Corporates’ initiatives reduce man-animal conflict
An elephantine task
Apeejay Tea in partnership with wwf-India has taken steps towards finding lasting solutions to prevent and manage Human-Elephant Conflict (hec) in Assam by implementing an exhaustive management strategy that would lead to substantial reduction in conflict and mortality rates of both humans and elephants from those recorded in 2013.
The idea was to think beyond securing its tea estates from wild elephant attacks, but considering a holistic approach at reducing wildlife conflict in the most affected elephant landscapes of the state.
A matrix is being developed to calculate the quantum of loss that is usually borne by tea estates on account of damage to property, including tea bushes and shade trees, infrastructure and injuries among residents, to bring the hec issue in strategic focus and attract attention and investment
for a new agenda for adaptation and management that would benefit
New paths have been mapped for elephants for the first time in the tea gardens. Securing elephant movement path adjacent to Sessa, an Apeejay Tea garden in Sonitpur, will be the start point for tracking and early warning of elephants on the move. The route used by elephants through Sessa Tea Estate is being formalised as a movement corridor. The nurseries for growing thorny bamboo as a new kind of bio-fence will be inside the Apeejay Tea estates in Sonitpur.
The project was initiated in Sonitpur, the second largest district in Assam known to have historically borne the brunt of human-elephant conflict, recording the most human deaths and damage to crops in the state for years.
Apeejay Tea, one of India’s largest and oldest tea producers, has four tea estates in the “hot zone” – Dhulapadung, Ghoirallie, Borjuli and Sessa – in Sonitpur district. wwf India had a very successful “Sonitpur Model” for the area.
The company had already been working with other ngos and the Forest Department of Assam to conserve and protect wild life, including elephants as part of its approach of “our home and theirs”. However, it felt the need for a better, stronger and sustainable coexistence strategy as the forest habitats of elephants were depleting rapidly and more animals were seeking shelter in Apeejay Tea estates.
From 2001 to 2014, out of 245 people who died in Sonitpur due to human-elephant conflict, 128 people were from the tea estates. The large number of people killed by elephants escalated in 2001 leading to 32 elephants being killed in retaliation in a single year.
When the project was taken up, the conflict became more severe with large volumes of crops getting destroyed, people getting killed, and ultimately elephants being killed in retaliation. Thus the company partnered with wwf India for enhancing the scope and impact of the Sonitpur model with the focus on piloting new ideas for mitigating hec.
There were problems in raising a thorny bamboo fence due to massive construction activity in the nearby industrial area.
Scaling up of the low cost power fence model (adopted by different forest divisions in Assam) has benefitted about 200,000 people. A total of 61 km of low cost fence has been constructed in Assam, a wwf India innovation, as a landscape level investment towards minimising human-elephant conflict in the region. Nine km has been constructed in Apeejays’ four gardens to protect the most vulnerable residential areas within the gardens and to reduce elephant inflicted loss to human life and property. It has saved about 200 hectares of paddy (worth R1 crore).
The firm has planted 9,457 saplings of thorny bamboo procured from various corners of India in nurseries created in two of its four hec effected gardens, Sessa and Dhulapadung, and completed plantation of sapling for bio-fence, about 1 km, bordering the industrial area in Sessa – an area elephants used as a resting place as they moved to the other side.
Tata Power was approached by the state fisheries department in the late 1960s to help save the endangered fish Mahseer. With measures undertaken since 1975, Mahseer conservation has become a key biodiversity programme of Tata Power.
The conservation was facilitated through ecological improvement of lakes, for food and sport and for breeding, conserving and rehabilitating the endangered species. The company set up a breeding centre at Lonavla and has also established standard techniques of breeding the Mahseer species post in-depth research breeding over several lakhs of fingerlings.
Till date, the company has produced in excess of 10 million seed of Mahseer and distributed them all over India. The hatchery continues to breed over 300,000 to 400,000 of fingerlings every year whereas the
breeding center is the only one till date which breeds and supplies
fingerlings to various states in India – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab,
Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Assam.
Mahseer is a fish which is considered to be the lifeline of the river system. Tata Power has also developed multi-stakeholder engagement model through which stakeholders’ awareness has been built to promote the same. The success with the Golden Mahseer initiative, over the past 40 years, has given a fresh boost of life to the fish.
Moreover, it has also promoted bio-diversity and encouraged eco-tourism.Tata Power also has Club Enerji, an initiative aimed at creating awareness among school students, who in turn, sensitise their families and neighbourhood towards energy and resource conservation through dynamic and innovative measures to conserve the planet.
The current programme is based on a four-stage model of educate (sensitise school children about energy conservation practices), engage (empower energy champions to spread awareness amongst peers and the community), enhance (enthuse schools to participate and contribute to Club Enerji initiatives) and empower (create self-sustaining Mini Clubs that will lead the movement).
Since 2007, Club Enerji has been active in 500 schools spread across 12 prominent cities and five countries. It has sensitised more than 12.8 million citizens and saved more than 17.25 million units of electricity.
Saving the earth’s species
Tata Chemicals’ Biodiversity Conservation Programmes aim to strengthen wetland and coastal ecosystems, species conservation, environmental awareness and education.
Varied initiatives have been taken by Tata Chemicals under its Dharti Ko Arpan programme. About 670 whale sharks have been rescued so far – with the company having got seven cities to adopt the whale shark as a
mascot. Its effort around the Mithapur Coral Reef Restoration has created 1,000 sq m of artificial reef, and 33 coral garden nurseries – apart from sensitising four fishing communities on the project.
Under the Save the Asiatic Lion project, 1,204 wells were barricaded through parapet wall construction. Under a regeneration of mangroves project nearly 400,000 mangrove saplings were planted in the Mithapur region, while another 380,000 were planted in the Sundarban region.
Two nestling islands have been developed under a waterfowl conservation project in the company’s Charkala saltworks and 137 bird species recorded. Identification and conservation of sea grass beds is underway in Pindara Bay (Gulf of Kutch) area for dugong and marine turtle conservation. The company’s Prakruti Eco Clubs programme has formed clubs in 30 schools, with an outreach of 5,500 students and teachers. Rainwater harvesting through check dams, farm ponds, farm bunds and deep ploughing has been promoted across 9,500 acres. Solar systems and smokeless chullahs have been promoted across 3,000 households.