For the first time, ONGC has bagged the prestigious FICCI CSR award under category “Environmental Sustainability, 2015-16” for its “Eastern Swamp Deer Conservation Project”. The award was received by Mr. D D Misra, Director (HR),accompanied by team CSR and Mr. Vivek Menon, Founder Trustee, WTI from Mr. Narendra Singh Tomar,the Hon’ble Minister for Rural Development, Minister for Panchayati Raj and Minister for Drinking water and Sanitation,Government of India, at a glittering award ceremony held at Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) House, New Delhi on 21 December 2016.
The Eastern Swamp Deer (Rucervus duvauceli ranjitsinhi) a sub-species of Swamp Deer is currently inhabited only in Assam. The species is listed in schedule-I of the ‘Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972). The swamp deer differs from all the Indian deer species in that the antlers carry more than three times.Because of this distinctive character it is designated Barasingha, meaning "twelve-tined." Rapid seizure of grasslands for agricultural usage , frequent floods and excessive hunting has resulted in heavy decline in their population, bringing the sub-species on the verge of extinction and today the major population is confined to Kaziranga National Park, Assam. At the turn of the century the population of Eastern Swamp Deer were estimated to be around 500 at Kaziranga National Park (Assam).
Wild Life Trust (WTI), a non-for profit organization working in the field of wild life conservation, approached ONGC for conservation of this endangered species. A detailed project plan was prepared to safeguard the Eastern Swamp Deer from extinction. ONGC undertook the project as one of the flagship CSR initiative under environment category. The first phase of the project was, launched in the year 2010 at Kaziranga National Park in an effort to understand the ecology of the eastern swamp deer and develop management strategies for conservation of the sub-species. The study aimed to understand the population dynamics, habitat requirements, food requirements, threats and factors limiting growth and distribution of Eastern swamp deer in Kaziranga National Park. The first phase of the project was implemented at a cost Rs.96.62 lacs.
After the conclusion of the first phase in 2014, domain experts emphasized on establishing a separate viable population elsewhere in other areas which would be essential for conservation of the sub-species. Accordingly, Manas National Park has been identified as the new site for translocation of Eastern Swam Deer which has been taken up in the Phase II of the project.
In March 2015, when the project team from Manas, informed on wireless the news of birth of two fawn, it was a moment of joy at the CSR office. Two weeks later, another little fawn joined the team. By the month of July, there were 6 news fawn in the heard. But with the onset of monsoon two fawn and two adult died. Finally, in August 2015 the entire group was released from the booma. The released deer were monitored in the wild through camera traps and physical searches using captive elephants. The deer established themselves in the southern grasslands of Manas National Park . A series of awareness programs were carried out in fringe villages of the park for generating awareness among children about conservation of eastern swamp deer and other wildlife of the area. The total financial implication for the second phase of the project was Rs.85.60 lacs.
As per the information received from WTI , the released deer are maintaining good health and have adapted to their new surroundings at Manas National Park. It was this phase of the project which was evaluated by FICCI for CSR awards where ONGC was declared winner in the category of Environmental Sustainability.
After the successful implementation of the second phase of the project, the third phase of the project is being launched for trans-locating 20 more deer from Kaziranga National Park to Manas National Park with financial support of Rs 44,74,867/- . This will further help in creating a sustainable population of eastern swamp deer at Manas National Park.
FICCI annually confers CSR awards under eight different categories to both public and private sector companies for their exemplary work in the field of CSR. The Eastern Swamp Deer Conservation Project of ONGC was chosen by an eminent jury of FICCI through a three tier process which includes, initial paper presentation, followed by field visit carried out by third a party and further detailed presentation by ONGC CSR in front of the panel of experts.
Mr.D D Misra, Director(HR),being an avid wild life photographer himself and having published photo-features in national and international publication like “Swagat”, “Srishti”, “Times World Travel”, “Shubh Yatra”, “The Outdoor Journal”, “Exotica”, steered the project and ensured its smooth implementation. The project has also been recognized at various workshops, presentations etc.by other Corporates, Govt. of Assam.‘Discovery’ has offered to make a documentary on this project as this is first of its kind project done in India.