Ambuja Cements, India: Biodiversity conservation through mining reclamation

Ambuja Cements, India: Biodiversity conservation through mining reclamation

Ambuja Cements' first plant and mines in Kodinar, Gujarat, are between the Arabian Sea and the Gir Sanctuary and National Park, which together are designated a Protected Area. This area is a Coastal Regulation Zone where, due to over-withdrawal and faulty cropping patterns, there is a serious rise in salinity.

In this context, Ambuja Cements doesn't see its mining rehabilitation as just a legal requirement, but as part of its commitment to conserve the micro-ecosystem in particular, and biodiversity in general, in partnership with local community and the government.

Besides creating huge bodies of water in mining areas, Ambuja Cements has been promoting large-scale tree plantations in and around the plant, as well as in the mined-out areas created as part of its mines reclamation project. To conserve the indigenous species of trees which exist in the Gir, a Mini Gir project has been developed which has seen a large number of these trees being planted in the reclaimed mines. Simultaneously, to create awareness of medicinal plants amongst the community, a medicinal garden has also been developed in the same area. Fodder cultivation is another activity taking place within these mine pits. The pits are reclaimed by placing a top layer of fertile soil, and fodder is cultivated in partnership with local villages. The villagers voluntarily work to cultivate fodder as it provides feed for their cattle.

On the periphery of the Gir forest, on large barren tracts of degraded land, Ambuja Cements collaborates with the forest department. As a result, the community has grown local grass species, and small fruit and fodder tree species. As this is a rain-fed project, an irrigation facility has also been created.

Prior to mining, this area was just a rocky wasteland where even grass would not grow. Now, after reclamation of the mines, a substantial quantity of fodder is produced and the area appears like any other fertile land. This change in topography has surprised not just the villagers but also government officials, who claim that they have not seen such reclamation anywhere else in the country.

The barren, degraded patch near the Gir forest has been converted into a lush green area. But Ambuja Cements has not just helped to conserve the forest's rich flora; it is also contributing towards the conservation of the Asiatic lion, an endangered species. Open wells often prove fatal for the lions, but the company has directly contributed to protecting the lions from falling into these wells by constructing parapet walls on the existing wells owned by the farmers.