Villagers from Bori Budruk in Maharashtra are on a mission to preserve a unique geomorphological feature on the bed of the river Kukadi that runs past their village.The river bed features ‘tephra’, dust-sized particles from a supervolcanic eruption that settled over time into a sediment layer. The site is in the midst of a scientific debate regarding the dating of the tephra.At the forefront of the battle to protect the unique river bed, are Pushpa and Amol Korde. Pushpa has been the village head for a decade and together with Amol, they have been implementing plans to protect their eco-heritage. For villagers of Bori Budruk, the geological term ‘tephra’ is a local legend. The village, around 100 km from Pune city, is nestled along the banks of the Kukadi river. With a population of around 6,000, the villagers are all well versed with the technicalities of the geological term – tephra – the dust sized particles from a supervolcanic eruption that travels long distances in the atmosphere and settles over time into a sediment layer. In this case, the sediment has made a journey of 3,000 km all the way from a Sumatran volcano Toba and settled in Maharashtra, indicates research. Well known among geologists world over, the Toba volcano was once dreaded, for having produced three massive eruptions that led to near mass extinction-like conditions with thick ash traveling all the way to Asia, Africa as well as Europe. These three eruptions are said to have taken place 800,000, 500,000 and 75,000 years ago. The tephra in Bori, therefore, is a heritage site like no other. The geological phenomenon is located alongside the Kukadi river which is the main source for water for domestic purposes in the village. Along one of the banks, also lies a smashan ghat (cemetery). Researchers from all over the world visit the Kukadi river bank for samples of tephra – which has now become the identity of Bori Budruk. Bori Budruk’s villagers are currently struggling to protect this tephra. At the forefront of this battle, is the couple Pushpa and Amol Korde. Pushpa has been the sarpanch (village head) for ten years now. “When we first came to know about the tephra, we felt responsible for conserving it. This is something rare, and it is part of our village and our identity. People from all over the world come here and collect samples. We felt an urgent need to protect, and conserve this eco-heritage,” Amol told Mongabay-India. Amol even went on to enroll for a postgraduate diploma in heritage conservation from Pune’s Deccan College. “I wanted to get a complete understanding of the terminology. This would also help me spread awareness among the other villagers,” he added. Two families closest to the site have been assigned the responsibility of maintaining a register to keep track of all those who come and go with samples. Pushpa Korde, the village head of Bori Budruk, along with her husband and other villagers have been implementing plans to protect their village river bed that has become a site of geological importance. Photo by Manjula Nair. “We recently had scientists from Israel who were interested. We had school children coming in right before Covid-19 hit,” said Amol. However, the biggest victory for the villagers was stopping a sand mining challenge in 2016. “This was a big win for us all. There was rampant sand mining in the area, and a lot of the tephra was being scooped out since 2012. We took the matter to the high court, which directed the collector to stop the work in 2016,” explained Pushpa. “Now, we feel more of a need to protect this site.” With plans to develop a site museum, and a five-village cluster eco-tourism trail, the local community has big plans for the site. “Our biggest problem is government funding. We keep pushing for the same, but since it’s a village our voices often go unheard. We are worried that the tephra may not stand the test of time, as the river washes away the sediments every year. Compared to how it used to be earlier, the tephra is now concentrated in patches,” she said. The villagers have also formed a 15-member heritage conservation committee that regularly holds meetings with state officials. Thanks to consistent efforts, the panel signed a memorandum of understanding with the Deccan College in Pune in June 2020, to jointly preserve the site. Architects in the village have also drawn up blueprints and designs as to what the site museum could look like, with the tephra encased in glass boxes. However, there is still worry about the future.