Wetlands conservation program
SAFE successfully launched India’s first BIORIGHTS project (2009) in East Kolkata Wetlands, Ramsar site with a mission to prevent it getting delisted from the Ramsar list, owing to severe urban encroachment, habitat and biodiversity loss and deteriorating ecosystem services. In the context of the project 37 Sq Km of core wetlands in the urban fringe could be restored as per the norms of Ramsar Convention. This has saved the livelihood of nearly 25,000 wastewater fishers, who have formed the first “Wastewater Fishers Association” in the world promoting natural resource recycling, ground water charging, rain water harvesting, biodiversity conservation and as well augmentation of carbon sequestration potentials in the wetlands. SAFE prepared the first GPS based wetland inventory for the study area. SAFE has carried out massive financial inclusion program for the poor fishers and promoted ecotourism as an alternative livelihood for compensating the opportunity costs, incurred in their conservation efforts through micro-insurance coverage. SAFE’s endeavor in conserving the East Kolkata Ramsar Wetlands has saved it from getting delisted and the Biorights case has been showcased as a best practice inclusive model in the 4th TEEB Report of UNEP, and received Earth Care Award in year 2011.
This award winning innovation, ‘Biorights’ of SAFE is a pro-poor intervention, both in rural and urban sectors that are adaptive and can downscale climate impacts. SAFE thrives to sustain the livelihoods of marginalized people through climate-smart alternatives under the concept of Biorights. Further, in mainstreaming the marginalized people in the upcoming ‘Carbon-Economy’ SAFE directly involves in policy advocacy and planning to make a participatory platform based on equity and reciprocity.
What is Biorights?
Biorights assures a win-win situation for the wetland community and ecosystem. The sustainability of the project depends basically on the revenue return from conservation practices and eco-friendly farming along with a compensation earned for such conservation deeds. The betterment of habitat would ensure the transformation of environmental services into alternative economic opportunities like ecotourism. Further such accreditations could be formally accredited for fetching palatable carbon credit and CSR spotlights. Betterment of lifestyle, risk spreading, and coverage through micro-insurance and social inclusion would help to restrict the migration of casual laborers and this would sustain the efforts of preventing urban encroachment in the wetlands any further. Becoming a focus of concern for all stakeholders have accentuated the sustainability factor by addressing values for better livelihood, issues like health and sanitation, child care and education, drinking water, and better roadways.
Value added community service
As a value added service community drinking water station and solar lighting facility have brewed, the flavor of empowerment through community governance of natural resources and its user rights. SAFE has shaped programs for providing safe drinking water to community, provides solar powered water treatment plants delivering 10,000 liters of WHO standard drinking water to the community through automated dispensing units. The integrated model has bio-sanitation components for providing state of the art sanitation facility based on microbial bio-digesters. In year 2015 SAFE received UN Water award for best practice in Water and Sanitation for community.
SAFE Biorights program for Dipor bil
The Biorights project adopts the community-ecosystem approach to combat this through adaptive management over space and time. Wetland habitats were re-created for conservation of self recruiting endemic species of fishes and restored habitats helped reaching the critical compensation point for the carbon sequestering function of the wetlands as wetlands behave as both source and sink for CO2 sequestering. Species management was collateral to alternative livelihood options as it constituted the value edition component of ecotourism. Plantation program, water body cleaning, use of biodegradable and organic fish feed. Habitat management plans to be undertaken at appropriate spatial and temporal scales recognizing the varying temporal skills and lagged effects that characterized this wetland ecosystem processes.
Opportunity cost incurred by the community can be compensated through the Biorights components that transform nature services to revenue return alternatives. Community initiatives could significantly improve Dipor bil habitat condition and sustain the livelihood status of the rural and economically challenged wetland dwellers by assuring basic life amenities and social empowerment.
SAFE conservation mission for Dipor bil
Wetlands conservation has been a flagship initiative of SAFE, since inception. The Biorights conservation paradigm of SAFE that has drawn attention of environmental economists globally has also been developed in the backdrop of ecosystem services in Ramsar wetlands. Continuing the efforts, SAFE this year has been able to expand its wetlands conservation mission through North East India.
In collaboration with International Water Management Institute, Colombo, mapping of ecosystem services in peri-urban wetlands could be completed in Kolkata. The same is now being done in Dipor Bill Ramsar site in Assam and Loktak Ramsar site in Manipur. Complete geospatial mapping and indexing of ecosystem services as prescribed TEEB list of UNEP will be done for prioritizing conservation strategies and valuing of important wetlands.