Parulia Jheel ~ a story of Hope

~ presented by Birds of India

~ by Sumit Sen

? Sumit Sen

The small agricultural village of Parulia is tucked away in the northwest corner of West Bengal in the 'red-soil' country of Birbhum district. It is just like any other impoverished part of the Chhota Nagpur Plateau - a land where marginal existence is eked out with the aid of natural water sources. The villagers are a mix of tribals and other local inhabitants who depend on agriculture for their existence. In short, Parulia is a just another of the myriad of little villages spread out over the eastern Indian countryside and has no features which make it stand out - save an important one, it gives us hope!

? Sumit Sen
Parulia Jheel

About 10 years ago the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, who incidentally hails from Parulia, took the initiative to improve the conditions of his village. Absence and presence of water in these dry barren areas is often the difference between survival and acute poverty. In an effort to provide a permanent source of water, funding was made available to excavate a deep pond about 170 meters across in one side of the village. The pond would hold rain water which could be used to irrigate the winter Rabi crop.

? Sumit Sen
Domestic ducks share Parulia Jheel with the Greylags

A year after the pond filled up a few migratory Greylag Geese (Anser anser) were found to be using the waterbody as a wintering place. They mixed with the local ducks and were of curiosity value to the villagers. The next year more returned, and within 3-4 years the little tank was teeming with over 700-800 greylags who spent their entire winter without disturbance at this open waterbody amidst the constant activity of the residents of Parulia.

? Sumit Sen

Such a sight may not be uncommon in some parts of India where tolerance towards living creatures is common and where taking life is considered a sin. However, even in such places there is often a selfish indifference towards others who share a common area and it is unlikely that the geese would have found peace in a small and hemmed in location like Parulia tank. But the miracle of Parulia is way, way, beyond the religious or cultural - it can only be seen in its true perspective when we consider that all in Parulia would consider the birds a priceless source of food. A free meal for the undernourished. And some members of the village are tribals - people who have always depended on hunting as a way of life and continue to do so. For them to be protectors without reward or recognition is more than a miracle. And it is not even education that encourages them to protect what is always seen as a meal, because very few have formal education in Parulia. So, perhaps it is enlightenment!

? Sumit Sen
Agricultural activity is the mainstay of Parulia

Parulia is a true example of grassroots conservation. A proof that conservation is way beyond some forest guards doing their duty or some highly educated people making their passion and presence felt. " The birds come here every winter. We love them."  is what a villager was quoted as saying when bird-flu hit the area in 2008 and culling was considered a preventive option. No one touched the greylags of Parulia that year because no one dared. If you visit Parulia on a sun-draped winter morning, like I did, you would know why. There is pride and joy in the people of Parulia. And there is love. And this is why Parulia is a true conservation story. A story that carries with it the timeless message of coexistence and love for every living creature ~ a message of HOPE!

? Sumit Sen


References and sources:
1. Birbhum District - Wikipedia
2. Telegraph story on bird-flu in Parulia; January 19 , 2008


© Text and image copyright Sumit Sen 2009



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