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In the steps of the Olive Ridley

09Apr

Source – Times of India

At 7 am, when most are waking up to a lazy weekend, Ratnagiri’s Velas beach, 200 kms from Pune, is buzzing with
activity. Visitors stand on either side of a ‘roped aisle’, cameras in hand, for what’s one of the year’s most awaited ‘red carpet walks’. As
volunteers release the day’s first batch of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings, cameras go off. As though choreographed, babies make their way into the sea, guided by the morning sun.

Regulars know, the on-going annual turtle festival, held from February to March, isn’t one in the true sense, but a local effort that combines environmental conservation with village tourism to protect the endangered Olive Ridleys from mass casualty. If uninitiated, this is your chance to head there, to experience a rare moment, while you support the cause.

Poachers to protectors
“Olive Ridleys have nested along Maharashtra’s coast for years. They face danger of extinction owing to fishing, trawling and the fact that 99 per cent of their eggs are stolen,” says Bhau Katdare, who heads Chiplun-based animal protection organisation Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM). “For years, locals were stealing them for sale and consumption. We realised that conservation would only be possible if we involved locals in the process,” Bhau adds.
Today, locals are involved in every step of the process: surveying the beach for eggs, collecting and transferring them into
artificial hatcheries which are monitored till the eggs hatch. The babies are then collected and released twice a day. This is a highlight of the festival that’s jointly organised by SNM, Kasav Mitra Mandal (Velas), the gram panchayat and the forest department.

Leaving…only to return
On release, when the hatchlings head to the sea, they record the place’s geomagnetic field intensity, remembering it till they return as adults. “This is a key moment in their lives,” says Bhau. “Fifteen years later, the females from the batch will reappear to nest and lay eggs at the exact spot of their birth. They will hatch 50-60 days later. And the cycle goes on.” Till date, through the efforts of the locals, over 75,000 hatchlings have been released.

You won’t be lucky always
Of the 150 odd eggs a female turtle lays, there are 60 per cent chances of hatchling emergence. So, even if you’re on time at the beach, chances are you might not catch a release. City-based Rohan Ratnapal, who visited Velas last weekend with a group of Puneites, says, “There was a drop in temperature, owing to which, hatchlings had come out of their nests, but hadn’t surfaced above the sand. So we couldn’t catch any release.” Going by calculations from past experiences, SNM declares hatchling emergence from time to time on their Facebook page, after which one can plan a trip in the next two days. But, one could even get lucky at times. Rohan recalls, “During our visit last year, thought didn’t get catch a release, we were lucky to sight a female turtle who came to survey the beach and lay eggs that evening. The forest department ably controlled the excited lot of visitors till the turtle made her way back to the sea.” This, he said, is quite a rare sight.

Bountiful Konkan (Dapoli)

09Apr

Not only famous for scenic beauty of the beaches, but also for a charitable trust called ‘Loksadhna’, Konkan is bountiful in all aspects. This trust was brought to life by Dr. Renu and Raja Dandekar in 1982 for the development of rural students. The institution has been built on Lokamanya Tilak’s idea that “Material, spiritual and religious development of under-developed nations can be achieved through education alone. That only education will take the developing nations to the position of the advanced nations, through peaceful revolution. We have undertaken the mission of education with firm belief and faith that, education alone from the means available to the mankind, can help us uplift our nation”. Started with as many as six students in the first class, today the school is bustling with the energy of several children

The Ganesh temple, Kadyavarcha Ganpati, is in the village Anjarle which comes under Dapoli Taluka. Kadyavarcha Ganpati symbolizes that it is situated on a cliff. Kadyawarcha Ganpati is the live deity (a jagrut daiwat) who responds to distress calls of common people (nawsala pavnara Ganpati). The temple has a stone staircase on the right hand side to reach to the top of the temple. The view of coconut trees and betel nut plantations, Suvarnadurg Fort, blue sea and surrounding hills along with the Suvarnadurg Fort is beyond magnificent.

  Konkan is thus, the perfect getaway spot with its humanitarian services, joyous people, scenic beaches, and unsparing plantations. The variety of food there will prove to be of a tourist’s liking. The avid variety of sea food provided by the beaches is a wonderful add on. Konkan will also prove to be of solace to a religious mind.

Dapoli is 215 km away from the state capital of Mumbai.

How to go

Air
The nearest airport is at Mumbai.

Rail
The nearest railway station is Khed on Konkan railway.

Road
Number of state transport buses ply regularly to Dapoli from Mumbai, Pune and Kolhapur. Anjarle is just 20 kms away from Dapoli and autorikshaws are available in ample.