YOUNGSTERS FROM the fishermen community in the city will be trained to work in the upcoming marine interpretation centre at Airoli. A five-day programme by the Bombay Natural History Society will train at least 20 community members this week. An official said members from local fishing communities were being identified, with some of them voluntarily coming forward, to work as ‘naturalists’ at the centre, which will be opened in the next two months.
The centre, the first-of-its-kind on the western coast, will have multi-sensory, mechanical exhibits to give tourists an experience of coastal biodiversity, including a 360-degree view of many marine mammals. “The fishing community has first-hand experience of coastal life. By engaging them at the centre, they will be able to share with tourists information about different species of mangroves and other marine life with much ease,” said N Vasudevan, Chief Conservator of Forests, Mangrove Cell.
He added that work on the marine centre was nearing completion with exhibits being brought for installation. “The idea to involve youngsters from the community is also to have an alternate livelihood option for them,” Vasudevan added.
The centre is one of the many initiatives by the Mangrove Cell, which has also received funding from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), an international agency involved in sustainable management and conservation of coastal regions in the state.
Members from the fishermen community said the involvement of local communities in conservation and promotion activities of marine life could not be undermined.
“We may not have scientific knowledge but those having worked in the marine ecosystem for generations have a lot of indigenous insight, which can be used. We hope that such initiatives can bring welfare as well as livelihood opportunity for the community,” said Nandkumar Pawar, a member of the fishing community who has now founded the NGO Shree Ekvira Aai Pratisthan.
He added that many infrastructure projects and policy decisions also needed to bring changes to the livelihood of indigenous communities. “For projects including the declaration of Thane creek as a flamingo sanctuary, we have assured the authorities that we will extend all help possible as long as the welfare of the community, which is as much a stakeholder, is kept in mind. We were sent a questionnaire recently with information sought on how much fish was being caught previously and the kind of changes we have seen over the years in the marine life,” said Pawar.