The mining district of Surajpur in Chhattisgarh has adopted an innovative approach to reuse waste water from mining activity, convert the same into a beautiful lake and link it with a livelihood generation programme that has benefitted households, particularly women in the surrounding villages.
According to Collector and District Magistrate, Mr. Deepak Soni, they had identified a water body situated barely 200 metres from national highway 43, lying abandoned and idle for the past 13 years after mining activity had ceased. Rather than close the same with soil and debris, they converted the same into a tourist hub, providing immense opportunity for livelihood generation.
“We have collaborated with the Coal Authority of India in this ‘first of its kind’ project along the 1.75 KMS stretch of the water body, the depth of which is more than 300 feet for this livelihood generation activity,” Mr. Soni said.
Towards this, the district administration formed a cooperative of fishermen from 41 households, calling it the Mahamaya Cooperative Society. The fishermen were provided with capacity building that taught them skills for breeding Pengasius variety of fish through cage culture.
As many as 32 cages, each with a capacity of accommodating two tons of fish per cage were set up on 7th March, 2019. These cages will yield 60 tons of fish in the first year, their average selling price ranging from Rs.80-Rs.90 per kilogram; fetching revenue of Rs. 40-50 lakhs in the first year.
Further, having been cleaned, the water body now has a floating restaurant on jet skis which has been leased out to restaurateurs.
“It is a one of its kind experience for people to get a glimpse of cage culture and visit the floating restaurant,” the Collector added, explaining about the boats that are available to ferry people to various points across the lake.”
The tourism activity is being implemented by 116 women members of Self Help Groups (SHGs), a part of the National Rural Livelihood Scheme (NRLS) of Chhattisgarh. As an umbrella body, the unit takes care of boating rides after issuing boating slips, an activity that commenced in October 2019.
In a matter of 3 months, the tourist destination has made revenue of Rs. 4 lakhs, going by the per-day footfall and boating slips of about 500-600. The destination is also offered for pre-wedding shoots at the rate of Rs.1000 for half an hour; the income going to SHGs.
About 150 families have received benefits from this particular activity and about 500 families in a year for various activities of the project.
Plans are in the pipeline to further develop the area with parks and landscaping. Further, NIT intends to conduct a course on mine engineering to train students in such aspects; while a buyer-seller meet on fish culture is being organised shortly.
The Chief Minister who visited the area on 9th November, 2019 expressed appreciation for the work done in Surajpur in transforming abandoned mines into places of attraction. The project is an example of sustainable development and livelihood development without affecting the environment.
“There is much enthusiasm for the project from the local community, and we hope to replicate the same in 3 other mines,” the Collector said.