Children’s Nautical Library in Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Forest

Deep in the Odisha Bhitarkanika National Forest, foresters have set up what is perhaps India’s first boat library for children.

The library housed on a boat stopped in Dangamal, the gateway to the forest, opened its doors on June 5, the World Environment Daythis year.

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The boat is stationed at the ecotourism complex so that students from nearby schools and the children of Bhitarkanika visitors can use the library.

Spread over 672 square kilometers, Bhitarkanika Wild sanctuary it is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India. Once the hunting ground of the princely Raj Kanika family, today it is famous for its large saltwater population crocodiles.

Bhitarkanika division forestry officer JD Pati, who along with others designed the boat’s library, said a boat discarded by the department was taken over and turned into a library.

It was adapted for purpose and a room was created in the hull to house the books. Stairs were built to reach the room from the ground.

“The purpose of the library is to connect children and young people to nature and raise awareness of conservation,” said Pati.

The inspiration was taken from the commitment and continued support for mangrove conservation by the locals.

“To commemorate their efforts and develop the skills of the next generation, we felt the need for a dedicated platform where data, books, documents can be shared with young people to motivate them to keep mangroves and wetlands, ”Pati said.

He thanks the forest division officers, including his wife, for conceptualizing and designing the project.

The library houses around 1500 books which have been funded by the government-run Bhitarkanika Eco-Tourism and Eco-Development Society (BEEDS).

As it is out of season for tourists now, the boat library is open to local children in the area, located in the Kendrapara coastal district of Odisha.

The national park is closed from May 1st to July 31st each year for the mating and nesting of saltwater crocodiles. For now, children from two or three local schools will be able to visit the library, Pati said.

A lot of thought has been given to attracting children to the library. The boat was painted in bright colors with patterns to attract them. In the hull of the boat a single compartment has been obtained with 32 compartments to house the booksthat have been placed on the shelves in a way that children find easy to use.

The lower shelves are for children between three and five years old and have picture books in hate, Hindi and English, as well as card games.

The shelves above are for children between five and 10 years old and are filled with folk tales, short stories and biographies. Books for those between 10 and 15 they are placed on the highest shelves and have encyclopedias, books on nature, conservation, atlases, scientific projects and biographies.

On the top shelves are books for those over 15. There are books on wild animals conservation, mangrove forests and ecology, as well as government brochures and publications on wetland conservation.

Students from Naga Narayan Government High School in Rajnagar within Bhitarkanika were among the first day visitors to the boat’s library.

The students, who come from three gram panchayat nearby areas, were delighted.

“We have seen many books on nature and the environment. It was fun being in a library on a boat, ”said SP Priyadarshi Behera, a level nine student at the school.

Omprakash Bari, the school’s science teacher, said the effort is new and hopes it will create interest among children in the environment and wetlands. “The students liked it here even more because of the innovation.

“We hope there will be more books in this library to create awareness about the ecosystem, nature, ecology and wildlife and also about livelihood, which is a major concern for everyone,” said Bari, who is a Wetland Mitra ‘and member of the economical progress village committee and forestry division.

“Wetland Mitra” or “Friend of the Wetlands” is a person or organization willing to volunteer to facilitate the conservation and protection of wetlands as part of a central government project.
Bhitarkanika mangrove has been designated Ramsar Wet area of international importance in 2002.

“We will also seek donations to stock more books if there is sufficient response,” Pati said.

The nautical library will be open every day during the summer holidays in schools and will be open to visitors when the tourist season resumes on August 1, he said. Every Sunday, students from two or three schools will be able to visit the nautical library.

There are plans to hold drawing contests for local schools in addition to capacity building for conservation, the DFO added.

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