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Tata Power’s ‘Act for Mahseer’ Contributes to a Flourishing Bio-Diversity

Our sensitivity to the environment is defined by how promptly we are able to save it for the future generations. Such a conservatory vision initiated by Tata Power Co. Ltd., an integrated power company, initiated a sustainable development campaign for an abundantly found fish of our country named Mahseer, which ironically has turned into an endangered category. Mahseer, a carp species, was found to be on the verge of extinction - until Tata Power recognised the importance of saving the beautiful species. 

It all began with the recognition of the tiger of the water Mahseer, a typical angler’s delight, by Tata Power, a company that decided more than 40 years ago, to put dedicated efforts towards saving this iconic group of species of freshwater fish found in the rivers of India. The fish, which is considered one of the 20 mega fishes of the world, is important for the preservation of the environment.  The Mahseer is known to be tough and has always shown an inclination to travel upstream in fast flowing waters and against the tide. However, the species is facing an uphill battle against extinction.

Recognising the immense value that the future of tomorrow can bring to the movement, Tata Power has initiated the ‘Act for Mahseer’ program. This program operates as a three-pronged process, the first being Captive Breeding, the second category being Ecology and finally, the third category towards Awareness and Sensitisation. The three categories of action taken thus are in synchronisation and run parallel with each other.

During the first category of Captive Breeding Program, Tata Power pioneered a breeding facility at Walvhan, Lonavla in the State of Maharashtra, for responsible re-introductions of the species in the wild.  However, the fishery had two conditions before the hatchlings get transported to various rivers. The first being the nativity issue. The hatchlings needed to be native to that region and second, there needs to be a proper programme to induct the Mahseer into the wild. This is essential to give the hatchling a chance to survive, as it has only a 30% survival rate in the wild. As a result, the company carried out cage culture and ranching programmes successfully and demonstrated the use of such research programmes for replication all over the country. Around 300 Fishery Scientists were trained to continue conservation efforts. 

 

Tata Power has developed an ingenious method to breed 4-5 lakh Mahseer hatchlings at a time at its Walvan Hatchery in Lonavala. They distributed around 6.5 lakh fingerlings. This has resulted in a major increase of the species that includes three out of six valid species, which amounted to a comparative highest Mahseer breeding ever-achieved. The century old company has created a huge lake by damming the Indrayani River. It is here that the Blue-Finned and Golden species of Mahseer congregate, attracted by the sound of the highly oxygenated water in the lake. An installation of generation capacity of 8,750 MW, helped the sustainable development of the mahseer breeding program. Tata Power also claims this initiative to be the biggest conservation effort in India, after Project Tiger.  

As a part of awareness and sensitisation, the second category of efforts are directed towards the involvement of community participation. This kind of involvement has resulted in spreading awareness amongst school children too. The company has over the years organized numerous programmes for students such as ‘Swim for Mahseer’ and frequent hatchery visits. Under their Club Enerji initiative, the excursions are styled in a manner in order to raise awareness about the gorgeous Mahseer. The Walvan hatchery visits are a wonder for most children where they handle a live-wire fish for the very first time. This is quite a transformative moment for them and some kids have been known to exclaim ‘why do we eat such a beautiful fish?’  

 

School children learn all about the beautiful Mahseer at the excursions

The involvement of schools catapulted the propagation of the message of Mahseer conservation. Efforts are being made to convince the local people that they will lose out on a lucrative tourism market if the programme does not succeed. Additionally, with its ‘Act for Mahseer! Pledge’ initiative, the company gave citizens the opportunity to make a difference to the efforts of saving the legendary fish. There is an endeavour to sensitise and encourage the people to 'Act for Mahseer' and work towards a common goal of ensuring the survival of the Mahseer. 

Tata Power aims to continue its vision of educating and raising awareness on the importance of saving Mahseer. The awareness programs expand for the company employees too, where the spirit of volunteering is joyfully noted amongst almost all the employees. It not only breaks the mundane work but also brings them face to face with adventure, exposing the volunteers to the wild. This helps them understand the nuances of conservation matters. 

As a part of the Ecology category of the program functions, Tata Power takes the conservancy programme of the Mahseer in right earnest by linking the health of this fish with the health of India's big rivers, including the Ganges. This species is an important cultural and biological icon of the rivers of India, linking livelihoods and biodiversity conservation to each other. With the 'Save Ganga Movement' and the ‘Kaveri Mission’ picking up over the last couple of years, one expects that the Mahseer will be able to reap the benefits of this high-profile programme. Clean rivers will definitely help the 'Act for Mahseer' initiative, as polluted and toxic waters are one of the main reasons for the depletion of its numbers. The survival of the magnificent Mahseer, one of the 20 mega fishes of the world is important, for the preservation of our eco-system. 

Apart from such major initiatives on the ecology front, Tata Power even provided a platform of an international conference in the year 2017. To better understand the ecology of the Mahseer, International Conference for Conservation of Humpback Mahseer, was held in Tata Power's Walvhan facility, Lonavla, in January 2017 - along with the Mahseer Trust. The Conference focused on a Humpback Mahseer and was attended by national and foreign delegates from reputed organizations as well as government officials.

 
All through this landmark 50th year of the Mahseer Project, Tata Power will be conducting various programs, organizing excursions, as well as creating media and educational tools to bring this fab-fish closer to the minds and hearts of India. These will include conferences, dialogues, and talks by various experts on the subject, getting Anglers to share unique experiences, offering fun facts to familiarise the general public about the Mahseer through various media channels, launching cool Mahseer merchandise and stationery, sensitizing school students through workshops and interactive sessions at the Hatchery, creating a lively fish mnemonic that the youth can identify with, as well as tying up with other renowned wildlife and conservation organizations to increase the scope of awareness.

 

Author

Shilpa Tiwari

Shilpa Tiwari is a New Delhi based Content Specialist with three decades of experience. She has worked extensively on a variety of researches and curricula across K12, Higher Education, Corporate and Social Development sectors. A Master’s degree in English Literature and a degree in French from Delhi University, alongwith International Business Programme from IIFT, most certainly provides Shilpa an added expertise to work as a Consultant on various research and consulting projects with Corporates, Educational Institutions, Publications, CSR Foundations and NGOs