|Ecosystem Type||Wetlands and rivers|
|Category of CCA||Defined|
|Number of households||-|
|Number of people||30000|
Kokkare Bellur village is situated in Mandya District, 80 kilometers from the state capital, Bangalore. Its landscape resembles that of a typical dry land with the perennial Shimsha flowing to its south. Cultivated and fallow fields, cactus hedges and old and new trees of tamarind, banyan, pipal, babul, gular or atthi, neem, mother-in-law’s tongue tree, mango, rain tree, portia, mark the landscape.
For six months of the year, Kokkare Bellur looks like any other village in South Karnataka. But from December to June hundreds of spot billed pelicans and painted storks move into and occupy the tamarind and banyan tree tops, to nest and breed in the heart of the village.
The pelicans arrive first and settle on the crown of mature large canopied trees, while the lighter and more agile storks come in a few weeks later and settle on the outer branches of the same trees. Some trees are so populated that the nests touch one another.
Over the following six months birds and humans by and large co-exist peacefully as they have done for generations. It is as if the entire village gets a two-tiered structure with the humans living downstairs and the birds living upstairs.
Besides these birds, this tiny village plays host to at least 139 other bird species, including little grebe, grey heron, night heron, white ibis, purple moorhen, whitespotted fantail flycatcher and many others.
The current human population of the village is around 30000 approximately. The dominant occupations have been agriculture apart from which there are potters (kumbara-shetty), fishermen (ganga matha) carpenters (aachari) and silkworm rearers. Besides animal husbandry, sericulture, sand dredging and labour on village farms as well as in surrounding urban areas, are also practiced.
|Origin||Revived by community initiative, New initiative by external non-government agency|
|Year of Formation||-|
|Motivations||Livelihood, Religious/cultural sentiments, Natural habitat and species conservation|
History has it that the storks and the pelicans have been coming to Kokkare Bellur to breed for hundreds of years. Previously the village was situated on the bank of the river Shimoga (a major tributary of the Kaveri River) and the birds lived there with the villagers. A plague in 1916, forced the villagers to abandon the area and set up the current village a few kilometers from the river. The birds moved with the people. This might explain the strange choice of breeding ground of these birds away from a large water body.
For a long time, this extraordinary village had escaped the notice of wildlifers, bird enthusiasts and forest officers. Dr. Salim Ali too did not know of this pelicanry, when he discovered Ranganthittu and got it declared a bird sanctuary in 1940.
The only possible reference to this village may be found in the 1864 writings of British naturalist, T.C. Jerdon where he makes the following observation: “I have visited the Pelicanry in the Carnatic, where the pelicans have built their rude nests, on rather low trees in the midst of the village, and seemed to care little for the close and constant proximity of human beings.”
Further he describes the spotbilled pelican as the most abundant species found in India, occurring in all districts where rivers and tanks abound. After 130 years, the same species is on the endangered list, with not more than 5000 birds in the whole of South Asia and only 10 breeding sites left in India, Kokkare Bellur being one of the most significant.
1994- Manu K., founder member of the NGO Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN), came to the village on a habitat assessment program. MAN initiated the formation of a local youth group called the Hejjarle Balaga (Pelican Clan) to look after the welfare of the birds in general and fallen and injured pelican and stork chicks in particular.
1998- members of Hejjarle Balaga successfully stopped a local farmer from cutting his tamarind tree on which birds were nesting. The group asked the farmer to lease his tree to Hejjarle Balaga for the season instead of harvesting the tamarind from the tree and disturbing the birds. Ultimately a combination of moral pressure from the group along with a little financial benefit persuaded the farmer to leave the trees for the birds.
2004 to 2006- many birds had got accidentally electrocuted on the high tension lines that passed through the village very near to the nesting trees. The community has been successful in getting the authorities to increase the distance between the power lines and the neutral lines of the high tension wires, which has put an end to the birds getting electrocuted.
2006- the youth and children of Hejjarle Balaga have put back around 300 pelicans into the wild. An impressive number when one considers the endangered status of the birds. Around this year, the bird nest count stood at an all time high of 400, and Kokkare Bellur was identified as one of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in India by Birdlife International3. The village has also been assessed as the seventh important hotspot in Karnataka with regards to biodiversity.
As to their relationship with the birds, the older generation have in the past, followed a policy of benevolent tolerance, a policy of live and let live. They had willingly given up their claim to the tamarind harvest from trees in their backyards when these trees were selected by the birds for nesting.
They believed that the arrival of the birds assured good luck for the village and their absence was associated with drought and murders. People preferred to get their daughters married to the son of a family that had birds in their backyard, as this was considered a sign of prosperity.
|Collective of CCAs||-|
|Decision Making Body||Panchayat|
|Rules and Regulations||Informal|
|Community activities through the year||Patrolling, watch and ward, Fencing|
Manu K., founder member of the NGO Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN), came to the village in 1994 on a habitat assessment program. This proved to be the beginning of MAN’s long and committed association with Kokkare Bellur working towards the re-establishment of harmony between the birds and humans.
Towards this, MAN initiated the formation of a local youth group called the Hejjarle Balaga (Pelican Clan) to look after the welfare of the birds in general and fallen and injured pelican and stork chicks in particular. A local farmer B. Linge Gowda, donated a part of his land for the use of a pen, which has been fenced so that dogs and other predators do not get to the helpless chicks.
As of 2006, the youth and children of Hejjarle Balaga have put back around 300 pelicans into the wild. An impressive number when one considers the endangered status of the birds. Chicks that fall to the ground and would otherwise perish, are taken into the pen, fed, tended to and raised to the fledgling stage, then returned to the wild to join their naturally raised siblings.
Besides counteracting the drastic decline in pelican and painted stork numbers, this exercise seeks to and has been successful in recreating and strengthening the close bond between the children/youth and the birds while giving a hands on experience in the daily care of these birds.
Hejjarle Balaga members also actively plant tamarind and ficus trees along the road, clean the irrigation tanks that are the foraging grounds of the birds and discourage people from either cutting trees or picking fruits from the trees that birds have chosen for nesting in their backyards.
In 1998, members of Hejjarle Balaga successfully stopped a local farmer from cutting his tamarind tree on which birds were nesting. The group asked the farmer to lease his tree to Hejjarle Balaga for the season instead of harvesting the tamarind from the tree and disturbing the birds. Ultimately a combination of moral pressure from the group along with a little financial benefit persuaded the farmer to leave the trees for the birds.
When hunting tribes and outsiders were caught harming the birds in any way they were arrested by the local panchyat and asked for a penalty of Rs. 100, a princely sum for both the villagers and the tribe, where the barter system still played a large role in the economy.
One important benefit that villagers receive from the birds is the droppings or guano, which is used as fertilizer for agriculture. The villagers dig huge pits around the trees that the birds select to nest and allow the phosphate and nitrogen rich bird droppings to accumulate. These are then mixed with the silt from the nearby lakes and spread in the guano pit. This exercise i s repeated several times in the nesting period so that the layers of guano and silt alternate in a sandwich effect.
This provides ready mixed compost which is then spread over the field. Another benefit from this practice is that the removal of silt from the lakes prevents them from silting up. Children in the village have for generations been taught not to tease birds or steal their eggs.
|Legal Status||Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in India by Birdlife International|
|Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR)||-|
|Date of filing CFR claim||-|
|Level of CFR claim||-|
|Date of recognition of CFR claim||-|
|Management plan status||-|
|Other Recognised Status||-|
|Impact on Livelihoods and Subsistence||Natural fertilizer from Guano|
|Social Impacts||Community empowerment, Empowerment of women/youth/disadvantaged sections|
|Ecological Impact||Natural habitat preservation, Good diversity and population of wildlife, Improved/sustained ecological services|
|Internal Threats and Challenges||Internal differences and inequities, Changing socio-cultural practices and aspirations, Outmigration|
|External Threats and Challenges||Negative impacts of tourism, Mega-development projects|
In 2006, the bird nest count stood at an all time high of 400, and Kokkare Bellur was identified as one of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in India by Birdlife International. The village has also been assessed as the seventh important hotspot in Karnataka with regards to biodiversity.
While the threats cannot be wished away and one must deal with these bottlenecks to bird and human prosperity, one cannot but feel hopeful of the future when one sees the strong link between the children and the birds in the village.
According to Erica Taraporewala, Kalpavriksh member who witnessed a Sunday morning following a stormy night in the village in 2006, “Children all over the village on their own accord had started looking for birds under various nesting trees, chasing away dogs and bringing in the chicks that had fallen from their nests in the storm. Some spent the day in the pen, laughing, playing with each other even as they looked after the birds, while other children were seen showing birds to a camera crew that had come to the village. And all this was done with such joyous spontaniety, clearly showing that the intrinsic connection between the children and the birds that has been strengthened by the quiet and consistent efforts of MAN and Hejjarle Balaga.” Will this endure in the face of the threats which are as true as this connection? Only time will tell.
Among the significant threats to the bird are ill conceived development plans that might put the birds at risk. Among these are a road widening project (which has been stopped for the time being), and the grandiose plans of the Tourism Department to set up a holiday resort close to Kokkare Bellur. As far as is known, there has been no research done to assess the viability or desirability of such a project, let alone the effect that such development will have on the birds.
As cheap and easy to acquire urea, insecticides and pesticides replace guano and natural methods of pest control, the lakes are increasingly at the receiving end of agricultural waste and sewage.
The excessive use of chemicals has increased the level of nitrogenous nutrients which have led to the uncontrolled growth of weeds and reeds in the water bodies, reducing the expanse of water available to the birds to catch fish. Also pelicans being at the top of the aquatic food chain, are susceptible to pesticide poisoning.
The urban tourists that come in also display the huge difference in the material prosperity between the villagers and their urban counterparts. Local inequities play a large role as most villagers see the powerful get away with tree cutting and other violations.
Additionally, there is no stable institution for grievance redressal and to resolve internal disputes. To make matters worse the local panchyat has been merged with the village panchyats of four other villages. This has eroded the traditional leadership of the village which had proactively protected the birds.
Aspirations of the local people are changing in keeping with the general consumerism that prevails in the country. This coupled with lack of creative and sustainable ways to earn a livelihood within the village has created a situation of dissatisfaction. Such a situation can easily create apathy for the birds as well as can put humans in competition with resources that were earlier allotted graciously to the birds but now are seen as cash-generating.
Since the 1990s, however, changes have occurred in the lifestyle and attitudes of the people, due to the influences of the larger developmental model being pursued by the country at large. This change manifests itself in a number of ways like in many other villages across India.
Today mud walls are making way for brick walls, local tiles making way for Mangalore tiles, earthen pots and pans being replaced with gaudy plastic ones, the dark brown nutritious raagi (finger millet) dumplings losing favour as local staple diet and making way for white polished rice.
Further manifestations of this change can be seen in rich farmers increasingly growing cash crops and using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, whereas earlier they grew a variety of dry land nutritious millets and beans. Motorised vehicles have also entered the village life.
Behavioural patterns also manifest this change, e.g. families of potential brides that once looked for families with guano pits in their backyard, now give the young men of such families a wide berth, as the once auspicious guano pit is now seen as a source of trouble and hard work for the bride to be.
As a result, today most graduate youth migrate out to the cities looking for jobs. The free and abundant availability of phosphate and nitrogen rich guano had for long staved off the use of urea in the fields. However the cheap and easy availability of urea and the ease of application of the same to the farm vis-à-vis the long drawn and relatively messy method of preparing natural fertilizer from the guano is attracting more villagers to the idea of replacing guano with urea, breaking an important link in the human-bird symbiotic relationship.
Change can also be seen in the new acquisitions in the village. Kokkare Bellur has not been left untouched by the overall atmosphere of increased consumerism and urbanization that has overtaken the country.
The lure of buying things from far off markets has necessarily increased the dependence of the locals on the market economy and increased their need for money. This coupled with the fact that there are no innovative yet sustainable income generation schemes within the village creates intense competition for all cash providing resources, and this includes the resources shared traditionally with the birds.
|Data Source||By external entity with permission of community member|
|Year of Study||1999|
|License||CC BY Attribution|