Be it protecting the wildlife like Lions, Tigers and Leopards to forests, mangroves, trees and environment at large, Team Empower has been involved deeply in this field through Chapters like “The Wild India”, “Save our Lions”, “Save our Leopards”, “Save Aarey Forest” etc.
Save our Leopards
Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) is a 104 sq.km. unique forest in the world due to its presence in the heart of one of the densest cities Mumbai, India. SGNP is a home to ~40 leopards (as on 2017), and a array of Birds, reptile and mammal species covering sambhar deer, spotted deer, mouse deer, barkicivet, porcupine etc.
The uniqueness of the forest being surrounded by the concrete jungles and human habitats including encroachments makes the situation quite a challenging one leading to Man-Animal conflicts, especially during 2012 when Leopard attacks led to 7 deaths in just 6 months. With the increased population, encroachment and reduced forest cover, we believe that removal of encroachers is a long drawn task and interfering with the wildlife and its habitat is against the nature. Hence, Co-Existence was the only option – as what Team Empower discovered and implemented in a unique way, by creating and conducting Co-existence workshops across the sensitive areas !
- The NGO has been instrumental in working with the Forest department and other government agencies in designing Co-Existence Strategies and conducting workshops across/for BMC / MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai), Filmcity (Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari), Reliance Mediaworks, Aarey Colony (Padas and Cowsheds/Tabelas), Mulund-Bhandup region and Thane areas of the park where regular movements and conflicts were recorded.
- The foundation has been instrumental in identifying Leopard movement and habitats using scientific technologies and setting up “Beware of Leopard signages and also setting up “Dos and Donts” signages to change people’s life style to co-exist with Leopards safely. The conflict situation thereafter has drastically reduced with very few instances hence making the above activities an on going process.
Save our Lions
The NGOs journey towards conserving the only Asiatic Lions in the world began a few years back upon being associated with the Forest department, Gir National Park in Gujarat. The NGO supported the Government of Gujarat in its stand to oppose unscientific and pro tourism translocation of Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, a decade old political battle in India.
- The NGO took up the research and analysis work and submitted (1) Eco-centric reports, (2) global best practices, (3) scientific and technical analysis of the past animal translocations globally which helped the state and central governments to take the right calls in the interest of the lions.
- The NGO also involved the international agency IUCN and the Expert Panel to ensure that the Lions are conserved abiding the global guidelines of the union.
- Empower Foundation’s Save Our Lions page on Social media reached a record breaking 7000 likes and follows in a short span one of the highest in the segment, thus creating awareness on the issue.
Due to the research and efforts of the foundation way back till today the Asiatic Lions of India are protected in their natural habitat.
Save Aarey Forest
Aarey Forests in Goregaon East, Mumbai is a 3000 acres Green lungs of Mumbai having a green cover with 45 million trees – being the most important oxygen generator for Mumbai. MoEFCC notification in January 2016 included Aarey in the Eco Sensitive Zone. Aarey is a home to a rich biodiversity & wildlife including 9 leopards, 76 bird species, 18 mammal species, 80 butterfly species and 38 reptile species.
- Empower Foundation has been involved in conserving the Aarey Forest since a decade by creating more awareness about the importance of the green lungs and also working with the tribal hutments (padas) and cowsheds (tabelas of the milk colony) in controlling and mitigating leopard-human conflicts by conducting workshops and providing signages and other material for the same.
- Empower Foundation is one of the three NGOs to support the citizen movement to protect the Aarey Forest by opposing the creation of Metro maintenance shed for Mumbai Metro3 in the Forest land. The NGO has been pro-building of Metro 3 which is the need of the hour for Mumbai but was also instrumental in creating awareness amongst citizen and pressing the fact to the government of there being 7 other options for making the metro shed in Mumbai thus saving the forests. The Aarey campaigns were supported by Bollywood celebrities like Randeep Hooda, Raveena Tandon, Vishal Dadlani, RaghuRam, Diya Mirza, Farhan Akhtar etc.
- Empower Foundation launched a series of innovative videos which went viral over social media and created a huge impact on the citizen and the government. The first video of a 2.5 year old boy, Arjun Mehta requesting the Chief Minister to Save Aarey Forest went viral on social media reaching millions of viewers and was endorsed by various celebrities. (https://youtu.be/KBDDf3dyOgA). The second video – “Modi Uncle Save Aarey” with seven 5 year old Kindergarten kids requesting PM Modi (https://youtu.be/Z1Cy2SAxveM) and the third video “Shinzo Uncle Save Aarey” addressed to the Japanese PM – Shinzo Abe (https://youtu.be/57fj5-EAgbw) went viral on social media in India, Japan and internationally.
- Empower Foundation was instrumental in collating the Voice of Bollywood for Aarey Forest in form of a video for saving Aarey Forest which had celebrities like Irrfan Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Aamir Khan, Richa Chadha, Ritesih Deshmukh, Farhan Akhtar, Vishal Dadlani, Manoj Bajpai, Rekha Bhardwaj, Sakshi Tanwar, Kalki Koechlin, Swanand Kirkire, Piyush Mishra, Imtiaz Ali, Pritish Nandy etc come out and speak on the importance of Aarey Forest in Mumbai and that the same should be protected. (Link : https://youtu.be/2024KHxJmOU)
- Empower Foundation’s research work and evidence based report of on Presence of Wildlife in Aarey Forest including 9 leopard and total five wildlife in IUCN Redlist was covered by the mainstream media and also used as an evidence.
The Wild India
The Wild India (www.thewildindia.blogspot.com) has covered and published conservation activities and best practices of various reserves and national parks in India besides promoting tourism through articles and offline white papers about :
- Well known wildlife sanctuaries like Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Tadoba, Gir National Park, Periyar, Pench, Sunderbans and Kaziranga and also
- Lesser known sanctuaries like Vansda National Park and Purna Wildlife Sanctuary, Shoolpaneshwar WLS, Ratanmahal Sloth Bear Sanctuary (Gujarat) and Anshi National Park (Karnataka), Bhagawan Mahaveer Sanctuary (Goa) and Suryamal (Thane, Maharashtra), thus creating awareness and also livelihood for the locals.
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