Mainstreaming Conservation in District Public Policy

The project proposes to influence existing policies pertaining to,

– Use of pesticides
– Municipal sewage and waste disposal
– Land use change, including planting of exotic species

Downstream impacts on livelihoods and ecology: The Coonoor river will be taken up a case study. This will measure and prove need for conservation action and protection of upstream shola-grasslands and wetlands/swamps landscapes for downstream continuity of water resources for people and wild life and nature. Expected results will be highlighting using sample upstream – downstream landscapes / villages ecological benefits and primary services such as drinking water.

The project will include quantification and valuation of hydrological benefits provided by upstream shola grasslands to downstream communities/landscape. The assessment would also gauge the impact of land use patterns/practices. The project is also aimed at bringing about a radical approach towards water issues and thereby starting the process of influencing policy change.

The time frame of the project is 18 months. Given the time constraint it is not feasible to take hydrological measurements over different points of time to compare changes. The focus would instead be on developing a model that describes the effects of various factors on the state of the ecosystem from the point of view of hydrological services. One or more sub-basins would be chosen in the Coonoor area and a methodology would be developed to collect a mix of primary and secondary data and produce such a model for the Coonoor region. The various hydel projects in the Nilgiris would be tapped in addition to the water resources, forest and electricity departments for data routinely collected by them. Quantity as well as quality of water would be looked into. The output of the model would inform the policymakers as well as the general public and other stakeholders such as industry of the trends and order of impact on the water resources and the need for appropriate policy and action.

Environmental Governance: The environmental governance is aimed at the local municipality and other relevant line departments and the District Administration for constructive discussions and proactive measure towards water conservation. This will include the forest department, municipality of Coonoor & Pollution control, water, agriculture, horticulture and land use departments, local elected representatives at Town Panchayat, Gram Panchayat, Municipality etc. They would be engaged with through one-on-one meetings, workshops and other rallying points around the theme of water conservation.

Outreach and conservation action through the Bee Museum, Village Conservation Centres and the recently formed Nilgiri Natural History Society: There is a significant potential amongst community members and citizens of the Nilgiris to engage with and continue in this wide-open ended environmental education strategy. A module that has emerged after several stakeholder discussions and feedback will be tested in this phase and the findings from the study would be incorporated to strengthen the water conservation component. This component is aimed at generating a demand from the people, a pressure group towards policy changes in water resource management. It is also aimed at making people aware of the status of their water resources so that water conservation can be promoted. The NNHS is already engaging with people from various walks of life in Coonoor on issues of importance such as Human Wildlife Conflict. Keystone and NNHS would work towards engaging groups such as tea estates, Rotary/Lions clubs, citizens groups, in promoting the theme of water conservation.

The Bee Museum is a resource center in Ooty that has grown from being a thematic resource centred on bees and honey to being an NBR Information Center in partnership with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore. It is the focal point of outreach activities of Keystone and has been recently handed over to the NNHS as a base for its activities.