This 29sq km reserve locally known as Ghana is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands. Keoladeo National Park as any other National park or sanctuary offers excellent opportunities for understanding nature.
Funding support: The centre was established by a very unique partnership of Government an NGO and a corporate house namely Government of Rajasthan, WWF-India and D. Swarovski & Co. WWF was the primary executing organization and D. Swarovski & Co. Austria was the funding agency. Once established the day to day management is taken care of by the Government and the programme (CEPA) is run through the same three pronged partnership, with WWF-India being the primary executant.
The three partners have their own missions and visions however the common theme that binds the three partners for the conservation of the National Park is Water.
Conservation and wise use of water resource is the mandate for the programme. The outreach programme which target spreading further understanding of water resource conservation is also called Water for Life.
The centres establishment was funded by the above partnership, whereas the recurring expenditure of the centre comes from the Government funds.
Annually more than 100,000 visitors come to the Park, of which 50% is from foreign countries.
The centre was finally inaugurated on 17 January 2006 by the H.E. Governor of Rajasthan, Hon’ble Smt. Pratiba Patil in a public function along with several dignitaries.
Number of staff: 20 persons from the forest Department are responsible for work from maintenance to Range officer tourism. Park Director in charge of all the activities hosted / happening at the centre.
WWF India technically and financially assists the Park management through its Freshwater and Wetlands Conservation Programme. The CEPA activities are completely managed by WWF-India, with inputs from the Park Director.
WWF has an office inside the National Park and it develops and manages the programme form the field office and Secretariat at Delhi.
Number of visitors per year: Annually more than 100,000 visitors come to the Park, of which 50% are from foreign countries.
Overall aims of the centre
Interpretation programme with inputs from various experts, aims to achieve long-term conservation of the park by increasing awareness and appreciation towards the KNP among visitors as well as local people. The programme focuses on information dissemination and awareness building through a three pronged approach:
Establish a functioning environment information and awareness programme
Establish infrastructure for the environment information and awareness programme
Build adequate capacity to run the environment information and awareness programme
Description of the centre
WWF-India has been involved with conservation activities, primarily education and awareness, in KNP for more than a decade now.
One of the most enchanting waterfowl refuges of the world, a Ramsar site and a World Heritage Site, Keoladeo National Park (KNP) is home to rich biological diversity.
This 29-sq. km. reserve locally known as Ghana is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps, and wetlands. Keoladeo National Park as any other National park or sanctuary offers excellent opportunities for understanding nature.
The flora consists of over 372 species of angiosperms of which 96 species are aquatic species. The fauna includes more than 350 species of birds which include 42 species of raptors and 9 species of owls, 34 species of mammals, 22 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians, 57 species of fishes and 71 species of butterflies, more than 30 species of dragonflies and more than 30 species of spiders inhabit the park.
Owing to the abundance of the birds, KNP is often referred as ‘Birders Paradise’.
Realizing the importance of correct interpretation for achieving long-term conservation WWF-India has envisioned such a programme. The location, the characteristics, the importance of the park all makes its requirements very unique as well as very diverse. WWF India has developed this Interpretation programme keeping in view the exclusive requirement of the Park. The programme is dedicated to late Dr. Salim Ali and titled Salim Ali Visitor Interpretation Centre and Programme.
The Programme aims to achieve long-term conservation of the park by increasing awareness and appreciation towards the Keoladeo National Park among visitors as well as local people. The programme focuses on information dissemination and awareness building through a three pronged approach specifically catering to each identified target group:
Soft ware – Functioning environment information and awareness programme
Hard ware – Infrastructure for the environment information and awareness programme
Capacity – Build adequate capacity to run the environment information and awareness programme
The Visitor centre with the exhibits, developed self explanatory nature trails, trained guides and rickshaw pullers, core team of teachers to carry forward the education programme, website, film on Keoladeo National Park and resource material together would serve the purpose of a comprehensive interpretation programme accomplishing its objectives.
Hall wise details:
HALL I: WATER SOURCE OF LIFE
HALL II: KNP A Wetland of great importance
HALL III: KNP A BIRD PARADISE
HALL IV: KNP A Bird Paradise
HALL V: Conservation
The centre has a total area of 1200 sq m built up area which includes an auditorium with a seating of 300 persons, library, public utilities apart from the exhibit halls.
The centre also houses an open air theatre, a demonstrative passive cooling technology in the open landscaped area.
Main CEPA work areas
Since the target audiences is such a wide group, a very comprehensive and target specific Information and Awareness (I&A) programme was developed, which would address the tourists by means of Audio-Visual programs and guided trips; the local community and school children by means of the Outreach Programme: and the Guides, Rickshaw pullers by means of training on communication and interpretation.
Select Park staff and project staff trained in interpretation and communication skills to enable them to handle the programme.
Outreach programme is targeted at sensitizing the local community about the benefits of the programme to the park and eventually to them.
A Website on KNP is for attracting international attention. The outreach programme is the local arm of the programme and has been instrumental in involving the communities in developing ownership for the Park. This change in perception goes a long way in building local support for the conservation of this wetland reserve.
The outreach program is mainly done under the Water School program implemented by WWF-India. The Water School Programme is an education program that allows school children to explore their relationship with the environment, especially with water.
The programme is set against a backdrop of ongoing conflict between the Keoladeo National Park and the villagers on sharing of water, ever since the Ajanbandh Dam was constructed on the Gambhiri River. It takes up issues including conflict resolution that are pertinent to their lives, socially as well as environmentally.
The programme in the past year has engaged over 1000 children from schools in villages around the Park and the water source.
It runs for 5 days in each school and focuses on participatory learning and learning-by-doing. Hence, as opposed to the traditional one-way communication from teacher to student, it involves games that are purposeful and lead to some crucial learning on conservation and conflict management.
Further, two days are for activities outside the school, where the children interact with their community members and understand local water issues. Additionally, they will follow up this knowledge with an action, through a shramdaan (voluntary collective community action) and by organising a small event in the village, which could include a rally, plays, songs, etc. The children are also taken on a field visit, where they are encouraged to experience nature, not merely as a generic part of their lives but as key contributor to their existence and survival in the world.
Through this experiential learning over 5 days, they can develop a conscious relationship with their surroundings that encompasses environment as well as people. Alongside, a Young Environment Leaders program has been initiated for children with a keen interest in the environment and monthly workshops and film screenings are held for them at the Visitors Centre on various topics such as rain water harvesting, community theatre, species related information etc.
Various events are also celebrated in the Park to promote an understanding of environment conservation and birdlife, such as Earth Day, World Wetlands Day, Wildlife Week, No Plastics Day etc. Further, workshops, seminars and symposiums are hosted in the Centre’s auditorium for building awareness and stakeholdership amongst other environment and research institutions. An annual research seminar highlighting all the latest research work undertaken on the National Park is discussed and reviewed with Park Management. Training sessions for guides and rickshaw pullers of the Park are also regularly held, to update their information and help them raise awareness amongst the tourists they take inside the Park
Top three successes
1. The Water School has seen a resounding success due to its innovative methodology. In a rural setting where environment education is nil, a program which teaches the same in a participatory manner has seen a lot of enthusiasm in the children to undertake individual and group projects in their homes and villages
2.The Young Environment Leaders program has been able to supplement the knowledge provided by the Water Schools with hard skills to ensure sustainability of the efforts. Follow-up in villages has seen the children implement their learnings back in their homes.
3. The Annual Research Seminar has enabled better management of KNP, as it is organised by the Park Management itself and therefore, the findings of researchers and ideas from other experts in the field is taken into strategies developed for the conservation of the Park.
Top three challenges
Until now, the projects have not been unsuccessful, but there are some challenges we have faced in the community work and hence derived some key learnings:
1. Involving adults from the communities is a more challenging task unless we are able to link conservation with livelihoods
2. The curriculum would need to be incorporated in the formal curriculum for teachers to take on the activities (to enhance sustainability of the program), as the government schools are largely understaffed and overworked. Hence, taking on additional activities would add to the burden.
3. A key challenge with the Park is securing water for it ever since a dam was built upstream on the its only river source, and has hence suffered from drought conditions for several years. Every year efforts are made to negotiate water flow for the Park. At the moment, it is ongoing.
Creating signage / site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trail.
Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre; Building / maintaining structures.
Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers.
Education and communication
Working with primary schools; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials.
Auditing / assessing effectiveness; Running effective administration; Project planning.