Awareness Promotion Activities Conducted Across the Satpuda Maikal Landscape

Posted on 06 August 2014   |  
Students planting saplings at the Swami Vivekananda Nature Club, Indri
© Ashish Namdeo / WWF-India

WWF-India reaches out to local communities to encourage tiger conservation in the heart of India's forests

The Satpuda Maikal Landscape (SML) gets its name from the expansive Satpuda mountain range that runs across the middle of the country, from the state of Maharashtra, through Madhya Pradesh and ultimately culminating in Chattisgarh. The landscape is home to some of India's most prominent Protected Areas (PAs), and boasts a rich and varied biodiversity. Some of the most charismatic species found here include the tiger, leopard, sloth bear, gaur, hard ground swamp deer. The area is also home to over 300 different species of birds.

The SML includes 14 PAs which are connected to one another by vital wildlife corridors. If measured as contiguous forests with the inclusion of these corridors, the entire forest area totals to 40,469km2 (as per FSI-2011) thereby making it the largest contiguous tiger habitat in the world. The landscape houses approximately one-tenth of the world's total tiger population, and nearly half of India's total tiger population. The area is of essential importance to the long-term goal of tiger conservation, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, as it represents the prime habitat of this majestic species.

WWF-India's work in the SML is focussed on conservation issues such as habitat degradation, human-tiger conflict, poaching and the prevalence of inadequate prey.

WWF-India's landscape approach to conservation includes motivating local communities and involving them as stakeholders in the conservation initiatives and goals. A key aspect of this engagement with local communities are the various wildlife and conservation awareness initiatives, detailed below, conducted by the SML team’s Field Officer, Mr Ashish Namdeo across the landscape targeting different age groups.

Nature Clubs: WWF-India organized the formation of Nature Clubs for secondary school students located in the Kanha-Achanakmar, Kanha-Pench and Kanha-Tadoba corridors. Nature Clubs are an outreach initiative to youth and students that aim to help build awareness on crucial local and landscape-wide environmental issues. The corridors of this region suffer a high degree of pressure from various issues including changing land use, degradation due to grazing, firewood collection and growing human populations in some cases. All of these corridors have great potential to be restored. Educating the next generation of residents of these areas is therefore an essential step in the conservation efforts.

These nature clubs promote the importance of human-wildlife coexistence, with activities including:
  • Educational and awareness workshops on snakes and protecting oneself from snakebites
  • Plantation of trees in an effort to emphasize the importance of restoring the wildlife corridors and creating a sustainable environment
  • Elimination of harmful weeds that inhibit the growth of other vegetation
  • Film screenings that were aimed at providing a long-term context for such activities through the dissemination of relevant information
Four Nature Clubs – Swami Vivekananda Nature Club (Indri Basundhara Nature Club (Bheemdongri), Maharani Laxmibai Nature Club (Haratola) and Environmentally Friendly Commission (Haratola villagers) were formed as a consequence of these initiatives.

“Prior to my participation in the Nature Club, my school activities consisted entirely of academics and I had no opportunity to interact with nature. The Nature Club has introduced me to activities such as bird watching, anti-plastic campaigns, and has encouraged me to participate in essay writing contests, which have enhanced my awareness of my surroundings and the environment. I am grateful for the opportunity extended by WWF-India to participate in these activities, and for the encouragement and certificate of participation,” said Om Prakash Sayyam, member of Gauriya Nature Club.

Cycling Club: To combat the issue of airborne pollutants, the residents of Devdara Panchayat, Mandla committed to the formation of a ‘Cycling Club’ have pledged to utilize petrol vehicles only for long journeys to the city and beyond. All other transportation is to be via cycles for shorter distances. The club elected a management committee to continuously motivate members of the cycling club to honor their commitment to reducing pollution in Mandla.

Energy Conservation: One of several negative consequences of increase in population growth around the wildlife corridors is an increase in pollutants in the air arising out of the energy consumption of the growing settlements in the area. Energy conservation initiatives such as the use of solar powered water pumps and awareness campaigns on judicious use of electricity and petroleum were conducted by WWF-India in conjunction with all the members of the nature clubs and their respective schools. This included the Vasundhara Nature Club (Bheemdongri), Mayur Nature Club (Motinala), Palash Nature Club (Parsamau), Tiger Nature Club (Alna) and Neelkanth Nature Club (Tikriya).

Waste Disposal: The placement of garbage bins and allotment of proper garbage disposal methods are some of the activities that were introduced in H.S. Government School, Parsamau Disttrict, Balaghat, M.P. This was to help reduce waste and consequently water pollution, which would otherwise lead to contamination of water supplies that are used by wildlife. The work of installing these disposal efforts was, coordinated by advisor, Ms Laxmi Armo, whose contributions were exemplary to the overall efforts.

Eco-friendly Festivals: The growth of settlements in the area had also resulted in an increase in cultural and religious festivities, involving the use of idols that were constructed using plaster of paris and other harmful chemicals that do not decompose naturally. These chemicals would further contaminate streams of the Narmada River, which are in use by wildlife. A campaign to construct idols from only clean, biodegradable materials was also encouraged by WWF-India at Mandla that received the participation of many locals. The residents of Mandla also pledged to the celebration of an eco-friendly Diwali, which would help bring down pollution levels during the festival.

“Gaining the support and cooperation of local communities is crucial for conservation to work in the long term. When local communities become stakeholders in conservation and can alter their lifestyles to co-exist with the environment around them, it bodes well for the future of conservation. Raising awareness on the importance of conservation and bio-diversity among the future generations is a great step in this direction, as their support will be essential for the continued survival of wildlife in these areas,” said Mr. Chittaranjan Dave, Landscape Coordinator, SML, WWF-India.

These outreach programmes conducted in SML received widespread media coverage from local newspapers including the Mandla Dindori Express, Nav Bharat, Nayi Duniya, Shaurya Bhoomi, Mandla Dindori Patrika and Mandla Bhaskar amplifying the reach of the programmes among a wider audience.

WWF-India will continue to conduct and expand on such awareness initiatives to garner support for conservation from local communities.

For further information:
Dr Chittaranjan Dave
Landscape Coordinator
Satpuda-Maikal Landscape,
T: +917642-260256
Students planting saplings at the Swami Vivekananda Nature Club, Indri
© Ashish Namdeo / WWF-India Enlarge
Volunteers planting saplings at the Swami Vivekananda Nature Club, Indri
© Ashish Namdeo/ WWF-India Enlarge
Gauriya Nature Club students participating in bird watching activities
© Ashish Namdeo / WWF-India Enlarge
A student asks a question during an educational screening at Barasinga Nature Club
© Ashish Namdeo / WWF-India Enlarge
A programme on waste management conducted at the Palash Nature Club, Parsamau District, Balaghat
© Ashish Namdeo / WWF-India Enlarge


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