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WWF-India Builds ‘School Of Hope’ For The People of Sunderbans



Posted on 23 April 2006

A school built by WWF-India in Chhoto Mollakhali village of Sunderbans was inaugurated by Shri. Debaditya Chakraborty, IAS, Principal Secretary, School Education Department, Government of West Bengal, earlier this week. The function was presided over by Shri. D.P. Jana, IAS, Member Secretary and Project Director, Sundarbans Development Board, Government of West Bengal. Other distinguished guests from the government and WWF-India were also present at the function.

The school is a result of the great support shown by the residents of Chotto Mollakhali village – one of the two significant villages of Sunderbans - towards conservation initiatives. A proper school building will help the villagers in getting recognition for their school from the Government of West Bengal.

Speaking at the inauguration, Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, WWF-India, said, “The village was chosen owing to its proximity to the Tiger Reserves and the Wildlife Sanctuaries. With support we shall take our work to other villages located at the periphery of the forests impacting the forest reserves.”

Speaking about the wide-spread human animal conflict, he said, “Since our intervention, no human life has been lost and no retaliatory killing of tigers have been reported”. He added, “We are trying to build harmony between nature and the people in this area. With continued support, we intend to take our conservation initiatives to higher level while ensuring a safe future for the tiger.”

To augment the Forest Department’s initiatives to handle tiger conservation in Sunderbans, WWF-India started its programme almost two years ago. The programme aims to assist the Department in mitigating man-animal conflict widespread in this region. This is mainly due to the over dependency of the communities on the forest reserves in the absence of alternative sources of livelihood.

WWF-India’s efforts are largely concentrated to uplift the economic condition of the villagers by helping them explore other avenues of livelihoods such as animal husbandry, pisciculture and teaching them the cost-effective practices of agriculture. WWF-India has further provided tractors, power tillers, hand pumps and excavated fresh water canals to provide irrigation facilities, and have put solar panels in various areas.

There are over 4.5 million people residing in 52 villages. These people are directly or indirectly dependent on the forest reserves, which are continuously depleting with time. The man-animal conflict is at its peak thus leading to retaliatory killings. A very large number of people are killed by the tigers in the core areas of the forests. The people of Sunderbans have no basic amenities such as electricity, schools, hospitals and dispensaries and their per capita income is extremely low. Under such circumstances they do not have an option but to rely on the forests for their survival.

This village serves as a pilot to upscale development activities in the Sunderbans delta by various agencies.

(Ends)

NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
1. WWF-India is the largest and one of the most experienced conservation organizations in the country. Since 1969, WWF has been consistently working for the protection and conservation of environment, and towards promoting harmony based on sustainability between human beings and nature.

2. Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest estuarine delta in the world and the biggest colony of the Royal Bengal Tigers. However, the forest and the wildlife of Sunderbans is facing severe threat - Javan Rhino is already extinct and the Wild Otters and Tigers are highly endangered. The threats are mainly loss of habitat, pollution in the river systems and on the land, poaching for trade, retaliatory killings by the villagers, river erosion and many forms of human intervention.

For more information, please contact:
Dilpreet B. Chhabra
Species Communications Officer
Tel: +91-11- 41504815-18, +91-9899000472
E-mail: dchhabra@wwfindia.net



School Students
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