Mind the turtles!

31 March 2010 | News story

Through its engagement in the Dharma Port project in eastern India, IUCN is promoting corporate environmental responsibility and helping protect one of the most abundant, but smallest species of sea turtle – the olive ridleys.

The Dhamra Port is being developed by the Dhamra Port Company Ltd (DPCL), a Joint Venture between a steel company Tata Steel Ltd and an engineering and construction firm, Larsen & Toubro (L&T). The port is situated north of the mouth of the river Dhamra in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. This will be one of the deepest sea ports in India.

The site is located about 15 km north of Gahirmatha, a key mass-nesting site of the olive ridley
turtles, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The potential impact of the project on the turtles and their habitat has raised concerns among conservationists and opposition from environmental groups.

IUCN and DPCL signed a partnership agreement in 2007, with the aim of minimizing the project’s negative impact on turtles and improving its overall environmental performance.

“Developing industry-conservation initiatives from scratch is never easy, but DPCL have stepped up to the plate when required, and have made every modification where IUCN has requested it to do so” says Dr. Nicolas J. Pilcher, Co-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group. “It is not often one gets to work with industry before the first brick is laid, but that is the best time to effect zero-cost difference changes which are environmentally friendly. DPCL and IUCN have proven this time and time again.”

Drawing on its network of experienced scientists and conservationists, IUCN sees that the partnership will produce far-reaching results, beyond turtle conservation. The partnership’s first phase, which focused on mitigating the impact of dredging and the introduction of turtle-friendly lighting, has been successfully concluded and its second phase is currently underway.

The new phase focuses on the development of an Environmental Management Plan to address direct and indirect environmental impacts of the project. A range of complementary activities are also planned, such as exploring possibilities of using renewable sources of energy in the area and assisting the State government in developing and implementing lighting legislation. Continued conservation of olive ridley turtles remains the foremost element of the agreement.

IUCN is working to ensure that this initiative will inspire other projects to address local social and environmental challenges and raise national and global standards of corporate environmental responsibility.

“With its wide-ranging impact, the partnership between IUCN and the Dhamra Port Company is an encouraging step forward in promoting corporate environmental responsibility, and an excellent example of contemporary conservation in action,” says Giulia Carbone of IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Dougherty (Michael.DOUGHERTY@iucn.org), IUCN Asia Regional Communications Coordinator
Dr. Nicolas J. Pilcher (npilcher@mrf-asia.org), Co-Chair IUCN SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, for any technical issues
Dr. J. S. Rawat (jsrawat@iucnt.org), IUCN India Programme
Mr. Amlan Dutta (amlan@dhamraport.com) of Dhamra Port Company Ltd