Locals participate to create Odisha's first eco village on Mahanadi banks

All 35 households in Muduligadia switched to LPG as cooking fuel, common dustbins put up for garbage collection, use of toilets end to open defecation

Mahanadi river | Photo: Wikipedia

Muduligadia, a hitherto unknown village in Odisha’s Nayagarh district, has acquired a badge of honour. The village now has the label of being the state’s first eco village developed on the banks of Mahanadi river along the Satkosia gorge. The concept of the eco village is to minimise the baleful impact on the environment and restoration of the social and natural environment.

The village is only two kilometres (km) from the site of Badmul Ecotourism Project titled ‘Satkosia Sands Resort & Nature Camp’ established in 2016, consisting of seven cottages overlooking the Satkosia gorge and 12 tents pitched on Mahanadi river bank. The ecotourism project managed by 30 community members, has generated employment for people living around the protected area besides being a source for education and conservation awareness among the communities dependent on forest for livelihoods.

But since this ecotourism project took off, the communities’ dependence on forest for eking out a living has reduced to zero. The project also boasts of zero poaching and has not witnessed any outbreak of forest fire over the past three years.

The eco village at Muduligadia has been created by utilising 10 per cent of the earnings from the Eco Development Committee (EDC) of the Badmul Ecotourism Project. The entire village community has collaborated for a common cause to foster sustainability in the area. Being a village located at the foothills of the Satkosia tiger reserve, practices such as use of firewood for cooking, open defecation, consumption of river water for drinking and bating had perpetuated for ages.

However, the ecotourism project has spun change in the people’s lifestyle. All 35 households in Muduligadia have switched on to LPG as cooking fuel for the past three years. Twelve common dustbins have been put up at different spots to organise garbage collection with villagers scrupulously following the ‘no-litter’ principle. Use of toilets has spurred people to abandon open defecation. Villagers are also striving to make their region plastic free.

Anshu Pragyan Das, divisional forest officer, Mahanadi wildlife division has been instrumental in spearheading this transition.

“We have guided them for transforming the village into Eco village”, she says.

Sumanta Das, president of EDC attributes the change in villagers’ habits to the income improvement wrought by the eco tourism project. Since the project’s inception, each household earns Rs 15,000 per month on an average. From collecting and marketing forest produce to fend for themselves, the life of villagers has taken a new turn. They are now managing an eco tourism project. Women with humble academic attainments are participating in the decision making process of the management, helping to make the village a sustainable model for ecotourism.

At the fulcrum of this change is the vision of the state forest department. In the past three years, the ecotourism project has earned more than Rs two crore. This ecotourism project is the only model in the country where the entire revenue generated goes back to the community.