Unemployed youth recruited as guides for Bhitarkanika

Kendrapara: A group of 32 unemployed youths have been trained by the Odisha forest department to act as guides for tourists visiting the Bhitakanika National Park in Kendrapara district.

With the park closed from May 15 to June 30 because of the annual breeding of estuarine crocodiles, forest personnel have taken up a drive to train local youths to provide them a source of livelihood which would lessen their dependence on forests, park officials said. It is mandatory for tourists visiting Bhitarkanika to hire a local guide.

As local youths were well-versed with the topography of the park, it was expected that they would perform well in their newly-assigned role. "We have selected a group of 32 local youths to take the responsibility of guiding tourists. They have been given training by the department. Their job is to guide tourists from August 1, DFO, Rajnagar Mangrove (Wildlife) forest division", Manoj Kumar Mahapatra said.

The charge of each guide has been fixed at a nominal Rs 100, but it would vary depending on time and the number of tourist groups, a forest official said. Besides training youths as guides, the forest department has encouraged coconut plantation with 2,500 saplings distributed free to villagers. Villagers have also been provided with free beehive boxes, the DFO said.