THE brackish water lagoon spread over Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts in Odisha are seeing the ‘birds chirping again’. The reason being that the villagers-especially people who were involved in bird poaching and illegal trapping in this area-have turned a new leaf by evolving themselves into ‘animal guardians’, protecting the wildlife and promoting eco-tourism in Mangalajodi village.
What led to this unusual transformation is what has been captured in the film, ‘And the birds start chirping again’ by city-based documentary filmmaker Girish Godbole.
Godbole, while making the film, found that with sustainable and concerted efforts on part of the government and the non-governmental bodies, they have evolved a successful model of eco-tourism over the last five years.
This effort has been put together in a short film nominated for the Prakriti festival organised by the University Grant’s Commission. The film will be showcased at several other festivals in the country.
The film opens showing Chilika Lake, the largest estuarine eco-system and the Mangalajodi eco-tourism project, which has provided livelihood opportunities to the people which in turn have brought them recognition.
“This is an example of how the mindset of villagers has changed from poaching to conserving by giving them a sustainable job and income. The district administration, forest and even NGOs worked in the area so that the number of poachers could turn protectors,” said Godbole on why he decided to make the film.
Earlier, the government offered only incentives but this did not work as the money stopped coming in and the villagers were encouraged to poach. What changed was a joint effort on part of the government bodies, NGOs and forest officials to change the mindset of the villagers and give them a sustainable means of livelihood.
The Pune-based social development worker and documentary maker, involved with an organisation giving micro loans, got in touch with Grameen services who shared this story which encouraged him to make the film. “I was there for a week, interviewing people on what transformed them to become ‘eco ambassadors’ from poachers. This is a success story that I wanted to narrate to people. The story of Mangalajodi clearly depicts that man can live in harmony with nature once he becomes enlightened about the interdependent nature, he added. He said that the area is best known for its marshes and water fowl with the lake supporting the largest congregations of aquatic birds in the country.
“The people from this village who were engaged in agriculture, fishing, boat building and bamboo weaving have now turned to eco-tourism. The film brings out the evolution wherein Chilika Lake board officials provide training and motivation to change the mindset and brings them closer to nature,” said Godbole.