Photo: M Suraj
Photo: M Suraj
In December 2020, The Habitats Trust (THT) announced the recipients of The Habitats Trust Grants 2020, an annual initiative aimed at securing India’s biodiversity. The Grants, which consist of four categories, seek to bolster the efforts of conservationists on-ground by bridging the resource gap and providing critical support to make their work more sustainable.
“The Grants were mid-cycle when the pandemic hit. To keep the momentum going, the team had to quickly come together to rethink our methodology, a crucial part of which are field visits, whose primary objective is to understand the on-ground reality and interact with key stakeholders. Taking this process online was an uphill task, particularly due to poor connectivity where our applicants are based and language barriers with community members and government officials. We were fortunate to have received immense support from our applicants who helped us facilitate this process as we treaded unchartered waters. While the pandemic brought unexpected challenges, the online working environment has provided a platform for conservationists working in the far corners of the country to share knowledge quicker and more regularly,” said Trisha Ghose, Project Director at The Habitats Trust.
In 2020, the organisation received over 4,300 applications. Later in the year, when travel restrictions were lifted, THT travelled across five states and one union territory to visit the 12 finalists and conduct on-ground evaluations. The final four recipients were chosen by an eminent jury that included Bahar Dutt, wildlife biologist, author and environmental journalist; Brian Heath, Founder and CEO of the Mara Triangle Conservation Area in Kenya; Dr M. K. Ranjitsinh, wildlife expert and the prime architect of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972; and Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson of HCL Technologies, Founder and Trustee of THT.
The Corbett Foundation
Strategic Partnership Grant
The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) needs grasslands and semi-arid areas, as found in Kutch, Gujarat, for their survival. Renewable energy projects are being promoted over ‘revenue wastelands’ that are rich bustard habitats. Bustard deaths have been documented in Kutch and other areas in India due to collision with power lines. Existing power lines over critical bustard habitats need to be buried underground and those passing over semi-critical habitat must be installed with bird diverters to allow the GIB to flourish. Habitat loss, uncontrolled grazing of livestock, growing menace of feral dogs, and use of inorganic pesticides are other important issues to be addressed on a priority basis to ensure the long-term conservation of the GIB in Kutch.
With support from the Strategic Partnership Grant (Rs. 25 lakh), The Corbett Foundation will work with the local communities to restore community grazing lands, install bird diverters on few power lines in Abdasa taluka, promote bustard-friendly farming and sensitize the local villagers towards coexistence with these Critically Endangered birds.
Lesser-Known Habitats Grants
Social Education and Environmental Development Scheme (SEEDS) Trust works with communities in Tamil Nadu to address their social, environmental and economic welfare. THT awarded the nonprofit with a Rs. 20 lakh Grant to support their efforts to conserve and regenerate the fragile Ayyalur ecosystem of the Eastern Ghats, a fast degrading habitat of the slender loris. SEEDS will also work with the local communities to lessen their dependence on the forest, by providing training in alternative livelihoods and promoting sustainable harvest and grazing methods.
Bat Conservation India Trust
Lesser-Known Species Grant
BCIT is the recipient of the Rs. 15 lakh Grant for their work on the Kolar leaf-nosed bat Hipposideros hypophyllus, a Critically Endangered bat species on the verge of extinction. The organisation will be carrying out various studies and analyses to understand the species’ ecology, like foraging area, dietary preferences, and roosting preferences, to aid in the development of a long-term conservation action plan. “We have begun working with the forest department to increase vigilance, by setting up CCTV cameras and restricting access to protect the cave.” said Rajesh Puttaswamaiah, Trustee.
Conservation Hero Grant
For nearly a decade, he has been working quietly to protect the lush forests and diverse wildlife of Chhattisgarh, a region plagued by not only political unrest, but also rampant poaching and hunting. M. Suraj has received a Rs. 10 lakh Grant from THT to support his efforts to combat poaching in Gariyaband, Baloda Bazar and Mahasamund districts, by patrolling Protected Areas on foot for snares and capacity building for local forest staff. He also works to sensitise and involve local communities to form a network of informers who can help curb poaching.
Applications are now closed for The Habitats Trust Grants 2021.