Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage, a social enterprise, has formally rolled out three projects on alternative livelihood for the villagers of the Sundarbans, the largest delta island in collaboration with The Directorate of Forest, South 24 Parganas Division today. These projects are undertaken by The Directorate of Forest, South 24 Parganas Division with Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage for the first time. The project initially is aimed at creating alternative livelihood for the people residing in the forest fringe villages. Always challenged by the natural disasters and human-animal conflicts, these people find it hard to earn their two square meals barely. The projects would minimize the human-wildlife conflict and pave the way for alternative income opportunities thus strengthening the base of the rural economy.
The pilot project encompassing the gamut of three sub-projects namely paper plate manufacturing, crab and shrimp cultivation would entail 40 Self Help Groups from marginalized section of six villages bordering the forest land areas. The project will impact approximately 350 marginalized women from the villages including 2 No Laskar Pur, Vivekanda Pally, Jhorkali Bazar, Tridip Nagar and Purbo Gurguriya. The forest department mobilized these underprivileged women from the remote villages. Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage will provide capacity-building training and quality measurement of the products. KSCH will also supply raw materials to the less privileged women of the sundarbans. The organization will help them to create direct market linkage after the training.
The Paper Plate Manufacturing Project will start in the Jharkhali area under Malta range. Women from 12 different self help groups would be the part of the pilot project initially. A machine has been already installed in the village where the self-help group women are undergoing training. One machine is capable of producing over 5000 paper plates every day. The paper plates will replace the rampant use of thermocol plates that pollutes the environment of the archipelago. Thermocol is a carcinogenic material. Close to 2 lakh tourists visit the Sundarbans every year and they leave a trail of plastic bottles, plates, and thermocol products during their visits to the riverine delta. Over the years, various methods have been tried out to stop the tourists from bringing plastics and thermocol plates and littering them in the Sundarbans. Various awareness campaigns have been created as well for the same by the respected department. Directorate of forest, 24 Parganas South Division has already taken a stern step to curb this pollution and already banned the use of plastics in the biosphere lands. The production of paper plates by the local women would provide the tourists an alternative material in place of the thermocol and would help the rural population to earn as well. As per the Govt. order, local markets and other tourism units including boats and homestays will start to use paper plates. This venture will help to create a sustainable ecosystem as well.
Crab and Shrimp cultivation has the tremendous potential to strengthen the rural economy of the Sundarbans . Since the fish and crab yields are not substantial in the buffer zone, the helpless villagers are left with no option but to risk their lives and reach out to the core area of the forest to collect the crabs and shrimps and face the grave consequence. Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage and the Directorate of Forest, 24 Parganas South Division, have come up with a solution to minimize the conflict between man and wildlife and would start the crab and shrimp cultivation in the village. The pilot project is being inaugurated in the Kultali area under Raidighi Range.
Shri Milan Mondal, DFO South 24 Parganas Division said; “It is a very unique drive taken by our department to reduce the human and wild interactions in Sundarbans. Before starting this project we did a base level survey and based on the same we selected the area-specific job roles. Also, KSCH did a wonderful work at the grassroots.”
Sourav Mukherjee, Founder Director & President Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage said; “The impact of the project is huge especially in the post lockdown scenario. Before implementing the project we did an area-specific survey and realized the huge potential of the project for the rural economy to become self-sufficient. The scale of the projects can be enhanced a great deal depending on the pilot project and we can bring more villagers under this project. ”
“The Project will witness the installation of 40 more paper plate making machines once the pilot project is completed and 100 ponds have been shortlisted for Crab & Shrimp cultivation. This will impact more than 20,000 marginalized sections of women in the Sundarbans. By the end of the project, it will help to generate approximately INR 56Lakhs per year for this marginalized section of people. After the training we have plans to create more infrastructures for these women”, he added.
Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage (KSCH) is a social enterprise functioning at the grass root level for the permanent developmental changes of rural, urban and tribal areas of India since last ten years.
KSCH has also helped to revive traditional arts and crafts and used the expertise of village women in weaving, handloom and pottery. These women had tremendous potential, what they lacked was a marketing strategy. KSCH helped them to develop their own brand, a logo and removed the middlemen by linking the buyer with the supplier/ producer. An integrated marketing model has worked wonders. Today, 4,400 women, hand-held by the KSCH, are earning Rs 5,000 to 10,000 a month. So far 8267 families are associated and getting benefits from KSCH.
Kolkata Society For Cultural Heritage has been working to foster the socio-economic structures by using different livelihood generating methods. It believes that recycling solid waste products can be a tool to generate income for the underprivileged people of society. Previously they have exhibited the products collaborating with NKDA and WBHIDCO at Ecopark. Now they are running Zero Waste Museum at Newtown granted by NKDA.
He also added; “Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage (KSCH) is a social enterprise functioning at the grass-root level for the permanent developmental changes of rural, urban and tribal areas of India. We believe that livelihood is the most important component of any sustainable developmental model. If we can improve economic conditions in the rural and tribal areas then we can automatically address other social aspects like Education, Health and Sanitation. We have been working with forest department for the last seven years.”