The United Nations calls biodiversity the “strongest natural defence against climate change,” recognising that it is the “web of life” that provides all the essentials for human existence — food, water, medicine, a stable climate, and even economic growth. In fact, it is estimated that more than half the global GDP is dependent on nature, with one billion people relying solely on forests for their livelihood.
As many as one million species are in danger of extinction, some in the coming decades itself. With disappearing flora and fauna, conservation becomes a crucial activity for which funding is always difficult to come by. In this context, grants given out by The Habitat Trust, founded by HCL Tech’s Roshni Nadar Malhotra and Shikhar Malhotra, every year to organisations and individuals for conservation in India, need to be flagged.
The latest recipients of the ₹ 1 crore conservation grant are two organisations — The Forest Way and Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary (GBS). The former works in the Eastern Ghats, Arunachala Hill and its surrounding forests. Due to logging, fires and overgrazing, this area has been facing severe degradation. While restoration efforts have been continuing for the past 19 years, the grant will help in scaling up the effort including restoring plantation, creating firebreaks and protecting grazing. The aim is to enhance canopy cover and tree diversity, even as a micro-habitat is established for endangered and/or endemic species.
GBS too has ambitious plans for the grant. Climate change is a threat to the rainforest canopies in Wayanad, Kerala. So the organisation will “develop techniques to ensure the conservation of canopy-dependent flora and the propagation of hundreds of Western Ghat’s canopy-related species.” The plan includes ex-situ conservation in nurseries, planting in GBS’s 70-acre land and creating protocols to guide other restoration programmes.
The ₹25 lakhs action grant has been given to three organisations and an individual — the Ashoka Trust, for research in ecology and the environment for conserving the White-Bellied Heron; the Bombay Natural History Society, to protect the Indian Skimmer and Black-Bellied Tern; the ERDS Foundation, to increase the population of the Great Indian Bustard; and to conservationist H. T. Lalremsanga from Mizoram, to protect the fast-depleting softshell turtles.
Apart from this, the Habitat Trust has a monthly seed grant. This too goes a long way in handholding the conservation efforts in the country that have less traction than renewable energy projects.