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Berhampur and Mahinsha Islands


Conservation benefit: Protection of 20 acres of Chilika Lake for 10 years; mangrove replanting

Community benefit: Community ecotourism and education center, guest cottages, organic garden

Date Approved: 06.2018


This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.


This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Chilika Lake is home to endangered freshwater dolphins and a is gathering spot for tens of thousands of birds. Two communities there have pledged to fight illegal fishing, plant mangrove trees, and teach children about the environment. They will also launch a small-scale ecotourism project, which will give fishers another way to support their families.

Chilika Lake, on the Bay of Bengal, is a huge brackish lagoon. It teems with wildlife, including fish, birds, and rare species including the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and fishing cat. Chilika was India’s first Ramsar wetland of international significance.

On paper, the lake is a protected area, but overfishing remains a serious problem. About 70% of the area’s residents depend on fishing for their livelihood, putting enormous pressure on the resource.  And when fishers use illegal driftnets, turtles and dolphins are killed as by-catch.

The communities of Berhampur and Mahinsha Islands will protect 20 acres of the lagoon from illegal fishing. They will also launch a robust program of environmental education for boatmen, fishermen, teachers, and schoolchildren. The communities will also create a mangrove nursery and plant 2,000 seedlings.

A Seacology grant will fund infrastructure and training to encourage ecotourism. Tourism both offers fishers an alternative livelihood and provides an economic incentive to preserve the natural resources that attract tourists. This project will also fund an interpretive center with a lotus pond; an organic garden; upgrades to houses so families can host tourists; cottages, tents, and biotoilets for tourists; and a small restaurant and craft store run by local women.

Several years ago, Seacology funded a successful project in Berhampur Village with the same NGO partner, Jeevan Rekha Parishad (Lifeline Council). Women planted thousands of mangroves and other trees around the island. They also built a small building that they now use as a center for women’s self-help livelihood groups.

Project Updates

October 2023

Community members and our project partners welcomed 40 students and three teachers from the Vidyashilp Academy, a school in Bengaluru, to the ecotourism center at Chilika Lagoon. They planted 100 mangroves trees near the mangrove area replanted and protected with Seacology’s support.

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August 2023

Seacology made a supplemental grant to augment the ecotourism, which reduces pressure on extractive livelihoods like fishing and mangrove cutting. The community will connect tourist cottages to electrical grid, buy an electric rickshaw for guests, and drill a new well, so they don’t have to buy water. They will continue to plant and maintain mangroves and will promote a ban on single-use plastics.
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June 2020

This project, which was managed by a group of about a hundred women, was completed successfully despite being hit by both a cyclone and a pandemic. About 1,000 mangrove saplings have been planted. Community members continue to protect the mangrove area identified in an earlier project with Seacology.

More than 300 fishers and boatmen are helping stabilize the khainga fish population by leaving the smaller specimens in the lake. They are also actively protecting the lake’s Irrawaddy dolphins.

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December 2019

Work on the guest cottages continues, and solar panels are now being installed.

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May 2019

Cyclone Fani hit the village in May, destroying the partially built guest cottages. We quickly made a small grant for repairs, and the project should be back on track soon. Fortunately, no one was killed by the storm; the building constructed with a previous Seacology grant served as a shelter.

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December 2018

Work on this project began in October, after the rainy season, and is going well. Ecotourism efforts have included: training on hospitality business and leadership for a 20-member women’s group and 10 local youth; selection of houses in the village to be used to host tourists; and purchase of a solar-powered boat by the women’s self-help group. Construction of the guest cottages and tents is scheduled to begin in January. Fifty local schoolchildren received education about conserving the biodiversity of Chilika Lake, and a Stop Dolphin Exploitation campaign was conducted for tourist guides, students, and representatives of the Chilika Development Authority. About 500 mangrove saplings have been planted.

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