Odisha no doubt is a hidden treasure on earth & Badmul Ecotourism has turned to be one of the best kept secrets of Odisha. Earlier Nayagarh district was only known for temples, a little was ever known about the remote forest village Badmul in Satkosia Tiger Reserve in the same district. It is in 2016 that Forest Department started an Ecotourism Project at Badmul, a village in heart of Satkosia Tiger Reserve on the bank of river Mahanadi in Nayagarh District as a Community based Nature Tourism destination. The project named as Satkosia Sands Resort and Nature Camp with 9 tents on sandbar of river mahanadi and 7 cottages on the mountain slope is situated overlooking the mighty Satkosia Gorge. From revenue/income of 27 lakhs in 2016-17, 60 Lakhs in 2017-18 it touched soaring heights of 1Crore.30 thousand in 2018-19 with 3000 odd visitors, 20% of them being foreigners from Germany, France, Britain etc. From Ecotourism to wildlife Conservation here are model villages of Odisha that have become shining examples of what community can do for a better future. For the first time in history any village could have earned such an amount from any kind of Community projects. The success story also speaks about the secret treasures of State and the potential Odisha carries for sustainable Ecotourism with landscapes like Similipal, Satkosia, Bhitarkanika, Chilika, Phulbani, Koraput etc. As on today 40 Community Managed Nature Camps are functioning spreading all across the state occupying different areas with different biological importance.This financial year Odisha Ecotourism projects have earned a total revenue of 5.6 Crore till date giving employment to more than 1000 forest dependent villagers.
The best part of Odisha model of Community based Nature Tourism in comparison to other states is that 90% of the revenue generated from ecotourism goes to the community and local community are the stake holders of those projects. Satkosia Sands not only served as a livelihood option for the forest dependent communities of south part of Satkosia but also it has been able to build a stride of confidence among the tribal population and rural women. The nature camp is managed by 28 villagers of Badmul (Bethiasahi) and about 5-6 villages are earning their livelihood from this single project. Earlier majority of the men from Badmul village used to migrate outside or depend on the forest produce for their livelihood support including poaching and selling of meat of wild animals. Poverty driven poaching in wildlife areas has often been the leading reason for low prey base ultimately leading to decline in Carnivore population too. Satkosia Sands at Badmul is not only a success story of Nature Tourism but also a Conservation success story. The landscape is now free from forest fire and poaching since last 3 years, the 2 worst enemies of wildlife habitat. Each family managing the project have earned around Rs.1.5-2 lakhs this year against 20thousand yearly income prior to this project. The nature camp also runs a programme “Poachers turned Protectors of Satkosia” where common tourists can interact with the poachers who have been rehabilitated by the Forest Dept. Birding, boating, sports, cycling, trekking, farm visits, village tours, Canopy Walk etc also have been a part of the Nature Camping at Badmul. The stakeholders work in different capacity in the Camp- boatman, eco guide, accountant, cook, service person, manager etc. Badmul ecotourism has benefitted the adjoining villages as they have been supplying vegetables, fish, milk etc to the camp on daily basis. Earlier the same Nature Camp area was used by Sand Mafias for collection of illegal sand from the river bed, of course with support of the adjoining villagers. But now it has completely been stopped as protecting the landscape has given them economic returns. Wildlife conservation completely depends on public support. Villages in Mahanadi Wl Division (south Satkosia) were having grievances relating to road connectivity, electricity, livelihood issues, restrictions & regulations on the forest etc. Nature tourism is not the answer to all but to address those issues and for enrolling public support all villages have been electrified by cable wires, road connectivity has also been strengthened in south part of Satkosia beside several initiatives for livelihood generation.
Prior to this initiative by Govt the villagers were either doing agriculture or migrate outside state in search of work, women used to collect forest produce and their other dependency included poaching of wild animals of the Tiger Reserve. Now no such activity is taken up by any villager of the area and the villagers have also been advocating importance of wild habitat strongly. 2 Years back Chowsingha’s with calves were first time reported in Mahanadi Division. Initiatives for creation of more inviolate area for wildlife by closure of illegal fishing in Satkosia Gorge in core, closure of roads passing through core, erection of new anti poaching camps with VHF in poaching prone areas, formation of EDC’s in poacher villagers, Plastic free Satkosia, enrolling women in Protection squads, Solar fencing around villages to prevent livestock movement to forests etc are now supported and maintained by all the local villagers for having better population of wildlife in the area. Once struggling to get the basic amenities of life, It is because of the initiative of Community Managed Nature Tourism those villagers are able to earn their livelihood from the Nature Camps and from the allied activities relating to ecotourism.
How Badmul Ecotourism helped conserving wildlife landscape in Satkosia Tiger Reserve. The Nature tourism project is a wildlife conservation success story also. Earlier the same Nature Camp area was used by Sand Mafias for collection of illegal sand from the river bed, of course with support of the adjoining villagers. But now it has completely been stopped as protecting the landscape has given them economic returns. The project has benefitted the adjoining villages as they have been supplying day to day items to the camp. All villages adjoining Mahanadi river of Mahanadi Division are also now protecting the sandbars of Badmul area as Indian skimmers visit those in winters and to photograph them many writers, environmentalists, conservationists and birders reach the Nature camp. All initiatives by the officials of the division of south Satkosia to create inviolate area for wildlife and protect the Core of Tiger Reserve are now supported and maintained by the villagers surrounding the core. Satkosia Gorge being an important habitat for both Gharial & Mugger is also now protected by locals.