Anirudh Chaoji runs Ecologics, an organization that creates opportunities for youngsters to gain fruitful experience – in the field of ecology, restoration and conservation in India. His 20 years of experience in this field has produced a number of excellent students in conservation field.
Today almost all our development needs centre around cement and concrete – whether buildings, bridges or roads. This large quantity of cement requires equally large raw material in the form of limestone. The limestone when extracted in the form of open cast mining creates large quarries which are stripped of all their living material. What remains after the extraction is a large sterile landmass not supporting any life. The loss of agricultural and grazing lands to mining, have always given rise to local antagonism towards the cement companies. The mining norms of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, require the mining company’s quarried areas to be restored to a form that may resemble its original ecosystem. However, because of the sterile soil strata, flora and fauna taking over this area naturally is almost impossible. The present restoration in most cases has meant just taking up of monoculture plantations of exotic species of trees. Such plantations have never formed ecosystems and the study of insects and birds in these “so called” restored areas shows a poor diversity. The objective of replicating nature is thus never achieved. This had called for “an alternative approach” towards restoration which would be based on the principle of restoring the excavation completed mines for return to nature - Lands that could not only resemble local ecosystems but also be useful to the community. This New Restoration Process developed by the author in association with Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd. at Kodinar, Gujarat, India, converted the excavation completed mines into the following useful areas: Sustainable ecosystems and habitats that replicate the local environment in the floral content. The local fauna almost automatically stepped in. This is against all the monoculture plantations that only add to the statistics. Fodder plots for the local cattle, where the fodder cropping, irrigation, protection, harvesting and distribution are all taken up by the neighboring community. This is in stark contrast to the ‘normal’ mined areas that remain useless. Agriculture and horticulture plots of fruiting trees: Fruiting trees provide regular income for many years along with supportive agriculture as an intercrop. Many of the old mined areas are now bearing fruits of restoration. Water from living water bodies has been utilised extensively by the neighbouring villagers – who have almost tripled their farm productivity. The large numbers of resident and migratory water birds that have accepted these water bodies, confirm the life sustaining ecosystem that has been established in the once sterile and alkaline water-bodies.
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