New Delhi: Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday inaugurated a unique symposium and photo exhibition titled ‘The Mangalajodi Inheritance”, organised by ONGC in association with The Bhubaneswar Bird Walks, at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
The objective of the symposium and photo exhibition is to bring together opinions of experts from diverse fields to strategise a way forward towards Chilika – the largest brackish water lake – to obtain heritage status from UNESCO.
Pradhan accompanied by Kenji Hiramatsu -Japanese Ambassador to India, Shashi Shanker- CMD ONGC, Narendra Verma- MD ONGC Videsh and D D Misra – Director (HR), ONGC at the photo exhibition by Avinash Khemka, noted wildlife photographer.
Pradhan highlighted that the Chilika ecosystem is an integral part of the Odia psyche, history and culture and therefore its preservation is crucial.
Chilika has immense potential to be developed as an eco-tourism destination. ONGC has shown great passion in taking up the project for conservation and holistic development of Chilika and in accordance of the status of UNESCO ‘World Heritage Site’ for Chilika Lake. It is a commendable initiative”, he said.
“India is committed to fulfil its responsibilities towards lowering carbon footprint under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by building an ecological economy to ensure sustainable development”, he said.
The minister appreciated the public sector oil companies for playing a stellar role to accomplish this objective. From environment protection to focus on biofuels and 2nd Gen ethanol fuel, many initiatives have been taken.
Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu appreciated India’s role in the conservation of bio-diversity in Chilika and reaffirmed Japan’s support towards skill development, knowledge transfer and technology induction.
Shashi Shanker, CMD, ONGC said that ONGC has taken many initiatives towards environment conservation such as plantation of Ringal Bamboos in the Himalayas, Mangrove plantation on the western coast, and many heritage conservation projects.
The project at Chilika is one such intervention. “Our CSR footprint extends from beaches of Rameshwaram to the peaks of the Himalayas”- he said, adding that in the coming days, ONGC is planning to take up skill development and all-round development of infrastructure in areas around Chilika and make Chilika a World Heritage site.
DD Misra, Director (HR) ONGC reiterated ONGC’s commitment towards environment and heritage conservation.
Misra said that ONGC and UNESCO have agreed to launch a conservation linked sustainable development initiative in Chilika with an aim to monitor climate change, observe bird migration patterns, map local ecology and engage in fishery studies.
“ONGC is aware that conservation efforts at Chilika require the involvement of the people of Mangalajodi. Through our CSR programme, we soon propose to undertake Projects at Mangalajodi to create a sustainable model of development”, he said.
Sanjeev Sarangi, Founder of Indian Grameen Services (IGS) was felicitated for creating a sustainable eco-tourism model that has already created meaningful impact. The IGS has embarked upon a strategy that synergized capacity building of local communities. Ecotourism is used by IGS as the main vehicle for enabling livelihoods through Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust (MET). Over 200 families have now been trained successfully to operate ecotourism services in Mangalajodi.
ONGC and UNESCO have jointly conducted a survey to bring Chilika on the World Heritage map and giving global recognition to Mangalajodi for conservation measures.
A tripartite agreement between ONGC, Govt. of Odisha and UNESCO is in the process of finalisation. UNESCO has assured all support towards this objective.
ONGC has also charted out a systematic plan for the development of Mangalajodi village in Chilika through CSR activities. Mangalajodi is a 10 sq km wetland lying on the northeastern fringe of Chilika. This freshwater zone hosts more than three lakhs migratory birds between November and March each year.
Based on criticalities, CSR interventions by ONGC is underway in Mangalajodi. These include installation of solar lights, provision of boats and construction Individual household toilets.
Other projects planned are training programmes on tour and travel management, local health centre, Mobile Medicare Unit, provision of potable water, infrastructure support to schools, construction of Community hall and connecting villagers with Pradhanmantri Ujjwala Yojana.
Mangalajodi is symbolic of the immense potential of Chilika to grow as a prominent eco-tourism destination. The Chilika ecosystem needs to be safeguarded and nurtured, not only for its unique biodiversity but also for its antiquity, culture and heritage.