Sukinda Chromite Mine of Tata Steel Launches “Snakes Are Friends” Campaign on World Forestry Day

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Sukinda: Sukinda Chromite Mine (SCM) of Tata Steel, located in Jajpur district of Odisha, launched a campaign called “Snakes Are Friends” on Monday to create awareness on conservation and importance of snakes in biodiversity among school children, women Self-Help Groups (SHG) and farmers, who regularly encounter the reptiles’ infield while celebrating World Forestry Day here.

Bhubaneswar based voluntary organization Snake Helpline, which works for rescue, rehabilitation of snakes, research and helps public in peaceful co-habitation with them will provide technical expertise and train persons of Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS), the CSR wing of the steel major, to carry out the campaign.

Kick starting the campaign Mr Subhendu Mallick, General Secretary and founder of Snake Helpline, who is also Honorary Wildlife Warden of Khurda district, had an interactive session on popular myths versus realities of snakes, identification of venomous and non-venomous snakes, snake-bite symptoms, first-aid, importance of snakes in biodiversity, etc. in a packed Kate Purty Auditorium at SCM township. Students of nearby schools, members of women SHGs, farmers from Sukinda and Bamnipal area of the district, Tata Steel officers, members SCM Workers’ Union, etc. attended the session. Mr Panchanan Das, the headman of the famous snake charmers’ village Padmakesharipur near Bhubaneswar, who is now part of Mr Mallick’s team, shared his experience as a snake charmer explaining the gimmicks they used to do to impress the spectators during their shows.

The campaign was launched in presence of Dr V P Upadhaya, Director (Special), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, (MoEF &CC) Government of India, Dr Soumya Ranjan Behera, Senior Scientist, Odisha State Bio-Diversity Board, Government of Odisha, Mr Pankaj Satija, General Manager, Operations, Ferro Alloys and Minerals Division, Tata Steel, Mr Shibojyoti Dutta, Head, Climate Change and trategic Planning, Tata Steel and other dignitaries.

Appreciating this initiative of Tata Steel, Dr Upadhaya said, conservation of forest and species should go hand in hand and the campaign on snakes will go a long way in creating awareness among communities for peaceful cohabitation of humans and snakes. Speaking on the occasion Mr Satija said this is a small contribution of Tata Steel towards the National Biodiversity Target number 11, which envisages by 2020, national initiatives using communities’ traditional knowledge on biodiversity to be strengthened, with a view to protect this knowledge in accordance with national legislations and international obligations. Echoing his thoughts, Mr Dutta spoke at length on climate change impact, risks, afforestation strategy and the need to be equally cautious about the wild species living in one’s ecosystem.

To contribute to National Biodiversity Targets, SCM has been organising a series of similar events like Spot the Species, Leaf Identification, Green Therapy, Jaibakala Vividhata, Prajatiya Khadyotsav etc. SCM has already prepared its Biodiversity Management Planin association with international organisation International Union for Conservation of Nature( IUCN). Herpetofauna in the mining area is an indicator of good ecosystem. Awareness programme on snakes and its importance in the eco-system is step to further the cause.

For environmental performances based on proactive approach with due consideration to biodiversity management, among other things, Ministry of Mines, Government of India selected SCM, as the first mine in the country, to roll out a pilot project on Sustainable Development Framework¸ a concept proposed and promoted by the ministry for the development of culture of sustainable mining in the country in January, 2016.

Expressing his joy Mr Mallick, who has been rescuing and rehabilitating snakes throughout the state and conducting workshops for the forest officials, said that for the first time he is being associated with such a big campaign by any corporate for awareness on snakes, which will help in changing people’s, particularly farmers’ perception about snakes and contribute towards their conservation. TSRDS, with the help from Mr Mallicks’s team, will organise series of similar awareness camps in coming days among schools, women SHGs, farming bodies in the villages of Jajapur and Dhenkanal districts. Presently TSRDS is working with communities on various projects in 47 villages in these two districts.

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