To preserve green cover, auto firm leads climate action

Chennai-based conservationist Preston Ahimaz talks about the importance of fighting climate change at the TVS manufacturing plant at Hosur on April 4, 2019.

The sun-beaten face of Preston Ahimaz glows with pride as he watches a flock of painted storks congregate atop a tamarind tree in the middle of a pond, south of Bengaluru.

“We are expecting more and more migratory birds here,” says Ahimaz (62), a noted conservationist, later showing off a new deep-water artificial lake being carved out of the earth about 500 m away, which he says would attract pelicans and other aquatic birds.

Behind Ahimaz rises factory buildings and stainless steel chimneys. An industrial plant churning out motorbikes, mopeds and rickshaws may be the last place to set up a wildlife sanctuary, but that is exactly what is being engineered at the TVS Motor Company’s facility at Hosur.

P Venkatesan, vice-president of estate management at TVS, says when the company first acquired the 325-acre parcel of land located just over the border in Tamil Nadu, in 1978, the area was little more than a collection of rain-fed agricultural fields.

“At the time, we reserved and transformed over 50 acres of land into a forest. In any other factory, that land might have been used as a dumping ground,” he recalls.

Ahimaz, a former state director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Tamil Nadu, now employed as a consultant conservationist, agrees.

“In India, the problem is that people see unused land as unproductive land. Forests become dumping grounds for garbage and wetlands become wastelands because people don’t understand the value of nature,” he points out.

As an example, Ahimaz cites Adyar Poonga, now an ecological park set up by the Tamil Nadu government in 2011. “In the early 2000s, the area around the Adyar estuary was a landfill for trash, but following its restoration, people began to realise the value of nature, and that the value of land outside the park had risen,” says Ahimaz. “Continued destruction of the environment will increase the effects of climate change,” he cautions.

According to Venkatesan, the company spent 20 years developing the forest. The cost of maintenance is Rs 22 and 30 lakh annually. 

Fauna in TVS forest, Hosur

♦ Birds: 125species

♦ Land mammals: Pangolin, jungle cat, slender loris, jackal, fox 

♦ Snakes: 19 species

♦ Butterflies: 52 species

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