By Rusen Kumar
MUMBAI: UPL Limited, under its CSR initiative, started Sarus Crane conservation project in Kheda region of Gujarat two years back, the project saw significant improvement with local community involvement. Efforts are presently being made to ensure this species is preserved and conserved for future generations.
Sarus crane, an agriculture wetland dominant species has been living in harmonious relationhip with humans from memories.
“The project from the year 2015 till 2017 has documented 500 Sarus cranes from just Kheda district alone covering all the seasons. Which establishes the need for a more systematic and rigorous Sarus crane count in the state to ascertain more realistic population numbers, their distribution and local migrations to formulate conservation plans for the habitats used by the species for its survival and reproduction involving the local communities.”, a report on Sarus Crane Conservation revealed.
The report is based on UPL Limited recent experiences on ongoing conservation project of Sarus Crane in Kheda district of Gujarat.
“The Sarus is going through a population decline from the last two decades, more due to habitat loss, poaching and modern linear infrastructure developments. The last Sarus crane population count in 2010 has documented 1599 Sarus cranes in the Gujarat state while 1963 Sarus cranes were documented in 2007, decline of 18.54% in just three years.”, a report added.
The two year pilot study was carried out in Kheda district during April 2015 – April 2017. The present study was undertaken to study the actual population size of Sarus cranes in Kheda district and to identify the factors affecting their distribution and survival. Sarus Crane in Kheda region occurs mainly in the agricultural landscape and has adopted to man modiﬁed habitat.
During the study period the population of Sarus crane was observed to be constant and seasonal variations exhibited changes in social structure of Sarus crane.
The data on Sarus crane abundance and distribution was collected during May 2015 – till March 2017. The data shows that congregation of the species occurs twice in a year, starting from November-March and May-July and the maximum congregation occurs during the month of February, May and June.
While surveying the study area in three districts, nine Summer and seven Winter congregation sites were identiﬁed. The highest number of Sarus cranes during Summer was observed at Gobrapura wetland of 170 Sarus cranes. In winter highest congregation of Sarus was recorded in Shekhupur agricultural land total of 140 Sarus cranes.
The conservation project has following objectives:
- To estimate Sarus crane population in the natural wetlands as well as agricultural ﬁelds in the selected districts of Gujarat.
- To assess habitat preference vis-à-vis availability, to identify areas important for breeding of Sarus cranes and areas that have potential to be restored with public support and government agencies.
- To assess ecological, anthropogenic threats and opportunities before the population of Sarus cranes, with special focus on agriculture based activities.
- To increase awareness of local communities and to ensure more effective community participation in the conservation of the Sarus.
- To involve partners and build the capacity of all stakeholders for Sarus conservation.
Community involvement can play an important and major role for species conservation. During the field visits and awareness programmes, villagers voluntarily came forward in the formation of 12 Rural Sarus Protection Groups comprising of 35 volunteers. The responsibilities the groups took on during the nesting seasons were, protection of eggs and juveniles from poaching and predation.
They also provided information about nesting location, breeding pairs, congregation sites and injured birds etc. in and around the villages. In recognition of the unpaid and motivated efforts put forth by these volunteers for conservation of the species, the project proposed to recognize these Rural Sarus Protection Groups through a token reward for their conservation contribution.
Fifty-six grass-root level villagers from 23 villages including volunteers, farmers and teachers from Kheda district were the recipients of the Sarus Crane Conservation Recognition Certificate and T-shirts. The long-term survival of Sarus Crane depends largely on the voluntary support of rural people as the Sarus Crane occurs mostly outside the Protected Areas. A significant result of this awareness campaign is the voluntary participation and people take pride in it.
A tallest flying bird species – Indian Sarus Crane, is categorized as vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.
The UPL Vashudha Programme
Vashudha is Sanskrit means ‘Mother Earth’, the giver of all wealth. UPL’s Vasudha programme is an integrated nature conservation effort that involves all the stakeholders. UPL has believed in protecting and promoting a green environment. Most of its programmes under Vasudha aims to create public awareness about environment conservation and the need to adopt sustainable actions.
Sarus Cranes in India
There are 15 species of cranes found in the world today. Out of the 6 that are found in India, only Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) is a resident species. The Sarus Crane is nearly six feet tall with a wings pan of eight feet and it is the world’s tallest flying bird. These are known to use wetlands and agriculture fields and live in association with human beings. In Gujarat, they are found in Ahmedabad, Anand, Baroda and Kheda districts.
CSR of UPL
CSR programmes of UPL have been driven by the need of the community ﬁrst. “UPL Limited believes in contributing to harmonious and sustainable development of society and that a company’s performance must be measured not only by its bottom line but also with respect to the social contributions made by the company while achieving its ﬁnancial goals!”, UPL said.
UPL has 6 key focus areas for CSR are: agriculture development, employability and entrepreneurship, education and empowerment, environment and nature conservation, health and Sanitation, and National & local area needs. S. R. Shroff Aajivika Trust (SRSAT), a CSR initiative of UPL implements the programmes.
The UPL Limited
UPL Limited is a global generic crop protection, chemicals and seeds company, headquartered in Mumbai, founded in year 1969 by RD Shroff, Chairman the company. UPL is listed on the National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange in India. UPL Limited is largest producer of agrochemicals in India. It is amongst the top ﬁve post–patent agrochemical manufacturers in the world. Its operations span across 24 manufacturing sites (10 in India, 4 in France, 2 in Spain, 3 in Argentina, 1 each in UK, Vietnam, Netherlands, Italy, China).
Vashudha is a Sanskrit word and means Mother Earth, the giver of all wealth. UPL Vasudha programme is an integrated nature conservation effort that involves all the stakeholders. Sarus Crane Conversation, CSR project is part of UPL Vasudha Progarmme that is being implemented in Kheda region of Gujarat and has seen significant improvement in Sarus conservation with community participation.
(Rusen Kumar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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