Green recovery measures as COVID response in Bhitarkanika, Odisha
India has been severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis which led to the imposition of strict economic and social lockdown. India’s unemployment rate surged to over 27% during the lockdown months and the worst affected population is the over 40 million migrant workers from rural areas. Having lost their jobs and income, large number of them returned to rural areas, including areas around the project’s pilot Ramsar sites, creating a labour surplus in these areas. With little opportunities in the rural areas, a large number of people are likely to fall back on extraction of already stressed natural resources – forests, wetlands and rivers – exacerbating the future resilience of agriculture and other natural resources-based production systems to climate change. As a response to COVID-19 and the lockdown, green recovery measures offer employment opportunities for communities around the project sites in the short-term while building long-term resilience through healthy wetland ecosystems.
The primary objective of the project under ‘Green recovery for Bhitarkanika Ramsar site, Odisha’ supported by IKI BMU is to support implementation of livelihood-oriented conservation and restoration activities, and training of community members in alternative sustainable livelihoods. Ecosystem-based sustainable livelihood measures such as mangrove restoration, sustainable fisheries, handicraft-based activities and science-led horticulture would be implemented at Bhitarkanika. The project will organise skill and capacity development training for local communities inalternative and sustainable livelihoods. This would include training on pond management, nursery raising, sustainable fisheries, horticulture-based livelihood, skill upgradation for artisans and skill development for eco-tourism guides.
The green recovery measures in Bhitarkanika are being implemented by Action for Protection of Wild Animals (APOWA), a leading not for profit organisation based in Odisha. APOWA works with a mission of partnering with the local communities and stakeholders focusing on environmental sustainability and self-reliant healthy society. Green recovery would create employment opportunities and at the same time increase fish production, freshwater supply and food security, in short-term. In long-term it would enhance storm protection, reduce soil erosion, improve biodiversity, and increase productivity, thereby, leading to improved food security and income.