The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has approved a pilot project for community protection of endangered blackbuck and Olive Ridley turtles in Orissa’s Ganjam district.

Under the project, the State will get around Rs. 50 lakh this year for improvement of the habitats of the marine creatures and development of infrastructure in surrounding villages, where the people actively involve in protecting them, Chief Conservator of Forests, S.S. Srivastav said on Monday.

The State government had submitted a Rs. one crore proposal to the UNDP for implementation of the pilot project.

Blackbucks roam a 64 sqkm area in Balipadar-Vetanai area with inhabitants of nearby villagers giving them protection because of religious sentiment with their population increasing.

Thousands of Olive Ridley turtles visit Rushikulya river mouth in the district every year for mass nesting and are protected by local people as well as fishermen.

The number of blackbucks was 1672 in 2008 comprising 411 male, 1123 females and 138 young, Amulya Upadhya, president of the Blackbuck Protection Committee said.

“As the communities are actively involved in these two areas, we decided to implement the UNDP assisted CBC project in two places,” he said.

Besides the improvement of habitats, it was also proposed to develop eco-tourism facilities, training and awareness programmes in both places. It was also proposed to construct a rehabilitation centre at Bhetanai, near Aska for rescued injured blackbucks.