What is at issue:
It began in 2005 with the mangrove reforestation on the Tamil Nadu coast in southern India. Vedharajan Balaji, founder of the OMCAR Foundation, mobilized the coastal communities to raise seedlings and gradually replant the deforested coast. Since then, the Lighthouse Foundation has supported the project in India.
But that's not all: In order to achieve a sustainable use of the coastal region in the future, social and economic factors are crucial in addition to ecological requirements.
In 2011, Balaji founded the "Palk Bay Center", which brings nature and sustainability closer to children and adults and which has gained special importance as a social meeting place for the people of the region. Today, the centre is an institution and starting point for projects to improve both the living conditions of the people on the Tamil Nadu coast and the ecological condition of the region.
The director of Omcar Foundation, Dr. Vedharajan Balajii, introduces his work.
What's happening now:
The Palk Bay Centre started a vegetable garden initiative in 20 households in mid-2019 with women from the villages. OMCAR provides free seeds and organic fertiliser. To get started there was an orientation meeting with the participants. In the meantime, people are harvesting the first vegetables and green leafy plants (keerai) in backyards. They give the seeds back to us and we build a seed bank to give them to others. The project is to be extended to 200 households in coastal and neighbouring villages in 2020, and 2,000 households are to be involved by 2024.
For the fouth time we have donated goats to artisanal fisherwomen, this time 30 female goats. This village named "Petthanachivayal" is a very small fisher settlement. All of them are traditional fisher and fisherwomen are playing a key role in earning income by catching shrimps, crabs in mangrove waters. 195 families, only few houses have electricity and no drinking water pipeline.
We are planning to work in this remote, isolated, backward artisanal fisher community on a longterm basis to improve hygiene, livelihood and basic facilities. In turn, these mangrove artisanal fisherwomen can be a key working partner in mangrove restoration which is damaged by last year's cyclone.
June 2019 - a fieldwork update of PBC.
1) We have successfully established another seagrass rehabilitation protected site. So, now we have five sites managed with the support from local government. But, PBC will manage, replant and monitor the sites like Mangreen sites. Significance of this site is we grow the largest seagrass species here (grow up to 4 feet - please find the photos below) which is rare in Palk Bay but providing shelter to lots of crabs, fishes in nearshore waters. Survival of this large species is higher in high turbidity waters except for the damage by boats (so we fenced it).
2) Crab culture by a fisher group will start in the Mangreen site in the next two weeks.
3) We accommodate a women researcher at PBC from the government institute for studying seagrass associated fishes.
4) Our staffs will go for Spirulina culture training next week.
"Shrimp pickers" - Artisanal fisher women of Palk Bay: