EGREE Foundation(East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem Foundation), a cross-sectoral platform established by Government of Andhra Pradesh during December 2013 for the conservation of EGREE region encompassing Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the key outcomes of the UNDP supported GEF financed project ‘Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Conservation into Production Sectors in the East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem, Andhra Pradesh’ (EGREE Project) is the establishment of a cross-sectoral platform that constitutes the EGREE Foundation. Members of the Foundation comprise line departments of Government of Andhra Pradesh such as Fisheries, Aquaculture, Tourism, Industries, Forests, Ports, Shipping, Coast Guards, Agriculture, Pollution Control, Irrigation, Commerce Departments and Confederation of Indian Industry and one member representing the general public. The organizational and functional mechanism of the EGREE Foundation is unique as it facilitates cross-sectoral micro level governance for coastal and marine biodiversity conservation. This has changed the perception and strategies of several industries that usually focus solely on profits and underplay biodiversity considerations.
EGREE region (800 Km2) comprises 44 fishing villages with population of 0. million, encompassing Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary which is the 2nd largest mangroves along the east coast of India [321 km2] after Sundarbans, with exceptional coastal and marine wildlife. During the last decades EGREE region witnessed rapid economic changes due to emergence of large-scale production activities, as this region was declared as petrochemical corridor of India (Krishna-Godavari Basin). The communities in the region depend on the mangroves and marine resources. Further, pressure from Fisheries, Aquaculture, Saltpans, manufacturing activities, Fertilizers, saltpans, ports and shipping and urbanization are challenges faced in this region. All these activities along with oil and gas exploration are challenging overall coastal and marine biodiversity conservation and ecological integrity of EGREE region in general and mangrove ecosystems of CWLS and adjoining areas in particular, with associated impacts on the livelihoods of local people. The existing setup in EGREE region is inadequate to address such issues as the conservation onus lies only with forest department that has week control over the production activities surroundings the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary.
EGREE FOUNDATION, An initiative of EGREE Project comprises four major bodies for its functioning; they are a) Governing Body, b) General Body, c) Advisory Body and d) EGREE Secretariat.
- A. GOVERNING BODY: Governing Body is the key decision taking body and is chaired by Special Chief Secretary/Principle Secretary (Forests), Government of Andhra Pradesh. Heads or representatives of all departments/sectors and President, of General Body (representing general public in EGREE region) are members of Governing Body.
- B. GENERAL BODY: President will be elected by General Elections and any member of foundation (S/he) from EGREE Region can contest for this position and get elected. All interested persons can take membership in the EGREE Foundation. The President will represent General Body in Governing body and Advisory Committee for discussing and resolving the issues related to biodiversity conservation in the EGREE region.
- C. ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Chief Wildlife Warden and State Project Director of EGREE Project Heads the committee and all experts in different subjects, CEO and President of General Body are members in this committee. The committee recommends necessary activities to CEO for effective implementation of the project for biodiversity conservation. The Advisory committee also includes representatives of Fisher Association, Trawler Association, Women Association etc.
- D. EGREE FOUNDATION SECRETARIAT: The existing LLPMU of UNDP/GEF EGREE Project is functioning as EGREE Foundation Secretariat. CEO is the key person to implement all the decisions in the EGREE region through this secretariat. CEO will take necessary directions from the Governing Body and Advisory Committee for implementing the project activities. He is accountable only to the Governing Body. CEO is an important portfolio in effective implementation of the EGREE project objectives and will be the bridge that connects all the three bodies
With the intervention of Government of India, UNDP – GEF Project ‘Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Conservation into Production Sectors in the East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem, Andhra Pradesh’ various sectors like Fisheries, Aquaculture, Tourism, Industries, Oil and Gas Sectors, Ports and Shipping, Salt Pans, Fertilizers and Municipality Development Corporation have come forward for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity in the eco-fragile EGREE region and has agreed to be part of EGREE Foundation. During the last three years of implementation of EGREE Project, it created a remarkable change in the attitudes and perceptions of these production sectors, communities, line departments and local administration towards biodiversity conservation. To sustain and amplify this remarkable change among the various stakeholders in the EGREE region, ‘EGREE Foundation is strengthened as a cross-sectoral platform for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity in EGREE region in the near future. EGREE Foundation facilitates effective implementation of the objectives of EGREE Project such as implementation of biodiversity friendly sectoral plans for individual sectors like fisheries, oil and gas industries, aquaculture, tourism sector plans, and Biodiversity Friendly Landscape Plan for the EGREE region. The Foundation will also be responsible for the implementation of the Strategic Management Plan of the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary prepared under the project. It will also facilitate dovetailing corporate social responsibility funds for biodiversity conservation from the production sectors operating in EGREE region.
- Micro Level Governance Model for Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Conservation: The EGREE Foundation rules and byelaws were finalized after conducting one to one consultations with all the high level government officials. Even before full-fledged functioning of the EGREE Foundation, the unique landscape level governance model of EGREE Foundation has already been replicated by other similar projects like UNDP-GEF Sindhudurg Project implemented in India. The said governance model is now being replicated for conservation of Elephant Reserves in India and also in consideration for adopting in the new UNDP-GEF High Altitude Mountain Ranges Conservation Project.
- Initiatives of Corporates in Biodiversity Conservation: Corporate establishments like Reliance Oil and Gas Industries are willing to collaborate with EF to include community livelihood activities into their CSR programmes. Advocacy programmers conducted till date to all the corporate bodies in the EGREE Region are showing a positive response and the corporates are demonstrating biodiversity conservation considerations. Corporate houses like Coromandel Fertilizers, Oil and Natural Gas, Reliance Industries, CAIRN Energy, GMR, A.P. Pollution Control Board, GSPC have availed incentives by promoting biodiversity friendly practices. Many business giants and corporates like Reliance, Coromandal International Ltd, International Papers, CAIRN energy etc., have already expressed their willingness to support the EGREE foundation’s activities. EGREE Foundation is compiling the best practices available globally for each sector, which are to be incorporated in their business planning.
- Potential to attract funds from Corporates for strengthening Conservation Sector: EGREE Foundation has great potential for receiving funds from production sectors for conservation related activities, as the recent amendment of company laws in India states that 2% of profits have to be spent for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Therefore, considering the good will and trust gained by the EGREE project and the appreciation of the project objectives in the EGREE region, all the production sectors are approaching EGREE Foundation for supporting its objectives by aligning their CSR funds towards the foundation’s biodiversity conservation activities.
- Wider scope for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity in Andhra Pradesh: EGREE project was initially proposed in and around Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary for its implementation mainly for conserving EGREE region from the neo-economic challenges faced from the production sectors. However, the EGREE Project and EGREE Foundation have gained more relevance for the Government of Andhra Pradesh. This is because on 2nd June 2014, the state of Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into two states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The entire coast is intact under the Andhra Pradesh state, which now resembles Portugal or Somalia or Peru, with a coastline of 960 Kms. Under these circumstances, and given the goodwill that the Foundation has generated in a short span of time, the role of EGREE Foundation is likely to expand beyond EGREE region in coming days.