WWF India works extensively with local communities across the country to further nature conservation efforts on-ground. One such community includes fishermen and their families who live along the coastline of Odisha. Dependent primarily on fishing for livelihoods, these communities understand the need to protect the marine ecosystem and work with WWF India to conserve the same. However, with the COVID19 lockdown, they have no access to earn a livelihood and that has put them under immense duress.
For years Olive Ridley turtles, a keystone marine species, have been nesting at the mouth of the Rushikulya river, during the annual Arribada, a unique mass nesting phenomenon seen in the species. With the river mouth occupied by nesting turtles, the surrounding communities in Podampeta, Gokhurkuda and Purunabandh play a critical role to ensure that the species is protected during this crucial period. WWF India started working with local communities in Odisha approximately two decades ago, enlisting their help to patrol beaches, protect nests and monitor hatchlings every year. They helped WWF India strengthen its marine conservation initiatives in the state, while diligently respecting fishing restrictions laid down during nesting season.
The lockdown was announced soon after fishing had been restricted for the Arribada season, which is a practice every year. However, the added impact of the lockdown has rendered these communities vulnerable with no access to livelihood. Furthermore, they are unable to access basic food staples and protective equipment such as masks or even sanitizers to stay safe.
WWF India swung into action to support these communities and in collaboration with the village and local administration, identified communities that were most in need during this crisis.
Smartchip Pvt. Ltd. (an IDEMIA Company), a partner in WWF India’s turtle conservation work in Odisha since 2016, procured and delivered hand sanitizers and ration to the Block Development Officer’s (BDO) office at Ganjam, for further distribution to the communities in Podampeta, Gokhurkuda and Purunabandh.
WWF India, in association with its partners, has supported over 1000 households across Podampetta, Gokhurkuda and Purunabandh with food rations. The community members have also been supplied masks and sanitizers to help them stay safe and healthy during this period.