Celebrating Terra Madre 2017

Since Keystone Foundation turned 25 on November 19th, it has raised spirits and brought ample excitement within the Keystone Family. Together, we decided to commemorate this milestone by celebrating events that pertain to the indigenous communities and their culture. Slow Food Day or Terra Madre Day was on the horizon and was certainly a perfect occasion to begin the 25th year celebration. Last Forest Enterprises Pvt. Ltd and Keystone Foundation formed a convivium in 2016 – the first ever in South India, which helped us attain the ‘Slow Food Nilgiris’ tag. Abhishek K.R. took the lead to administer and coordinate the event across all field areas, because a Slow Food celebration without the community is a hive without bees. With minimum budget, we also raised money internally through a mystery box placed at the cafeteria, to make this event a memorable one. Field staffs from all areas (Hasnur, Pillur, Bangalapadigai, Nilambur, Siguretc) coordinated with the community members regarding transport, back and forth. The community was obliging and glad to travel to participate in the celebrations. The menu is always the most significant part of the Slow Food Day. This task was made easier as people from the community, as well as individuals volunteered to cook the meals for the day. Some of the dishes that were decided upon were – Ragi ball or Kali, Avarai Curry, Amaranthus in Honey, SamaiPayasam&NatuKozhi. Besides that, small quantities of food items unique to different landscapes were on the menu. The previous day began with a meeting to finalise the proceedings of the event. We split up work among us and asked people in the organisation to volunteer. While the plan to decorate the campus for the event came up, youngsters in the organisation painted the road on the campus, an exercise that everybody wanted to be a part of! Slow Food Day was celebrated on the 8th of December prior to the official date – 10th December, which occurred on a Sunday. People from all villages arrived well before time. The cooking took place on the campus at the open space available behind the canteen. Space was allotted for each dish, while some of it was cooked together on stoves placed side by side. On the other side, Arakol bands from Pillur and Bangalapdigai were organising themselves and were ready to beat their drums to raise the spirits. Apart from that, a Theatre group named Perch from Chennai, performed a hilarious 60- minute play titles ‘KiRa Kozhambu’– a satirical twist of brief stories. A captivating performance that amused the community members and visitors. Aritra Bose, Manager of Place to Bee (A Slow Food restaurant), Ooty, spoke regarding the significance of Slow Food Day and its history. Later, the band started playing. At first, only a few showcased their dancing skills to the indigenous beats, but the number grew as time went by. The aroma of dishes stimulated the appetites of people dancing to the drums, and gradually changed their focus. It was a pleasure to see 250 participants from different communities come together for the event and celebrate with abundant zeal. More festivals are being planned for the 25th year on which we will keep you posted. We would also like to thank each one you who paused here, before continuing on your journey and to those who continue to contribute to our success.

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The 19th IFOAM World Organic Congress-Participation of Tribal farmers from Nilgiri biosphere reserve.  

  The 19th Organic World Congress (OWC) was held at the India Export Centre and Mart- Greater Noida, from 9th to 11th – November 2017. The theme of the congress was ’An organic world through an Organic India’. An event of such significance took place for the first time in India, where national and international organic farmers came together to share, learn and display their experience and knowledge on organics. The congress had three major tracks – the main track focused on participatory discussions on various topics in relation to the global organic world. The scientific track emphasized on recent research on organic systems. While the marketing track focused on exploring and creating links for the future generation and upcoming farmers. The event also provided the opportunity for organic farmers to present and demonstrate their successful organic systems. Keystone Foundation has been promoting organic farming among tribal farmers for the last two decades. We’ve provided support for crops such as coffee, pepper, areca, fruits, vegetable and millet that are grown through organic means. These products are value added and marketed through a tribal farmer producer company –Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company ltd- (APPCL), which was incubated by Keystone Foundation. Five tribal farmers who have been involved in this process have presented their different farming experience to the congress. The farmers shared their practices and success stories at the event.  This was a rare opportunity for this set of farmers to present at an international level and it was their first visit to the National Capital as well. Ayasamy is an Irula tribal farmer and village leader hailing from Ittarai village of Thimbam hills of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu.  He made a presentation on his initiative of developing a village seed bank and regarding the benefits that the farmers of Ittrai where able to reap from such as set up. Ms. Selvakumari, an organic farmer from Pondicherry translated Ayyasamy’s presentation to the entrants. Valliamma is an Irula tribal women farmer hailing from Ittarai village of Thimbam hills of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve. She gave a presentation on how her village were able to revive the traditional millets, in order to increase bio diversity, an initiative that she had taken up. She spoke about the different variety of millets – foxtail millet, little millet, finger millet and associated crops like amaranths, pulses, cereals, vegetables that have enriched the bio diversity on her farm. Mr. Jayakaran, Bio-dynamic farmer and organic entrepreneur translated Valliamma’s presentation. K.Chandran is an Irula tribal youth from Nellimarathur village located in the Pillur valley of Coimbatore district. He shared his success on ecological farming practices that he had adopted while growing bananas. Every input he uses while farming  is prepared by him. Raw materials are obtained directly from his farm. He also mentioned how this helped maintain and enrich the ecological value of the farm. M.Najan is an Irula tribal who hails from Bangalapadigai village, situated in the Arcode region. He is also the village leader and convener of Bangalapadigai’s PGS farmers group. His presentation was regarding the story of how he was able to develop sustainable farming techniques for organic coffee production. He shared his experience of cultivating Coffee (Arabica), using sustainable methods because of which he was able to attain the tag of a certified PGS farmers.  His coffee is now marketed through the Farmer producer company (APPCL) with the logo of PGS OC – A medium through which farmers get premium price for the harvest and a share of the after sale profit. Once in a while his farm is used to demonstrate organic preparations for the neighbouring farmers in the valley. Ms. Nimi John of Earth Trust, assisted Nanjan in his presentation and helped translate as well. Janaki is an award winner of Paul.K. Feyeraband award by Both ENDS (Netherlands) in 2016. She belongs to the Kurumba tribe. She is the community leader and Managing Director in APPCL-farmer Producer Company. She presented on the organic techniques that she has been using to grow coffee and pepper. The aftermath of the presentation was clearly visible at the stall where the coffee was being sold.

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The Nilgiris Stakeholders Workshop for LANDSLIPS

On 14th December, LANDSLIP a consortium of nine organisations from UK, Italy and India, in alliance with Keystone Foundation conducted a one-day Stakeholders Workshop at the Keystone Campus. LANDSLIP project (Landslide multi-hazard risk assessment, preparedness and early warning in South Asia integrating meteorology, landscape and society) works towards reducing impacts caused by hydrologically related landslides, while simultaneously building resilience for such landslide-prone areas.  With this aim, a pilot intervention study is being conducted in two areas in India – Darjeeling & East Sikkim Districts and Nilgiris District. Both areas have been subject to landslides in the past and are still considered highly susceptible. With existing data & knowledge provided by Geographical Survey of India (GSI) and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, Kerala – organisations that are a part of the LANDSLIP consortium, these pilot study areas were chosen. District Collector of Nilgiris, Ms. Innocent Divya (IAS) set the context at the stakeholder workshop by presenting on the role of District Administration in working on mitigation and relief measures. Dr. S Raju – Deputy Director General, GSI Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and MR. R Mani (Chief Engineer) Agriculture Engineering – Govt. of Tamil Nadu were also present at the event.  Apart from them, members of organisations that are a part LANDSLIP consortium were also present. Bruce Malamud (Prof. of Natural &Environmental Hazards – King’s College, London), Helen Reeves (Science Director for Engineering Geology – British Geological Survey) stated the synopsis of the project to the entrants. Helen Reeves, speaking at the event said ‘The Project aims to involve all possible stakeholders, in order  to obtain positive results’ Nilgiris District is well known for Landslide threats. Several reasons contribute to this calamity- poor land management, deforestation, structures erected without adequate grading of slopes and heavy rainfall etc. The historical landslide inventory analysis of this area clearly reveals that the future landslide occurrence in the district is multifold and can be disastrous. The severe landslides that were witnessed in the district in the past two decades especially 2009, point out that we need to address this issue instantaneously. A substantial increase in population in the hills over the last decade has led to rapid and heavy urbanisation, exerting severe strain on geo- environmental parameters. District Collector speaking at the event said ‘The current administration has discerned 233 areas as landslide-prone areas in the district’. The administration has also developed digital maps of areas prone to a landslide and have circulated it to sectors dealing with disaster management at the district level. The District Collector also mentioned that evacuation routes and shelter areas  have been established.  She also raised concerns of dealing with existing urban areas where buildings are developed on or close to a landslide-prone area. An open interactive session with stakeholders took place as the meeting progressed. Communicating landslide hazard through effective early warning systems (EWS) in most vulnerable areas was raised as a concern. The project also looks to work closely with the district administration on improving the existing EWS systems that will prove to be effective in case of emergency. Policy makers and planners should help in increasing awareness on such zones among community leaders and the general public.  Keystone Foundation’s role in this project will be to facilitate and to disseminate information related to landslides among local and indigenous communities residing in vulnerable zones. Radio Kotagiri 90.4 MHz (Community Radio), Seemai Sudhi (a quarterly newspaper for indigenous communities) and Nilgiri Natural History Society (NNHS) are possible avenues through which we can sensitise isolated communities living in remote hill areas as well as the urban cluster residing close to hazard-prone areas. As this is a new subject of interest to Keystone, it will be a learning process for the organisation in terms of how EWS can be efficiently modelled based on real situations and challenges.  

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TAMILNADU URBAN SANITATION SUPPORT PROGRAMME – WORLD TOILET DAY OBSERVATION 2017

The World Toilet Day observation at Narasimhanaicken-palayam and Periyanaickenpalayam was held on 17th & 19th of  November 2017. This time the World Toilet Day was celebrated with a theme which is very much in relation to our project goal, which is “wastewater”. The major objectives of the observation were to create awareness among the community on the importance of untreated wastewater, to increase recycling and safe reuse, involve youth champions as volunteers in promoting full sanitation value chain and to appreciate and encourage the work of de-sludge operators. On 17th, the event kick-started with a rally that emphasised the importance of untreated wastewater and to increase recycling and safe reuse through a short movie called “Kakka Man” on a display screen in few selected spots around the Town Panchayat. After the screening, a quiz contest was held for the public viewers relating to the movie and prizes were distributed for those who came up voluntarily to answer the questions. The two Kakka Man artists Mr. Miller and Mr. Shiva Kumar from Keystone, Kotagiri, were the centre of attraction. Their jovial interaction with the community through their performances kept the day more alive and tuned. Later, in the evening a stage awareness program was held at Narasimhanaickenpalayam Govt. School on promoting the importance of sanitation. Mr.Ravi – Narasimhanaickenpalayam Executive Officer, Mr. Arun – Local Leader, Mrs. Vanaja – Narasimhanaickenpalayam Government School Head Mistress, Mr. Niladiri Chakraborthi – Team leader of City TSU were present at the event. Ms. Elizabeth Prasanna – Social Worker welcomed the gathering with a short note on the importance of observing the World Toilet Day. Stand up comedy, dance and a skit with regard to sanitation was part of the agenda for the evening- to entertain the locals that gathered at the venue. World Toilet Day is an official United Nations international observance day that is celebrated on the 19th of November, every year. It was established by the World Toilet Organisation in 2001. The idea behind this is to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis that remains unresolved. Negligence to this crisis has left detrimental effects on the environment and has also been a major cause of spreading killer diseases among infants and children. Observing World Toilet Day created a great opportunity for community engagement. Furthermore, it helped to inform the people residing in the intervention areas,  about the upcoming  Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP), that will be set up in Periyanaickenpalayam Town panchayat by next year (2018), in the month of January. As a part of this observation, a film that depicts the ‘Journey of poo’ was produced and will be realised shortly.  

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HCL grant – Hill waters and wetlands for communities and wildlife

One week ago, a final visit was made by Nidhi Pundhir – Director CSR, Head HCL Foundation and two consultants from Grant Thorton, delegated by HCL, visited Keystone to understand the project better. In January they will present our project to the final jury after which one organisation will receive the grant among the three, for each category. Conservation up to the present time has been a central component of Keystone Foundations’ work in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. In May 2017, the organisation had applied for the HCL Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grant. This yearly grant has three major categories – Environment, Education and Health. Although Keystone works on all three subjects, we chose to apply for the ‘Environment’ category, as it is one of the cornerstones of our decade-long work in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. HCL had received 850 applications, out of which ten organisations were selected under each category, among which Keystone was one of the shortlisted organisations. In the month of August 2017, consultants delegated by HCL visited Keystone on a 2-day visit to get a better understanding of the organisation and the genre of work we do. They visited the proposed field areas that had been mentioned in the submitted project. Subsequent to their visit, our project was being elucidated to the jury, after which we were elected as one of the three finalists in the ‘Environment’ category. The main objective of the proposed project is to ensure water equity and water security for both, humans & wildlife. Two major factors were crucial for us to address this growing concern; they are – the water crisis in the Nilgiris despite having an ample number of wetlands and springs. The latter is the recent increase in the conflicts between human and wildlife due to competition for water. The project will have its focus on two landscapes, within which two specific areas in each landscape is where our work will be implemented. Several approaches will be adopted in order to sort the fundamental problem; that is water for humans & wildlife. Under the first landscape, the two areas that have been chosen are – Kotagiri and Kookalthorai valley. Kotagiri will have three focus areas Elada, Kotagiri town & Catherine waterfalls. In the past decade, the town has been under immense stress due to rapid urbanisation, persistent land use change and increased economic activity. All of these are affecting the water resources considering the fact that it continues to function with the ancient infrastructure that has become inefficient in managing the waste that is being produced due to the above activities. In terms of interventions, the project will identify wetlands in the area and determine the scope of conservation efforts which will involve communities and stakeholders. Two key wetlands will be identified in Kotagiri that will be converted into wetland parks. These parks will serve as a model to raise awareness on the significance of wetlands and will also implement eco-restoration efforts that will protect these wetlands from depletion and exploitation. Waste management will also be an important aspect which the project will focus on. The Kookalthorai valley is the second sub-area under the first landscape. The prime reason this area was chosen is that of the chemical-intensive agricultural practices carried on in this region that has left adverse effects on the quality of water thereby contaminating the downstream flow besides increasing competition of water resources between humans and wildlife. Promoting organic farming and by providing a market through our spin-off (Last Forest Pvt.ltd), rejuvenating the streams through eradicating invasive and encroachments, training locals for advocacy and monitoring wildlife will be some of the interventions in this area. The second landscape will represent the mid-slopes of Nilgiris. Under this landscape, the two sub-areas will be the Aracode region and the tribal villages situated below this region. The recognised issues in these areas are lack of perennial water sources which has increased competition among communities, wildlife, and estates that have resulted in conflicts. The lower region is the most affected as the water that flows downstream is highly contaminated when it reaches the Moyar River on which the tribal hamlets in the Moyar valley depend upon. Identifying key water sources and adopting systems for water retention, training tribals to regularly monitor the water resources & wildlife movement, and partnering with NGO’s and forest department to declare it a chemical free zone through awareness programmes are some of the interventions that will be applied here.

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Community Forest Rights Training in the Aracode region:

On the 24th of October 2017, Forest Rights Act (FRA) training for communities in the Aracode region was held. It is situated on the Northern slopes of the Nilgiris. The region consists of tribal hamlets with an estimated population of 2000. The training was held with a purpose to assist the communities in mapping the forest land that they will want to have access to. There are nine villages in the aracode region- (Garikyur, Bangalapadigai, Samigudyal, Vakanamaram, Mudiyur, Kokode, Bavikarai, Chakapadigai & Pongamokai). Among these nine villages Mudiyur, Kokode, Bavikarai, Chakapadigai & Pongamokai have only an average of four to five families residing in each of them. These villages do not have an individual Forest Rights Committee (FRC) to advocate for them. The training also had its focus on providing support to the small villages with the help of the other FRCs. Community Forest Rights (CFR) is an essential element for indigenous communities. Communities have been depending on the forest in the past. Besides providing them with the right to utilize the forests for collecting food, medicines etc; it also helps to ameliorate the living standards of the whole community by giving them an option for livelihoods rather than depending on day labour jobs and it further strengthens local governance of forest and natural resources. Under the Forest Rights Act 2006, it is mandatory for every village to have a FRC. They will be responsible for mapping the forest land they use, submitting claims and in following up with the respected officials. Once this is completed, the community will be eligible according to the law to have access to the forest for collection and for livelihoods purposes. In Vakanamaram, there are a total of 23 families. They depend on the forest for collecting non-timber forest produce for revenue and for their own consumption as well. Out of these, six families work on coffee plantations as day wage labours for their subsistence. After obtaining CFRs, these families can use the forest to collect produce that can be sold for revenue. People living in communities largely claim only for Individual Forest rights (IFR) rather than rights for the entire community. The training also focused on encouraging the community to claim CFRs that shall benefit the entire community rather than individuals. With the presence of Aadhimlai Pazhangudiyinar tribal producer company, an accessible market is readily available for them to sell the produce they grow or collect. Similarly, in Bangalapadigai, there are 26 families residing in the village. Most of them practice millet cultivation which has been the traditional practice. Considering the area being a rain shadow region, millet is the most suitable crop to be grown beside its cultural significance. It not only provides these communities with revenue but also with nutrition, fodder for cattle etc; the village also has PGS (a decentralized organic farming certified system) farmers that grow coffee and pepper. Sivraj – Community Coordinator and resident of Bangalapadigai says ‘the community at present have pattas for three acres and thirty cents, but adjacent to it, there are 80 acres of land that they have been claiming patta for more than two decades’. It is beyond belief that despite winning the case in 1993 at the district court, the community still hasn’t received pattas for the land. The training was attended by representatives of each village. Villagers and representatives from all the nine villages got together to map the forest area, in such a way that it will be accessible for all the communities in the region. The claims will be submitted to the officials by next week says P. Chandran (Additional Coordinator), who has been facilitating and conducting FRA training for indigenous communities. Additionally, they will also meet the forest officials to reach an agreement in regard to the Village Forest Management Committee, who will be managing the part of the forest that they have claimed rights for.  

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A little boy with dreams and an ambitious mind

When people take little steps in little places, they can change the world and inspire many. From the forest of Sathyamanagalam, Vishu Mani, a young man chose his path to inspire many. He was born to a farmer in Gali Dhimbam – an Irula Settlement in the Sathyamangalam Taluka. Unaware of his innate talents, he started pursuing engineering at the Erode Senguthar Engineering College in the year 2013. After his first year, he was forced to discontinue due to personal circumstances. He spent his days contemplating and procrastinating for almost a year on what he would pursue next. Meanwhile, the conservation team at Keystone raised funds to conduct the Youth Environmental Leadership Programme (YELP) in association with Dusty Foot Productions, India in 2015. The idea behind this programme was to train young indigenous students on different elements of making films on the environment. A wide search for young people among the communities that Keystone works in took place. Vishu was one among 11 students that were chosen to participate in the month-long course. When asked if  he had ever dreamt of making films on the environment, he says ‘I accepted to be a part of this training to keep me away from boredom and also the excitement to learn a new skill pushed me to pursue it, however halfway through the programme, I fell in love with the camera’. During the programme, students were split into three groups and were assigned the task of making a short film in relation to the environment. The first film that Vishu made was titled ‘Water – the giver of life’. The film speaks about how water nurtures all forms of life and magnifies the importance of water. He says ‘This was the first time that I had ever been a part of a film, I realised that it was something that I wanted to pursue ever since’. He also mentioned how at times he would spend time fiddling with the camera, trying to understand what the machine is capable of capturing. He was content with the output he had produced along with his team and hoped for more, but the training programme came to a conclusion at the end of February 2015. He returned to his village, with overwhelming joy of learning a new skill and more importantly the reduced burden of what he will be pursuing as a career. Abhishek, Additional Programme Coordinator (Conservation), one among many who appreciated the young boys’ talent was keen to help improve Vishus’ capacity. He was offered another opportunity to showcase his talent as a photographer. He was given the chance to photograph products of Last Forest Enterprise Pvt.ltd, the spin-off Keystone Foundation. Vishus’ ability was soon appreciated by many and his photographs have been on the cover of Last Forest Annual Reports for the past two years. He currently works across programmes at Keystone, documenting and filming projects, events, and training that are being held at Keystone. Vishu is ‘the-go-to-man’ at Keystone for spectacular, rich and high-quality pictures. Furthermore, he has been working on several films in the past year. He has made a film on Barefoot Ecology, along with his YELP mates Devraj, Meena and Guruswamy. Together, they have been working on Independent films as well. One of the films is regarding the Sholiga Community residing in the Punanjanur region and their agricultural practices. He is currently finishing a film on the water programme at Keystone which is due to be released next month. He is also working with Abhishek on his film ‘Muchi, Kotu, Makal’ – a film that depicts the traditional music and instruments of the Irula community in Pillur.  While shooting the breeze with Vishu, I asked him what kind of films he wants to make? With all possible haste, he says ‘Films, no I want to make documentaries, documentaries on challenges that the indigenous people face in the present world’. We at Keystone realise that it is important to empower the youth to arise and act, as they have the strength and dynamism to generate a significant transformation in the society. Besides Vishu; three other students- Meena, Devaraj and Guruswamy from the YELP batch continue to work with Keystone.  

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Training of Trainers – Survey and Mapping of Invasive Plants of the Nilgiris Watershed

A 2-day workshop using the training-of-trainers model was held at Keystone Foundation on the 20th and 21st of September 2017. The purpose of the training was to help the trainers to develop their knowledge on survey, mapping and use of Open Data Kit (ODK) forms through theoretical and practical learning that will help them deliver the course effectively. The instructors for the course were, Shiva Subramanya and Milind Bunyan from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). Besides them, Samuel Thomas and Anbuarasan form World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, N. Mohan Raj- Honorary Wildlife Warden (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve), Venkitachalam from ATREE and Subash and Manikandan from Shola Trust-Gudalur and Keystone staff, were a part of the workshop. The first day of the workshop was designed for more theoretical sessions in relation to Open Data Kit (ODK) – Introduction, Basics, and the process to design an ODK form. It was followed by a session that focused on the different methods of survey that will be adopted in due course of action. Earlier, in the first phase of the course, there were close to eighty species that were identified as invasive or alien species in the Nilgiris Watershed region. During the workshop, a final list of twenty-seven species was finalized by the group, depending on their density, growth rate and their negative impacts on the landscapes and biodiversity. They have also come up with a plan to produce a small booklet on invasive plants that will help as a field guide, by November. On the Second day, trainees and trainers set out to the field (Kodanadu) to practically learn and understand plot transect, test out the methodologies and familiarize themselves with the ODK forms. The team has settled on the guidelines for the methodology, which will be shared with all groups. In respect to the proposed geography, it is split into 4 zones. Each zone will be allocated to one group. ‘Zone A’ will cover the Western and Northern Landscapes- from Naduvattam and below going up to Theppakadu. Shola Trust, Gudulur will be involved to work on this zone. ‘Zone B’ will cover the Northern and North Eastern region (Sigur, Moyar, Bhavani Sagar, Galidhimbham, Aracode slopes). WWF will be working on this zone. ‘Zone C’ will have its focus on the Western catchments (Ooty plateau, Coonoor slopes, Konavakkarai slopes) and will involve Keystone. And the final ‘Zone D’ will focus on the Southern part of Nilgiris (Mettupalayam, Kallar, Pillur) in which the ATREE team will be involved to work on it. Geographical Gridlines (10x10km) along three one kilometre long transect within each grid are drawn on the atlas of the Nilgiris watershed. The mapping and recording of invasive plants will be carried out on these transect. This will help to easily locate places and prioritize the focus area. The idea behind this to obtain a map that will depict each species, grid-wise, which will give us a clear sight of the spread and help in setting up priority in management. The team is looking to collaborate with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and make them an active partner. Their personnel will be involved in this study according to their region and the zones allocated. In the next phase, the trained personnel will put into action this methodology and begin mapping and recording of invasive plants. They will work along with the locals and residents of the region. This study will be carried out over three months, until December 2017.

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Stakeholder Consultation Workshop on Sustainability of Ecosystem Services

A Stakeholder Consultation meeting on Sustainability of Ecosystems Services was held in Coimbatore on the 19th of September, 2017. This meeting was organised as a first step in preparing an urban Green Print for Coimbatore city. The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Keystone Foundation and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have established a partnership to work together on this project. The objective of the planning study is to identify interventions that will help conserve and restore the natural infrastructure of Coimbatore. Different stakeholders that have been working towards the same goal were a part of the meeting. Besides them, Alpana Jain from TNC, Amir Bazaz from IIHS and Pratim Roy from Keystone Foundation were present. In the recent past, the city has been under immense stress due to unplanned urban expansion, population growth that has resulted in congested housing and increased pollution caused by industrial and agricultural activities. All of these leave negative effects on water bodies, air, and proximate forests that comprise twenty percent of the district. The meeting began with a brief introduction on TNC, Keystone and IIHS that are a part of this project. A panel, with Pratim Roy as a moderator, and four panellists; Mr. Kalidasan (OSAI), Mr.S. Baskar (IC for Governance), Mr. Mylswamy (Siruthuli) and Mr. Gopalakrishnan (Smart city planning), addressed the gathering on the topic ‘understanding Sustainability concerns in Coimbatore’. Mr. Kalidasan from OSAI, an environmental organisation in Coimbatore that works on water bodies, spoke about the transformation that has taken place in the city; he said ‘only to prevent unwanted flooding, surplus water from the Noyal river were channelled to the tanks. Back then, it was not a perennial river, it was only a seasonal river’. He pointed out; with reference to the 1927 Gazette report from the Madras Presidency, ‘Coimbatore had poor facilities for water and sanitation, only after the Siruvani dam was built, regular supply of drinking water was ensured’. He also mentioned the importance of conserving the catchment areas in the WG to prevent water scarcity in the future. The water crisis has been a growing concern in the city for the past five years. This year was the first time in nine decades that the water supply for the city was at a halt, even though it (Siruvani) dries up during the summer season, it always rejuvenates. Groundwater quality has been deteriorating due to, both natural and anthropogenic impacts. Mr. S. Baskar representing Initiatives for Change (IC) Center for Governance (non-profit Educational Trust) speaking at the event, said ‘Fifty years back, the land was used for agriculture, tanks were used for drinking purposes, but due to unplanned developments the tanks are no longer available for economic development activity’. Lately, the city has also been witnessing a rise in temperature during summer, each year. Many suggest that this is caused due to reduced green cover. Numerous trees on the Mettupalayam Highway, Pollachi – Coimbatore road and Avinashi road have been cut down in the last decade. Given that all 3 organisations are working on climate change or associated with the subject through programmes that are interlinked, increasing green cover to impact climatic conditions in the city will be paid heed, through this project. Coimbatore is one of the fastest growing metro cities surrounded by forest ranges. Coimbatore Forest Division is spread over 690 sq km in six ranges, of which 400 sq km is prone to man-animal conflict. The division has 58 villages and 315 route km of forest boundary. Two places where man-animal conflicts are being witnessed are the Thadamgam valley and Naickenpalayam area, both being elephants’ migratory path. This project will also focus on mitigating conflicts and improving urban forest management, as they play an important role in the ecology of human habitats in many ways. Later, open discussions were held during which several suggestions were voiced out by citizens, local administration officials, Municipal officers and many others that were present. Pratim Roy speaking at the event said ‘In terms of institutions, there are so many role players in the city with the ability to influence the situation. Strength and entrepreneurship lie with the citizens. It is important to identify how to bring nature back into the system’. The district is blessed with forest, hills, rivers and wildlife. It is surrounded by the Western Ghats (WG) mountain range on the West and the North. The Southern part of the city is formed by the Noyal River. The river emerges from Vellingiri Hills in the WG that passes through Coimbatore and Tirupur and finally drains into the Kaveri river in Noyyal (a village situated on the banks of Noyal river), Karur district. The Palghat gap provides the districts’ boundary on the eastern side. IIHS, Keystone Foundation and TNC are together committed to restore the city’s health in an integrated and ecologically sensitive way. A second Consultation stakeholder’s workshop is being planned in the coming months.  Meanwhile, a draft which will incorporate the suggestions recommended during the meeting will be formulated. The second consultation workshop will involve more stakeholders that influence decision-making at the policy level.

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Keystone Foundation
Keystone Centre, PB 35
Groves Hill Road, Kotagiri 643 217
The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

Telefaxes: +91 (04266) 272277, 272977
Email: kf[at]keystone-foundation[dot]org

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