by Heather Lowe
To commemorate World Biodiversity Day on 22 May 2013, the TSA-India Turtle Conservation Program and Uttar Pradesh Forest Department jointly organized an awareness program in the Garhaita Turtle Survival Centre at Garhaita village, Etawah. This program was a success – hosting 75 participants of all ages from the village of Garhaita.
Guests were welcomed by Mr. Ashutosh Tripathi (TSA India). The program began with a screening of the documentary film “She is Alive – Mother Earth”. Next, a Chambal Prayer “Tohe Sumiron Chambal Maharani” was performed. The song was composed and sung by local community members with regional musical instruments. This prayer was dedicated to the vitalizing River Chambal which believed as the “Goddess” who supports a variety of critically threatened fauna and riparian communities. This prayer also elucidates the salient features and importance of the Chambal River as an ecosystem.
A conservation skit entitled “We Are in Peril” was presented by the village children, dressed in costumes depicting the threatened fauna of Chambal River. They performed the story of anthropogenic pressure on the existing faunal diversity of Chambal River.
The Chief Guest of the program, Mr. Gurmeet Vashist (Wildlife Warden, NCSP), spoke about biodiversity and its importance for mankind. The Guest of Honour of the program, Mr. Suresh Chandra Rajput (Range Forest Officer, NCS-Etawah), spoke about the diversity of flora and fauna of Chambal River and emphasized appealingly for the restoration of indigenous plants to the local ecosystem.
The event was concluded with a viewing of the documentary film “Turtle in Soup” which shines a light on the issue of freshwater turtles globally and the increasing pressures placed on them by food market demands.
The next day marked World Turtle Day (May 23). To celebrate, a “Camel Rally” organized jointly by TSA-India and the UP Forest Department began at the Turtle Survival Centre in Garhaita and ran through three hamlets including Garhaita, Thar and Dugawali. The rally’s message: “Save Turtle- Save Earth” was conveyed through skits, regional songs, and slogans. The rally concluded with an awareness program for the villages at Dugawali Village. In all, a total of 11 camels, 15 handlers and about 50 villagers participated.
The event was conducted under the guidance of Mr. Sujoy Banerji, (DCF, NCSP, Agra) and Dr. Shailendra Singh (Director, TSA-India Program). The event was successfully coordinated by Mr. Sarvesh Bhadauria (Asitt, Wildlife warden, UPFD), Mr. Lal Chandra (UPFD), Mr. Govind Bhadauria, Mr. Lalit Budhani (TSA), Mr. Govind Tiwari, Mr. Sant Ram (TSA), Mr. Omprakash (TSA), Mr. Kallu (TSA), Mr. Siyaram (UPFD).