of
Satkosia Tiger Reserve on the bank of river Mahanadi in Nayagarh District as a Community based Nature Tourism destination. The project named as Satkosia Sands Resort and Nature

Camp with 9 tents on sandbar of river Mahanadi and 7 cottages on the mountain slope is situated overlooking the awesome Satkosia Gorge. It really kick-started with synergy of the nature to net a revenue of about Rs.27 lakhs in 2016-2017 and increased to a whopping Rs.60 lakh in 2017-2018 thus scaling a new height of nearly Rs. 1 crore 30,000 in 2018-2019 with 30,000 and odd visitors.

Tourist inflow remains up in the graph and about 20 % of foreign origin, mainly Germany, France and Britain. From Ecotourism to wildlife conservation here are model villages of Odisha that have become shining examples of what community can do for a better future.

For the first time in history any village could do to both environmentally and economically as well. A success story that showcase the power of community projects and unveils the splendour of nature on the bosom of Odisha . Sustainable iEcotourism with landscapes like Similipal, Satkosia, Bhitarkanika, Chilika, Phulbani, Koraput etc offer enormous scope to further flourish.    As on today 40 Community Managed Nature Camps are functioning spreading all across the state occupying different areas with different biological importance.

This financial year Odisha’s Ecotourism projects have earned a total revenue of 5.6 Crore till date giving employment to more than 1000 forest dependent villagers.

The best part of Odisha model of Community based Nature Tourism in comparison to other states is that 90% of the revenue generated from ecotourism goes to the community and local community are the stake holders of those projects. Satkosia Sands not only to serve  as a livelihood option for the forest dependent communities of south part of Satkosia but also it has been able to build a stride of confidence among the tribal population and rural women.

The nature camp is managed by 28 villagers of Badmul (Bethiasahi) and about 5-6 villages are earning their livelihood from this single project. Earlier majority of the men from Badmul village used to migrate outside or depended on the forest produce for their livelihood support including poaching and selling of meat of wild animals.

Poverty driven poaching in wildlife areas has often been the leading reason for low prey base ultimately leading to decline in Carnivore population too.

Satkosia Sands at Badmul is not only a success story of Nature Tourism but also a Conservation success story. The landscape is now free from forest fire and poaching since last 3 years.

Each family managing the project have earned around Rs.1.5-2 lakhs this year against 20 thousand yearly income prior to this project. The

nature camp also runs a programme “Poachers turned Protectors of Satkosia” where common tourists can interact with the poachers who have been rehabilitated by the Forest Dept.

Birding, boating, sports, cycling, trekking, farm visits, village tours, Canopy Walk etc also have been attracting features of the Nature Camping at Badmul.  

Badmul ecotourism has benefitted the adjoining villages as they have been supplying vegetables, fish, milk etc to the camp on daily basis. Earlier the same Nature Camp area was used by Sand Mafias for collection of illegal sand from the river bed, of course with support of the adjoining villagers. But now it has completely been stopped as protecting the landscape has given them economic returns. Wildlife conservation completely depends on public  support. Villages in Mahanadi Wl Division (south Satkosia) were having grievances relating to road connectivity, electricity, livelihood issues.  

Nature tourism is not the answer to all but to address those issues and for garner public support all villages have been electrified by cable wires, road connectivity has also been strengthened in south part of Satkosia beside several initiatives for livelihood.

From mere dependence on either forest produce, migratory abour or the worse resort being poaching of wild animals , all such things have a got a breather through the community driven projects. Once shorn of wildlife, one can witness the lovely deer and Chowsignhas flitting around, feasting on the wet morning grass.

What a spectacle of symbiosis when nature and man walk side by side and survive in harmony. What a change and what a magic of a tempestuous  love story scripted by the people who had worked hard to make the stones here smile. 

The tale of Badmul carries us back on the wings of memory to the past glory when nature had its significance that we are all obliged to preserve and conserve. Else history may not forgive us.

(Anshu Pragyan Das is the DFO of the Mahanadi Wildlife Dvn.)   Pic credit. Anshu Pragyan

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