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The Habitats Trust, founded by Roshni Nadar MalhotraChairperson of HCLTech announced the recipients of The Habitats Trust Grants 2022 today at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. The Habitats Trust Grants is an annual initiative by The Habitats Trust to honour and support organizations and individuals, who share a common goal of conserving India’s natural, indigenous habitats and species, especially those that are lesser-known, and thus often neglected habitats. The 2022 edition of The Habitats Trust Grants awarded a total of Rs. 1.25 crores across the two categories- THT Conservation Grant and THT Action Grant. The recipients included The Forest Way and Gurukul Botanical Sanctuary (awarded Rs. 1 crore under THT Conservation Grant category and Ashoka Trust for Research and Econogy, Bombay Natural History Society, The ERDS Foundation, H.T. Lalremsanga who were awarded Rs. 25 lakhs in THT Action Grant category.

Congratulating the THT Grant recipients, Ms. Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Founder & Trustee of The Habitats Trust said, “The world is finally realising that loss of biodiversity not just impacts climate but can also cause grave consequences to human health, wildlife, economy, and food security. Considering the same concerns, The Habitats Trust is working with conservationists who proactively work towards the mission of protecting endangered and vulnerable lesser-known species and their habitats. As part of our commitment, we are honoured to be extending our support to this year’s selected projects that are working towards restoring and protecting critical ecosystems. Our teams will further work with the recipients to help build their capacity and strengthen their governance structures to attract more philanthropic and CSR donors.”

Mr. Rushikesh Chavan, Head of The Habitats Trust added, “India is an incredible and biodiverse country, with different ecosystems – marine, terrestrial, wetlands and many others. Each of these spaces faces its own set of unique challenges at a very local level but ones that have a global impact, be it around biodiversity, climate change or policy. Initiatives like the Habitats Trust Grants, allow us to support people who are working to solve these problems at the ground level. This works in many ways - it increases awareness around biodiversity as well as helps promotes human well-being. I believe we can take great strides toward a healthier ecosystem through initiatives like The Habitats Trust Grants.

The Grants aim to recognize and support holistic, innovative, and replicable conservation projects by organizations and individual’s basis clear parameters of measurable impact, strategy, scalability as well as stakeholder evaluation.

The winners of the Habitats Trust Grants for 2022 are: 

Grant Category  About the Category  Grant received  Grant Recipient 1 About the winners 
The Conservation Grant  The THT Conservation Grant is established to provide financial support for organizations that focus on India’s conservation challenges, especially for lesser-known species and critical habitats. The grants are intended towards promoting holistically designed conservation efforts. This grant is only open to organizations.  INR 1 crore The Forest Way Part of the Eastern Ghats, the Arunachala Hill and its surrounding forests have been facing degradation for decades due to logging, fires and overgrazing. The restoration efforts on this hill have been on for the last 19 years, and could do with a little scaling up.

The Forest Way, has two decades of experience in restoration of this particular region. As they have before, they plan to create firebreaks, work on grazing protection and restoration planting. They will also nurture vegetation and wildlife by improving soil conditions, collecting seeds and raising saplings to be propagated - and monitor their growth for optimum results. This will improve canopy covers and tree diversity, creating a micro-habitat for endangered and/or endemic species.
 
Gurukul Botanical Sanctuary The rainforest canopy in Wayanad, Kerala, is a world unto itself, brimming with biodiversity. Climate change is threatening these canopies, which have evolved to form an association with epiphytic plants, which grow on them for support but produce their own food. They grow in high-up canopies to get light in dense rainforest habitats.

Epiphytic plants have an impact on the ecosystem's hydrology. They significantly increase the amount of fog water intercepted and retained in the rainforest ecosystem, as well as the creation of microhabitats that aid in the survival of canopy species. While there are several plant conservation programmes in the Western Ghats, few of them are comprehensive and scientific in nature.

Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary (GBS), aims to develop techniques to ensure the conservation of canopy-dependent flora, and the propagation of hundreds of Western Ghats' canopy-related species. Their strategies will involve ex-situ conservation through multiplication in their nurseries, planting in GBS’s 70-acre land, and they hope to create protocols to guide other restoration programmes as well.
The Action Grant  The THT Action Grant will support individuals and organizations, who are working towards on-ground action conservation projects, which focus on lesser-known species and/or habitats that require urgent conservation intervention. This grant is open to organizations and individuals. INR 25 lakhs Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the
Environment
The White-Bellied Heron stands tall at a height of 4.2 feet.

The White-Bellied Heron is currently reported in only four locations - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

These largely solitary herons depend on forest-associated wetlands, rivers and lakes for nesting and foraging. With the rapid development of dams in the Northeast, the White-Bellied Heron is facing a dangerous loss of habitat.

Apart from monitoring known sites, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) plans to extensively search and survey potential habitats in Arunachal Pradesh along key river valleys. ATREE will also involve the locals into the conversation strategy - by creating awareness about its critical status, and by creating tourism opportunities around this beautiful bird.
H.T. Lalremsanga  Freshwater turtles are facing a rapid decline due to numerous reasons, namely habitat loss, climate change, and more infamously - pet trade, and their meat and use in traditional medicines.

H. T. Lalremsanga aims to conserve Softshell turtles in the Northeast as they are prized as a delicacy and a source of income so their conservation is understandably challenging. To combat this, Lalremsanga plans to map their population, distribution, and learn more about their habitats in Mizoram – all this while using a long-term, community-based approach, enlisting the help of local youth, researchers, and forest staff.
Bombay Natural History Society The Indian Skimmer and Black-Bellied Tern are found in India, Bangladesh and in smaller numbers, in Pakistan and Nepal. India is home to over 90% of these species’ breeding population; River Chambal hosts the largest known breeding population of these species.

Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), launched small-scale community-based conservation activities in Chambal and saw that the involvement of locals helped nesting numbers to rise. BNHS aims to train community members to aid in the protection of both these species. They hope to develop an evidence-based conservation model that could be applicable at other river nesting areas too.
The ERDS Foundation The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is facing a rapid decline in numbers due to habitat loss and degradation. Alarm bells have sounded repeatedly on the fate of this bird - with very few breeding females left.

90% of the GIB’s remaining population, and its only remaining breeding population, is housed in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The bird,
which was once present in 11 states across India, is now only found in five.
The ERDS Foundation plans to create spaces that are ideal for the GIB to live and breed, by restoring arid grasslands, monitoring its numbers, and strengthening the anti-poaching network. It will work in a conservation strategy that encourages locals to consider making their farms more suitable homes for the Great Indian Bustard.

 While the above categories are awarded annually, The Trust introduced a third category this year, called the THT Seed Grant, which is awarded monthly. This rolling grant is awarded to conservation projects designed towards developing topical conservation interventions such as rapid assessments, development of new or testing of methodologies, protection of critical habitats from threats, etc. The first THT Seed Grant was awarded to two grantees in August 2022; Feather Library from Ahmedabad and Nagpur Centre for Peoples’ Forum. The second THT Seed Grant was awarded in October 2022 to Conservation Himalayas, for their project ‘Augmenting areal movement of Golden langur against the linear infrastructure.’

The Grants’ recipients were selected through a rigorous four-stage process that considered the expected impact, relevance and scalability of the project; the applicants’ capacity to deliver and finally the sustainability of their proposed work. The Trust received 81 applications this year. The Sub-Jury members evaluated 35 applicants on field, out of which 16 were chosen as finalists after a thorough due diligence process was conducted by Grant Thornton Bharat, The Habitats Trust’s audit partners.

The recipients of the Grants were chosen from a total of 16 finalists by an eminent jury that included - Bahar Dutt, Wildlife Biologist, Author and Environmental Journalist; Brian Heath, Founder and CEO for the Mara Triangle Conservation Area, Kenya; Dr. M. K. Ranjitsinh, Wildlife Expert and architect of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson HCLTech and Founder and Trustee, The Habitats Trust.

While The Habitats Trust awarded full financial grants to 5 recipients across two categories, other finalists were also awarded 10 percent of the grant amount in their respective categories, to ensure that their efforts and work is recognized.

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