The Society for Creative Opportunities and Participatory Ecosystems has been working for more than a decade in the East Kolkata Wetlands. It has pursued four work streams under the broad gamut of conservation and management of these wetlands – productivity enhancement, information and documentation, facilitation and finally, health and well being (of both ecosystem and people).
Productivity enhancement is our most important workstream. We believe that encroachment and land use change within the wetlands became an option only when sewage supply to the wetlands dwindled and the fish production began to take a hit. This kept on happening over the years and the most plausible option to address the crisis was to look at ways to improve income through more livelihood options.
Workstream – Productivity enhancement
- Activity – Additional livelihood option to improve income generation
• Focus on additional income generation through scientific rearing of backyard poultry, ducks, quail, turkey, or scientific rearing of pigs
• Organising of regular trainings for tribal villagers in the villages of the EKW in collaboration with Sasya Shyamala Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Arapaanch, Sonarpur
• Arranging for supply of poultry from KVK and backing up with fodder and medicine supply
• Vaccinating and monitoring the growth of poultry and disease management
• Replenishing lost food security by supplying high yielding rice seeds after severe cyclonic storm Amphan damaged their prospects of a good crop
• Providing fish fingerlings and fish feed for those cultivating fish in small ponds of up to 4 acres
Workstream – Information and documentation
2. Activity – Research and publication
• Prepared a course module in collaboration with Jadavpur University for a European Union funded project called E-QUAL (Enhancing Quality, Access and Governance of Undergraduate Education in India). The university partners were Ambedkar University Delhi, Jadavpur University, King’s College London, Shiv Nadar University, University of Bologna (Italy) and University of Hyderabad. The project activities were implemented in four key disciplines – Critical Thinking, Cultural Studies, Human Ecology, Natural Resource Management & Sustainable Development.
• Research and report preparation on the state of encroachment and land use change in Bhagabanpur mouza, which saw a 4-fold increase in population from 2001 to 2011. This involved extensive use of GIS platform and ground truth verification of mouza maps. Overall, three land use maps were produced – one on the year of Ramsar declaration, the next on the year of formation of EKWMA and the final one on the year of doing the field work i.e 2016.
• A small piece of research done with West Bengal State University titled Kolkata’s Solid Waste Management: KMC Model
3. Activity – Survey
• Livestock and nutrition survey for 3 tribal mouzas in 2017 –to gather information regarding their livestock rearing practices, their mortality rates, financial viability of the livestock rearing practice
• Survey of the impact of producing rice from high yielding variety seeds in 2 tribal hamlets in EKW
• Complete enumeration of Hatgachha mouza on questions of drinking water, sewage-based livelihood and health issues
4. Activity – Mapping
• Mapping of the entire EKW area and the canals that need de-siltation.
Outcome – the map that has been produced along with the Briefing Note written has been used as an input for the Integrated Management Plan.
5. Activity – Awareness generation
• Documentary film making
East Kolkata Wetlands: Squandering Conservation made in 2017
From Farm to Housing made in 2021
• Guided tours for educational institutions – both city-based and international schools, colleges and universities
This has been going on for the past 6 years and has included students at school, college, university and professional levels, ranging from Kolkata city to the US and Germany! Like with every other field of activity, this has been a learning experience for us. We have learnt that one-time lessons can be an eye-opener but to give to this ecosystem, one needs to take an abiding interest in it. That is an uphill task.
• Collaborated on assembling an exhibition on EKW called Travelling Dialogue in partnership with Disappearing Dialogues LLP and the German Consulate, Kolkata.
This was done to bring both environmental and climate sensitivity with respect to the East Kolkata Wetlands, and send a message to the schools and colleges of Kolkata regarding their environmental heritage. Held in the 3rd week of September 2019, this just preceded Climate Action Week in Germany.
Workstream – Facilitation
6. Activity – Multi stakeholder engagement
• Samajik Suraksha Yojana
This was a Social Security Scheme under the Department of Labour in 2017. SCOPE coordinated with the Department and the wastepickers at Dhapa to reach them information about what they are entitled to receive under the scheme. However, since the format of application changed to online mode, not much could be taken forward thereafter. This work needs to be followed up.
• World Wetlands Day
Since 2019, we have been facilitating the celebration of World Wetlands Day in schools in the wetlands. In 2020, the Wetlands Day celebrations brought the Department of Environment, the rural local government namely the panchayat and the community in close contact, and there was exchange of views regarding the problems that needed to be addressed. This was followed up by action on work-plan for de-siltation of the various canals in EKW.
Workstream – Health and well being
7. Activity – Eye camp
Covered tribal villagers in 3 villages and revealed some interesting connections regarding the social determinants of health in the tribal dominated portion of the EKW.
8. Activity – Nutrition management
• Nutrition stories – Though EKW is a productive location, knowledge about a nutritious diet is lacking. Our attempt was to organise a discussion session followed by cooking sessions about an inexpensive and easily available diet.
9. Activity – Sanitation
• Building of one toilet at an anganwadi school and partially supported building of another toilet at a different school
10. Activity – Health management
• Built a charitable clinic by repairing a community hall in the Ananta Badal village of Dhapa. This provided a clean place for the KMC doctor who came to visit every Friday
11. Activity – Education
• Writing of a Bengali book on the wetlands titled Tomader Katha. This book describes in school level language what wetlands are and what children should know about the East Kolkata Wetlands. This book was meant for the wetland school children and thus was written in Bengali. It was first produced and published by Disappearing Dialogues and printed with support from the German Consulate in Kolkata. Subsequently, it was reprinted by the EKWMA.
• Popularising Tomader Katha
This was done in Bamanghata High School where children were given assignments to do based on this book and its reading. This threw up very useful insights about how to educate children further about the importance of the place where they are growing up