WWF-India & HSBC Water Programme launches its revamped Interpretation Centre in Kokkarebellur, Karnataka


New Delhi: WWF-India in partnership with HSBC under the aegis of the HSBC Water Programme, today launched the revamped Kokkarebellur Interpretation Centre in Karnataka. Inaugurated by Shri. S. Ziyaullah, Deputy Commissioner, Mandya, in the presence of Shri. D C Thammanna, MLA, Maddur, Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF India and Mr. Subir Mehra, Head – Operations, Global Service Centres, HSBC, the Interpretation Centre highlights the unique bond shared by the people of Kokkarebellur and the birds, and is a step towards developing a sustainable community centric eco-tourism model.

Kokkarebellur is designated as an ‘Important Bird’ area. Declared as the only community reserve in Karnataka, the village, located approximately 80kms from Bangalore, is named after the unique relationship the people have with the painted storks and spot-billed pelicans that have been migrating to the area for centuries to breed. The wetlands were a perennial source of water for the people of the region and supported the varied biodiversity the region had to offer. However the various pressures on the water sources have led to this area becoming completely dry and in turn impacting its biodiversity.

The Interpretation Centre has been re-opened to build awareness on conservation and enhance the profile of this important bird area. The initiative aims to develop the project as an ecosystem model managed and owned by the community. Besides living alongside birds for several centuries, the people of this village have also come together and rejuvenated many smaller wetlands in and around the village resulting in an increase of foraging sites for birds.

The Interpretation Centre is a journey through the lives of these beautiful birds and their amazing friends and the information has been creatively packaged and disseminated through various panels, wall paintings, life size models of important birds of the area and interactive exhibits, making it interesting and informative for visitors. To be maintained jointly by The Hejjare Belaga, Panchayat, Department of Tourism, Forest Department and WWF-India for three years while also working towards mitigation of threats to birds and their habitats, the partnership will further strengthen the knowledge base on the ecosystem in Kokkarebellur, highlighting the significance of and the threats to the biodiversity, and allied individual and collective actions that can contribute to conservation with an endeavor to motivate and sustain efforts towards the heronry’s conservation.

WWF-India also released “Birds of Kunigal / Kokkarebellur”, a handbook on birds of the region, aiming to build awareness among local community members and tourists on the range of avian species present in the region and the need to conserve these species.

Inaugurating the centre, Shri. Ziyaullah complemented and honoured the local community of Kokkarebellur for their passionate commitment to conservation of the age old pelicanary said, “Kokkarebellur represents a unique model of partnership between the communities; government departments and civil society. The Government of Karnataka will work towards enhancing the profile of this important community reserve and promote it as a unique ecotourism destination in Karnataka.” Kokkarebellur is one of the 21 breeding sites of the spot-billed pelicans, a near threatened species, in South India.

Mr. Subir Mehra, Head – Operations, Global Service Centres, HSBC, said, “The success of HSBC Water Programme lies in the positive impact it has on the communities it touches. The credit for the change we see in Kunigal and Kokkarebellur goes to the unfailing commitment shown by HSBC colleagues — over the past three years 917 of them have volunteered almost nine thousand hours to make it happen. I take this opportunity to thank WWF-India for their partnership that provides opportunities for our employees to support community programmes.”
Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India said, “The Interpretation Centre at Kokkarebellur is a wonderful opportunity for insight to the biodiversity of the region. Famous for its spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, Kokkarebellur is known for the co-existence of the birds with the local community. Working in partnership with the government, HSBC and other organizations, we hope that initiatives like these go a long way in building awareness of the importance of such areas and inspire people to play an integral role in conserving biodiversity across the country.”

Smt. Lakshmi Swamy, President, Gram Panchayat, Kokkarebellur said that “The birds are a part of our lives; the interpretation centre is expected to open up new avenues for revenue generation for conservation. We are excited and are ready to become a hub for eco-tourism.” She urged the people to visit the centre and carry on with the conservation efforts.

WWF-India under the HSBC Water Programme and the Aardhrabhumi- Wetlands for Life (AWFL) programme is working on wetland rejuvenation as part of the conservation initiatives in the region. As part of the project, WWF-India has taken up the conservation of two peri-urban wetlands near Bangalore to reverse the loss of biodiversity, and improve ecological conditions while improving the well-being of local communities through natural resource-based livelihood. WWF-India’s Aardhrabhumi Programme’s conservation initiatives in the region are designed to mitigate threats from various anthropogenic pressures like water intensive agricultural practices, over-abstraction of groundwater and felling of trees for infrastructural expansion, which are detrimental to the health of water sources and biodiversity in the region. The conservation initiatives also provide community engagement opportunities to rekindle the connection to the birds through regular awareness building programmes and the establishment of a revamped Nature Interpretation Center.