In 2011, during a bird watching trip, Shantanu Prasad and his colleagues recorded the chestnut capped babbler, a rare bird near Kalbansh Village in Howrah. The discovery of the rare bird increased their interest in the area and they surveyed large patches of the floodplains for birds. The bird watching trips were a great learning experience and also revealed fascinating facts about the seasonally flooded plains, and how water shaped life in the area in mysterious ways.In the years following the discovery of the chestnut capped babbler, many wildlife species became known. Some of them were very unique and special like melanin jackals, water monitor lizards, jungle cats and others. But in 2015, when they photographed an endangered fishing cat in their camera traps, they were so awestruck by the wildlife supporting potential of the floodplains for they decided to start a conservation program.
Careful thinking and planning led to the creation of the Bhagrol Basa Homestay and the Fishing cat Conservation Project. Shantanu Prasad realised that tourists liked seeing the endangered fishing cat and by including the cultural heritage of the floodplains, he offered more experiences to the visiting guests. This business and conservation model would provide income for his family, his team members and would also be a platform to conserve the fishing cat in the region.
It took 100 local villagers 100 days to restore an old bungalow which is the now the Bhagrol Basa Homestay. The 17th Century Ghosh Bari building was restored into a functional heritage site where one can experience Bengal floodplains natural and cultural richness.
BAGHROL BASA STORY
Baghrol meaning fishing cat in Bengali and Basa means nest or house. As the name suggests, Baghrol Basa is a home in the swamps just like a fishing cats nest. Here, we set up a research and conservation program to conserve the fishing cat and fund it using the money from the revenues that the homestay generates. We chose a conservation model that involves local people in all facets of management. They helped renovate the old-fashioned building, they run it and they are also involved in fishing cat conservation activities.
Baghrol Basa homestay is a collaborative project between villagers and a group of fishing cat enthusiasts. The homestay was conceptualised with a goal to highlight the fishing cat as the flagship species of West Bengals swamps and to generate local people revenue through tourism. We hope that this dual-pronged socio-economics centred conservation model will encourage local villagers to tolerate a wide variety of wildlife species that move in their private farmlands and fish ponds. After careful consideration, we also started an innovative compensation scheme to support those villagers who are burdened by heavy economic losses from local wildlife. By creating local interest, minimising losses to people from wildlife and projecting the fishing cat as the pride of Bengal, we are safeguarding wildlife unique to the Bengal swamps. It is not only the fishing cat that benefits but also a wide variety of wildlife species, and all this can be accomplished with local peoples involvement and help.
Baghrol Basa homestay is an old 17th-century house once owned by a rich local Jamindar or landlord. It was restored to its old glory using traditional restoration techniques. Along with homely comfort, one can also enjoy the natural pools of water, engage in fishing and experience the local Bengali village culture. We offer our resident guests authentic Bengali recipes that our chefs painstakingly recreated.
Baghrol Basa, formally known as Ghosh Bari has a long history. Sri Pitambar Ghosh, a Jamindar from the lower floodplains of Bengal, built this 17th Century Ghosh Bari house. It is situated at Kalbansh village of Amta, Howrah. In this area, flooding is a common phenomenon and how this property survived natures wrath remains a mystery. The last known famous personality from the original owners family was Sri Gajendranath Ghosh and he is renowned for contributing immensely to the development of Kalbansh village. He donated lands and buildings for education, promoted cultural events and was approachable to people from all walks of life. Mr Ghoshs family has a long history of involvement in sports, local artand culture, which can be seen to this day. Currently, Mr Ashim Ghosh, a distant descendant, lives in this house with his family. Its a story that goes back three centuries and a third of the house is still in use. Once called Ghosh Bari the property is now renamed as Baghrol Basa and offers insights into the real life of local Jamindars and their old, unchanged culture.