World Wetlands Day 2008 -- India

13/05/2008

SAFE report to Ramsar Secretariat on WWD, 2nd Feb 08

Amrita Chatterjee, Executive (Research & Liaison) of SAFE reports on CELEBRATION OF WORLD WETLANDS DAY 2ND FEB’ 2008 AT EAST KOLKATA WETLANDS

‘SAFE’ - South Asian Forum For Environment, an NGO launches India’s first pilot project on BIORIGHTS based on ecotourism & Sustainable development at East Kolkata Wetlands.

This year once again, South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) marked the worldwide wetlands day celebration with the wetlands dwellers at the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) the only Ramsar site of West Bengal state, India. It was a proud moment for SAFE and the community people, as on this special day, the first project on “Biorights” in India could be successfully launched at the EKW.

The pilot project titled “Ecotourism as a means of poverty alleviation and sustainable environment development through community partnership in peri-urban wetlands of East Kolkata” intends to transform nature-services like Ecotourism as a financial tool for poverty alleviation and sustainable environment development in peri-urban wetlands of East Kolkata through community participation and partnership. This is the first Pilot Project on Biorights in India under the innovative challenge fund of ‘Kolkata Urban Services for the Poor’ (KUSP) programme funded by DFID (UK) through Municipal Affairs Department, Government of West Bengal. The project will be headed by Dr.Dipayan Dey, Chair, SAFE.

On 2nd Feb, at 11 am, Dr.Biswajiban Majumder, Chairman, Bidhannagar Municipality, laid the foundation stone of the project at Sukantanagar Bheri.

For the particular project two model bheris (fishponds) of EKW has been chosen, Natar bheri and Sukantanagar bheri, spanning an area of over 37 hectares. The project will be directly benefiting about 175 families. Dr. Majumder said, “It’s a welcome project, I perceive such a project on commons rights as an action oriented initiative taken by SAFE, and what has impressed me most in the project is that actual beneficiaries are the wetlands fishermen and women.” He encouraged the community people by saying that, “I truly commend SAFE work for bringing such a rare opportunity for each one of you, and I request you to make the project successful through greater partnership and participation”.

 Dr. Dipayan Dey addressed the community people by saying, “Today’s success reflects the significance of the community participation in sustainable development, it’s a dream come true that Bio-rights of wetlands dwellers have got recognition, and I am thankful to ICF and each one of the community partners, without your support it could not have been possible.” Dr. Udita Ghosh Sarkar, the Fund Manager of KUSP (ICF program), Dr. D.R Mandal, Principal, Bidhanagar College, Mr. Gautam Sen, Asst. General Manager, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, NABARD was present at the occasion along with other dignitaries and the media people.

It was an overwhelming response from the community people, who seemed to take great pride in being the part of the project. Women Self Help Group leaders Sumitra Ghosh and Baby Mandal felicitated the dignitaries with flower bouquet. Later, while talking to the journalist they mentioned that, “Lot of people comes here to picnic but then they never pay us for the leisure, this new work will not only pay us but will also protect our place”.

The urban response on Biorights is equally amazing. SAFE’s survey results on low volume higher value tourism shows a general consensus in willingness of paying approximately 18% higher value than normal tourism in the wetlands. This excess revenue will be utilized for micro insurance coverage of the wetlanders with a premium as low as Rs 7.50 per month per family against health and wetland related diseases. Many corporate insurance organizations like Max New York Life and ICICI Prudential have come forward to share and discuss this win-win situation. It’s important to note that SAFE has already got tremendous assistance from Rotary International for providing eco-sanitation facility and health camp services to the wetland dwellers. This would also be an important segment of the present Biorights project.

SAFE takes great pride in installing the concept of biorights which will eventually achieve this year’s international theme of Ramsar “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People”.

For the details of the project please log on to www.safeinch.org. Times News press coverage of the event (PDF).

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