Wake up inside a tribal Karvi hut to the sounds of the Bhatsa river flowing outside or go kayaking or ride the jetski on the river in Thane district. The Thane forest division has begun water sports-based ecotourism in the river, managed entirely by the villagers.
Across 5 acres of the 35 acre forest land at Bhagdal village, Thakars and Katkaris tribals are busy constructing Karvi huts. The outside walls are packed with dung cakes to keep the moisture out and the tribals fix the wooden pillars that support these 500 sqft ‘huts’. The air-conditioner and television inside betrays the interior of an actual tribal Karvi hut, leaving only the Warli-painted wall to bear some resemblance.
“The Karvi plant is also used as medicine for malaria- so you are essentially staying inside a large mosquito repellant hut. The hut and its structure made entirely of local naturally-available material that keeps mosquitoes and moisture, even today, baffles our engineers,”said Vinod Singh, manager of the eco-tourism centre, admitting that they have added a tarpaulin sheet beneath the roof for extra protection during the rain.
While one hut is complete, 15 more are under construction.
Besides jetskis and kayaks, it includes paddle boats, banana boats and being dragged behind the jetski on a inflatable sofa – all maintained by the village boys.
Soon, the remaining 30 acres will house a biodiversity park, ‘Nakshatra’ garden, medicinal herbs garden. The biodiversity park will have plants belonging to rare species such as the rudraksha plant and display information about them, whereas the garden will house plants associated with each planet according to the Hindu mythology.
Traditionally, after every monsoon, tribals leave behind their Karvi huts and move on to new locations. Now, they are engaged in constructing the Karvi huts. Besides this, local women are in charge of the food preparation, maintenance of the garden and keeping the surroundings clean at the centre.
Five local youths were recently sent to Alibaug for training in water sports management, while another six were sent to Aurangabad to learn hospitality. “Now, ten village boys earn a regular salary and profits from the centre are utilised for education of the adivasi children and for better roads in our villages,” said Bhakare.
The forest department receives a 20 per cent share of the profits.
“We began this project to ensure sustainable tourism activities on forest land. With more tourists at these spots, villagers could earn more and help us also conserve and look after the forest areas,” said K P Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Thane (territorial).
The centre is now a venue for scout camps and EVS trips.
“Students were taught the benefits of using raw materials in construction and were also shown a video on wildlife preservation and the harm done by poaching,” said Qutbuddin Jhaveri, a scouter, who took a group of 30 boys from St Xavier’s school to Bhadgal village.
Now, the centre also plans to provide tours to Bambe, Goteghar villages to allow visitors to experience a slice of traditional tribal and village life.