of the world’s mightiest rivers - the Ganga and the Brahmaputra - flow
into the Bay of Bengal through a vast system of distributaries that
form the largest delta in the world. This delta is covered by a dense
mangrove forest system called the Sundarbans. A part of this forest has
been declared a Tiger Reserve; however, the villages that surround the
Reserve are among the most under-privileged in India. There is no
electricity, no roads, only basic education and no permanent health
Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) started its community
outreach programme in the Sundarbans in 2002 with the aim of
encouraging villagers living around the Tiger Reserve to view wildlife
and their environment as an asset rather than a threat. We
currently have a Tiger Conservation Centre and a Kindergarten school,
and we undertake a number of health, awareness and livelihood related
Our Tiger Conservation Centre on the island of Bali
holds wildlife film shows and village and nature club meetings for the
25,000 inhabitants of the island. In collaboration with the West Bengal
Forest Department, we also organise annual events, such as Forestry
Week and Wildlife Week, which are attended by up to 4,000 people.
WPSI also runs a small kindergarten school and a Sundarbans
Nature Club. Thousands of wildlife posters have been distributed, along
with conservation awareness kits to a few schools that include solar
powered colour television sets and a collection of wildlife films.
the ‘The Bali Community Health Project’ (a joint initiative of VJSMF,
ACT, Help Tourism, Bali Nature, WCS, and WPSI), health camps are held
twice a month at the Centre. After Cyclone Aila struck the Sundarbans
in May 2009, we set up a permanent medical camp at our centre with two
resident doctors, to serve the thousands of people that were affected.
has initiated a Self-Help Micro Credit System for women. Over 50
Self-Help groups have been established, with 10 to15 members each.
Members contribute a nominal amount of Rs. 30 per month to be able to
receive bank loans, to help fund medical expenses, etc. We have also
initiated training in Kantha, a traditional form of embroidery. The
women embroider tigers onto khadi silk, which are made into colourful
cushions, which have found a ready market in the cities. This
additional employment provides their families with an income and also
helps reduce pressure on the forest resources.
Sundari tree, after which the Sundarbans is thought to have been named,
is fast disappearing in the forests due to increased salinity. Using
seedlings prepared in our nursery, we have helped local communities to
plant thousands of Sundari trees around their villages. With support
from the Sundarbans Development Board, WPSI has executed annual
plantation drives to plant mangrove saplings on chor land to prevent
erosion of the river embankments along with shade trees in the
villages. Over 180,000 saplings were planted in 2008 alone. In the past
two years, WPSI has also assisted in the construction of more than a
hundred rainwater harvesting ponds, which are the only source of fresh
water for the people of the Sundarbans.
We also undertake
anti-poaching activities in the Sundarbans. Our team uses a
confidential information reward scheme to work with the Forest
Department and the state Police to curb poaching in and around the
Sundarbans. A voluntary Tiger Rescue Team reacts swiftly to any reports
of tigers entering nearby villages and armed with nets, sticks and
portable loudspeakers, assists in keeping crowds away from the tiger
until the Forest Department arrives on the scene. This has helped save
many tigers from a violent and unnecessary death.