Communicating Marine Conservation Education to School Teachers in Southeast coast of India

One day training programme on Marine Conservation Education was organized for school teachers of at OMCAR Palk Bay Environmental Education Centre located in southeast coast of India. The school participant teachers are the school level coordinators for environmental education activities. The event was organized to provide better orientation about how to communicate marine conservation message to their students. The programme was funded by Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu.

On 7th December 2017, Environmental Education Teachers from the rural schools (named as NGC teachers) arrived to the OMCAR Palk Bay Centre for a special purpose. They all came to know about the local coastal and marine habitats at OMCAR Palk Bay Centre, and the centre has been communicating marine conservation message by taking pictures from local mangroves, seagrass beds and associated flora and fauna since 2011.

The participants were welcomed by Dr. B. Rammanohar who is working as an environmental education officer at Palk Bay Centre. Dr.K.Venkataraman, Former Director of Zoological Survey of India delivered the presentation about "Marine Biodiversity of India", and Dr. V. Sekar, Scientific officer, of OMCAR Palk Bay Centre given lecture on the "Conservation Sea turtles in Tamil Naudu Coast".

Then, the participants learned about various marine conservation education methods using mangrove nurseries, mangrove walk, and shell collection both on the shorelines and underwater. They were asked to bring their students to learn about the biodiversity of Palk Bay. This was followed by the lecture by Dr.V.Balaji, Director of OMCAR Palk Bay Centre, who delivered a lecture on “Guidelines for organizing Marine Education Field Trips” for school children to better communicate the conservation message in grassroot level. He insisted the various safety, environmental considerations for the field trips and conveying.

The participants were walked to nearby Mangrove Forest to learn about the adaptation of coastal plants in extreme conditions and the benefits of mangroves. They also walked to beach and learned about the local seagrass ecosystems and its fishery productivity. They learned about what are the little, interesting things that should be focused to explain to the students from local mangrove ecosystem such as root structure, breathing roots, salt tolerance, seed dispersal and fishery productivity.

Why the story is important to CEC members?

The story is important to CEC members because the Palk Bay Centre was established by one of the CEC member Dr. Vedharajan Balaji, who won IUCN CEC Young Professional Award in 2012 for marine conservation awareness among grassroot community in India. He established OMCAR Palk Bay Environmental Education Centre, which carries the concepts of CEC. The Centre conveys the marine conservation message with special reference to seagrass and mangrove ecosystems of Palk Bay to students, teachers, fishers and inline departments through awareness materials, educational events, field trips, documentaries, storytelling, street plays, and folk dances. By its day to day environmental awareness activities since 2011, thousands of local community members such as fishers, youths, students, women self-help groups learned about sustainable fishery and the value of marine ecosystem management. As an impact several acres of mangrove restored and seagrass have been rehabilitated in Palk Bay with participation of local community.

The above mentioned teachers training event is also important as the teachers will convey the message about the conservation value of local mangroves and seagrasses in Palk Bay, southeast coast of India to hundreds of students in their respective school. It will create as chain of transferring conservation values to youths and up to their fisher parents for better fishery and healthy ecosystems in Palk Bay.

The centre request CEC members and IUCN for financial and logistical support to continue its long-term services.

Video of the event is available here.

About the Author

Dr. Vedharajan Balaji is a marine biologist. He is the founder and director of OMCAR Foundation (Organization for Marine Conservation Awareness and Research), which later established OMCAR Palk Bay Environmental Education Centre in southeast coast of India. He has completed his M.Sc., in marine biology in 2002, and M. Phil., in marine biology in 2004 at CAS in Marine Biology, Annamalai University. He completed his PhD in Zoology in seagrass associated fish assemblages and socioeconomics at K.M. college affiliated to Bharathidasan university in 2009. He travelled 1200 km by bike for marine conservation awareness in 2012 and made a solo sea kayak expedition for 600 km for the same purpose. He has ten years of field experience as project leader and consultant in community based mangrove restoration techniques for mitigating natural disasters and sustainable fishery in southeast coast of India. Now, he is a project investigator of a seagrass GIS mapping research project funded by NRDMS, Ministry of Science and Technology.
He is the member of IUCN Commission for education and communication. He received National Geographic Conservation Grant in 2014 for studying dugong habitats in Palk Bay. He received IUCN Yong Professional Award in 2012 during IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2012, and his organization received Tamil Nadu State Environmental Award in 2014 and India Geospatial Excellence Award in 2015.

Learn more about Vedharajan Balaji.

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