The problem, said a senior officer of the state fisheries department, is of ownership. A variety of agencies are working at the EKW. "Since the responsibility for conserving the EKW isn't marked clearly, there is no accountability at all," he says. Which is where SAFE steps in. "Our focus is on developing partnerships with local stakeholders," says Dey. "We've also been listing the flora and fauna, organising health camps, providing sanitation facilities to locals, and highlighting the state of EKW at national and international fora to get help in remediation."
In a little over two years, SAFE has helped increase awareness among local stakeholders—most do not use harmful chemicals in the 'bheries' anymore and guard against encroachments. One of them, Pada Bar, the secretary of the 149-member-strong Natar Bheri Fisheries Cooperative, tells us that conservation is their topmost priority now. With the help of NABARD, SAFE has extended loans to self-help groups. An eco-tourism project is also in the works to provide additional income to the locals.