Muduligadia – A tiny town in the Nayagarh district with barely thirty-five households holds a unique distinction.
Situated on the banks of the Mahanadi river, and adjoining the Satkosia, it became the first village in Odisha in 2019 to attain self-sustainability with zero-waste and 100% eco-friendly initiatives of livelihood.
Credit goes to Anshu Pragyan Das, the formal Divisional Forest Officer of Mahanadi, who was instrumental in spearheading this transition.
What makes Muduligadia a class apart is that it was the first-ever town to be turned into an eco-village exclusively by the community members. Their hard work and dedication deserve all the credit for this incredible achievement.
Living near the Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Muduligadia’s residents have engaged in gathering resources like honey and timber. They used firewood for cooking and water from the Mahanadi river. Without awareness about the environment and hygiene, the villagers used to bathe and wash in the river, and use the same water for drinking. Open defecation was also rampant, leading to diseases.
The creation of the eco-village was life-altering for them. They had to forsake their ancestral habits of forest gathering and use of firewood — but they quickly adopted sustainable alternatives.
For instance, LPG gas connections for the households were enabled by Anshu and her team.
Through active awareness and education, the community was persuaded to set up toilets in their houses and turned their village Open Defecation Free in 2019.
Water connectivity has also been established in all homes.
Garbage would be thrown astray on the roadsides or even into the Mahanadi river, leading to abject pollution. Now, the villagers themselves have installed several common public dustbins along the village roads. Household garbage is deposited every day in these community dustbins from where recycling is also done. The villagers have also pledged to make their village 100% plastic-free. The project has also pushed them towards organic farming with cow dung manure.
The lanes of Muduligadia, have some intricate paintings and motifs on the walls of the village homes and trees planted on the roadside. The villagers have beautifully showcased their traditional art to the world, by decorating the outer walls of their thatched mud huts.
“Eco-tourism improved our lives beyond measure,” expresses Prakash Behera, a resident of Muduligadia. “Last year, the village was frequented by tourists from across the world and they appreciated the model of sustainability. Most of us earned reasonably well,” he shares.
“We, under the guidance of the Forest Department, have adopted better living in our village Muduligadia and we are not dependent on the forest anymore. It was possible entirely because of the Ecotourism project in the vicinity of our village which has also upgraded our livelihood standard,” says Sumant Behera another resident of Muduligadia.
“The project has charted a revenue of more than Rs 1 crore in each of 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years. Each household is earning on an average Rs. 15,000 per month every year since the inception of the project,” Anshu adds.
Aside from the economic aspect, the project has notably impacted the socio-cultural scenario in the village community. The women in the village were restricted to household work. Now, they are actively working in transforming the village, managing eco-tourism activities, guiding the tourists, painting the walls, etc.
The Muduligadia model is now being replicated in other hamlets across the region. The model adopted by the Forest Department is the only model in India where nearly the entire revenue generated from Ecotourism projects goes to the community.