Keen bird watchers and forest officials got a taste of Kangra during their stay at Pong Dam lake from 29th Jan to 31st Jan on the occasion of Bird Census 2012.
An exercise which used to be purely run by forest officials in their own style, took a new shape when a NGO, Himachal Children & Development Organization (HCDO) and its Self Help Group â€œPong Kunja Sthaniya Samoohâ€ (PKSS) collaborated with forest officials, to organize the event. In earlier events, most of the forest officials were busy making arrangements for participants instead focusing on their main job, which is the Census exercise. However this year, with NGO and local SHG taking over the catering part, forest officials could focus more on the census part.
HCDO, which is aiming to promote Community Based Responsible Tourism in the untouched Pong Dam area, decided to take catering & cultural part of the event to showcase the following,
1) How local communities can participate in similar events, which used to be restricted to bird watchers or officials
2) How we can bridge the gap between officials & local communities, and promote the cause of bird conservation through awareness camps, among locals
3) Provide an opportunity for locals, especially women groups to see by themselves, the possibility of income generation activities through tourism
4) What quality of service can locals SHGs deliver if properly trained and given an opportunity
5) To showcase local culture, local cuisines to bird watchers who have come from far off places.
6) How locals can share their views with others through such platforms
7) And last but not the least, what is Community Based Responsible Tourism?
The preparations for the event started way in advance, when HCDO organized a presentation (by forest official, for the women self help groups) about importance of bird conservation and the associated income generation possibilities. It was followed by multiple engagements at local level especially with women SHGs to prepare them for the upcoming event.
On 29th , everyone gathered for a cultural evening and the village women who actively took part during other preparations also presented a simple but traditional cultural program. Children from DAV Senior Secondary School, presented a beautiful gaddi natty and a heart touching small skit which reflected upon the routine conflicts between localities and forest department and how it can be solved. Local delicacies were also served during the program and elaborate dinner arrangements were made, where participants got introduced to Kangri Dham.
The program received positive feedback from the visitors and forest officials, which not only boosted the confidence of the SHGs & NGO but also strengthen its belief in the role locals can play to establish CBRT which in turn would help in conservation activities around Pong Dam lake area.
A part of the earnings from the event shall be given to the SHG as seed fund to invest in procuring essential inventory to run the group.