DSP Investment Managers (DSPIM), part of the DSP Group – a 152-year-old Indian financial firm -, is one of the premier asset management companies in India, with over 20 years of a track record of investment excellence. As a responsible corporate house, DSPIM has been engaging in various CSR activities with its focus in areas on women empowerment, child education, sanitation and water management. DSPIM’s mission is also to save India’s forests and wildlife. In a conversation with CSR Mandate, Ramamoorthy Rajagopal, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Board Member – CSR Committee, DSP Investment Managers details these different CSR initiatives the company is undertaking.
What are the different initiatives of DSPIM in the field of environment, water management and sustainability?
Our CSR Committee has a separate group named Paryavaran which focus on environmental issues. This team is currently focusing on wildlife conservation and water conservation in the drought-prone areas of Maharashtra.
We support the Sujalam Suphalam programme being implemented by Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS) which focuses on the improvement of village water resources by undertaking rejuvenation of water bodies and undertaking watershed treatments for augmentation of groundwater. The programme also focuses on building community capacity for undertaking various social disciplines for improved water management. This is a unique collaboration amongst several stakeholders like State Government, District Administration, Gram Panchayat, CSR and Civil Society Organisations. Active involvement and ownership of the community lead to greater sustainability.
Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS) is working extensively in various drought-prone areas in Maharashtra. DSP supported BJS in Buldhana district during pre-monsoon in 2019 which helped desilt 479 structures across various talukas and led to an increase in water storage capacity of 282 crore litres.
We work extensively with WCT for the upliftment and development of buffer villages of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra focussing on health, education, skill development and sanitation (including employee-engagement activity involving village work).
We work with Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) to generate long-term spatial data on tiger densities and population dynamics of tigers outside Protection Areas (PA) to influence the larger tiger conservation policy framework at the landscape and national level. Another objective is to build the capacity of forest staff and other stakeholders in monitoring tiger populations outside PAs and use of individual-level data in human-tiger conflict mitigation, planning mitigation measures for linear infrastructures and monitor tiger dispersal events.
We also support WCT’s “One-Health Project” for safeguarding the conservation-capacities of forest staff by improving their access to healthcare at work.
Environment and forest conservation is low down in the list of priorities of policymakers. A human population of nearly 1.4 billion is putting tremendous pressure on natural resources such as water and wood, both of which originate in the last remaining forests. Forest degradation due to dependence of marginalised communities on the forest and fragmentation due to large infrastructure projects together are negatively impacting the overall biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems and also reducing the ability of forests to sequester carbon
Can you tell us more about the activities carried by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) for wildlife conservation and its subsequent impact?
Currently, WCT works in and around 160 Protected Areas across 23 States in the country covering 82 per cent of India’s 50 tiger reserves, 21 per cent of the 769 Protected Areas and impacting a population base of approximately 3.5 million people. WCT aims to reduce anthropogenic pressure on forests and river systems through a robust and tested 360-degree approach involving the forest department, local communities, corporates and other NGOs, with a firm belief in landscape-level conservation, factoring in the needs of people dependent on these forests. The communities living in and around India’s forests depend heavily on forest produce to supplement their income.
WCT imparts vocational training to young people and co-ordinates with over 100 job providers to find them gainful employment, thereby reducing their dependency and negative impact on forests. WCT works extensively with government schools in forests by building the capacity of teachers, providing infrastructural support and creating alternative avenues for learning. WCT also conducts health camps, providing relief to both villagers and forest department staff. WCT’s efforts in these three areas are greatly complimented by our protection initiatives.
WCT works closely with forest departments to ensure that they have the best equipment and training to carry out their duties. In a first of its kind initiative, WCT provided multi-utility rescue vehicles to parks to tackle man-animal conflict and also equipped 2,100 anti-poaching camps in over 60 parks. WCT’s team has imparted enforcement training to over 8,700 staff and continues to conduct sessions in forest institutes. Above all, WCT conducts scientific research to push for more robust wildlife management policies.
DSPIM has been associated with WCT for a while now. Could you list down the challenges you continue to face in wildlife conservation?
Environment and forest conservation is low down in the list of priorities of policymakers. A human population of nearly 1.4 billion is putting tremendous pressure on natural resources such as water and wood, both of which originate in the last remaining forests. Forest degradation due to dependence of marginalised communities on the forest and fragmentation due to large infrastructure projects together are negatively impacting the overall biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems and also reducing the ability of forests to sequester carbon. Additionally, the pressure of poaching on species such as the tiger, Asian elephant, Indian one-horned rhinoceros, Indian pangolin, sloth bear and several other species persists. With help from WCT, we are trying to address the all-important issue of forest and wildlife conservation. We believe that environmental degradation plays a big role in impacting the economy of any nation, which in turn has a cascading effect on the social well-being of its people. Going forward, we will continue to strengthen the protection of India’s forests and river-systems and build capacity in rural communities so they don’t have to depend on the forests for their daily subsistence.
Has there been any behavioural or attitudinal shift among the stakeholders while implementing the conservation programme? Are there any areas of concern you would like to state?
Through our project partner WCT’s fieldwork, we have come to know that there is a direct correlation between the financial security of the rural communities and the quality of forests. If good alternatives are available, people are willing to reduce their dependence on the forest. This gradually improves both the biodiversity and the quality of forests. We have also seen that landscape-scale data on large carnivores (tigers and leopards) that WCT is collecting gives great insights into the quality of forests, river systems, corridors, and pressures such as forest degradation, fragmentation, grazing, linear infrastructure, poaching and forest fire. This will eventually be captured in a whitepaper that will help policymakers in better land-use planning so that conservation and development can go hand in hand. We at DSPIM believe that economy and ecology are closely linked and that each is dependent on the other.
Why just Maharashtra? Are you planning to focus on other States and regions as well in the future?
Given that we are located in Maharashtra, it helps in engaging with the project much better. We believe in providing opportunities to our employees to engage in social initiatives as nearly 50 per cent of our employee base is in Maharashtra.
Sustainability concerns bring into fore the issues of hunger, education, gender equality. How are the programmes implemented in DSPIM to address these issues at hand?
In addition to the environment, our CSR efforts are focussed around education and empowerment of children, with special emphasis on underprivileged children and education and empowerment of adolescent girl children.
On Child Education, we support schools that provide high quality and holistic learning to underprivileged children who cannot otherwise access it. These English medium schools open the door for rural children to prepare for higher studies
Education and Empowerment of Children
We focus on the three core pillars of a holistic child development i.e. safety, nutrition, and education.
Under Child Protection and Safety, we support organisations who work tirelessly to protect children from the threats of human trafficking by defending their rights and dignity, providing a safe environment, supporting their education and health and leading major advocacy efforts.
On the Child Nutrition front, we work with organisations that build replicable, evidence-based solutions with communities, governments and public health systems to improve outcomes of vulnerable urban women and children. We also support an organisation that serves mid-day meals in municipal schools.
On Child Education, we support schools that provide high quality and holistic learning to underprivileged children who cannot otherwise access it. These English medium schools open the door for rural children to prepare for higher studies.
Empowerment of Adolescent Girl Children
We are part of the 10 to 19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC) that unites funders, technical experts, the government and social organisations to drive collaborative action and ensure that adolescents are educated, healthy and empowered to make positive life choices.
DAC’s vision is a transformed India where millions of adolescents thrive with dignity and equity. The mission is to drive a collaborative action towards scalable impact to ensure that adolescents are educated, healthy and empowered to make positive life choices.
Dasra works closely with a cohort of seven non-profits in specific States by providing significant funding to this core portfolio of high impact non-profits that have the relevant experience and expertise to grow through outcome-led comprehensive adolescent programming. Four non-profits have been selected for implementation in Jharkhand as part of the first phase of the initiative.
What is the way forward for different DSPIM projects? How are the initiatives positioned in the wake of the pandemic?
We will continue to focus on the core issues of the environment, empowerment of children and adolescents. Our projects’ goals are aligned with five of the seventeen United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals viz., Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, and Life on Land.
Our CSR initiatives are run by a Core Committee which is actively supported by separate working committees for each goal i.e. Child Safety & Protection, Child Education & Welfare (Siksha), Child Protection & Safety (Suraksha), Child Nutrition (Poshan), Women Empowerment & Adolescent Girl Development (Shakti), Environment & Wildlife (Paryavaran), and Higher Education & Promotion of Sports (Disha). In addition to financial grants, each of the Core Committee members along with their respective Working Committee members work very closely with the NGOs to ensure that the desired levels of impact are achieved. DSP’s employee engagement programmes provide a great platform for its employees to engage with these NGOs.
During the current COVID pandemic, we are working with the State/Municipal administration groups and NGOs to provide relief in the form of medicines, PPE kits, food distribution, daily essentials, etc.