Tata Steel is pursuing a collaborative approach on biodiversity by engaging the employees and local communities through various awareness programmes and workshops. The Company’s future endeavors will be aimed at enhancing strategic partnerships with organisations and agencies to collaborate on biodiversity conservation projects.
Apart from being recognised by the CII-ITC, Tata Steel has also bagged several industry awards for its work in the areas of sustainability and biodiversity. This year, Tata Steel launched its new corporate brand campaign ‘We Also Make Tomorrow’ inspired from its work done in the areas of technology, innovation and sustainability.
Tata Steel has a four tiered approach, which consists of two phases: first phase is the development phase where Tata Steel sets its vision and strategic objectives and the long-term strategies (LTS) to achieve them. The second phase is the deployment phase in which the strategies are converted into action plans through the process of long-term planning (LTP) and annual business planning (ABP).
Tata Steel has consciously invested in biodiversity conservation. The Company has been actively working with the several organisations, to enhance its performance in biodiversity conservation and significantly reducing its impact on ecosystem and biodiversity. Being a business leader in steel making, mining, and manufacturing, the Company is going beyond the regulatory regimes and setting high standards for itself on the social and environmental matters.
Today, sustainability and particularly creating and maintaining excellence in biodiversity is an essential element of how Tata Steel runs its business. Tata Steel launched its Biodiversity Policy in 2016. The policy provides guidelines for including biodiversity in every strategic and operational decision making. The Company is aligning its actions with the National Biodiversity Targets set in 2014 (India level), Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010 (Global level) and Sustainable Development Goals to integrate biodiversity into its business ecosystem and enable a better tomorrow for future generations.
This journey has started with Tata Steel’s engagement with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2013. This engagement is part of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity programme. It seeks to encourage transformational and demonstrable change at the company and sector level on importance of biodiversity conservation relevant to industry and thereby bring about positive gains for conservation at the local and landscape level.
IUCN conducted a baseline survey of Tata Steel’s locations and gave its recommendations on biodiversity management. This included biodiversity assessments, ground truthing studies, secondary research, including stakeholder interactions and understanding the eco-system services provided by the biodiversity. The risks to biodiversity and eco-system services from the Company’s operations and community behaviour were identified and then used to develop its biodiversity conservation and management plan.
IUCN believes that engagement with Tata Steel will not only help the Company reduce its footprint on ecology but would also inspire other companies in going beyond the regulatory regime and bring positive gains for conservation, enhancement and restoration of biodiversity. In the interest of conservation, the Company has committed to avoid acquisition of properties whose development may result in loss of critical habitat for species with special conservation status. The aim of Tata Steel’s Biodiversity Policy is ‘No Net Loss of biodiversity’.
Tata Steel has rolled out Biodiversity Management Plans (BMPs) with IUCN for all its mines in the state of Jharkhand and Odisha. The overall focus of BMP is biodiversity conservation and enhancement in and around the mining sites. BMPs are integrated with the requirements of progressive mine closure plans as well as environment clearance conditions, while including requirements of global standards on biodiversity conservation and mine restoration i.e. World Bank/ International Finance Corporation (IFC) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).
Following are biodiversity initiatives which are contributing towards the biodiversity conservation:
Tata Steel’s Noamundi Iron Ore Mine is naturally endowed with a lower stripping ratio and the overburden produced has been utilised in reclamation/restoration of the mine. Restoration was scientifically engineered over a period of many decades, while implementation of the afforestation plan was a joint exercise with local stakeholders. The Company has covered a 126-hectare area across which was adopted for progressive reclamation. The afforestation has made the restored mined out area a habitat for local birds and animal species today. Local stakeholders use these regenerated forests as a source of livelihood, extracting traditional medicinal plants, minimising the impact on other natural forests. Plantation of native species in dump helps reclaim the mine to its original position, which is in harmony with surrounding virgin forest. Developing local forest as part of progressive reclamation plan helps in achieving the goals of final mine closure plan.
Niche Nesting was taken as one of Project identified under Biodiversity Management Plan to improve Birds’ Biodiversity at Noamundi. Location of nest and Its monitoring was done in Geographic Information System (GIS) Platform.
Niche, is a space selected by any animal or plant species for feeding, resting, sleeping, nesting, breeding, and growing plants. A niche creates a secure space for species with less competition from other species and the freedom to grow.
With guidance from IUCN scientists, Noamundi has developed the nest boxes and placed it at the various locations in reclaimed areas of the mining site.
The Jugsalai Muck Dump (JMD) was formed over the years by dumping of cinder and slag, mainly consisting of iron and coal having 64% of sand and 36% of silt content. These characteristics of soil reveal that the site is devoid of any organic matter and also has high temperature. Hence not conducive for sustainable biological growth in normal conditions. JMD is situated in the city of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand State of India. The population of city is 13.4 lakhs. JMD area is spread over an area of 62 acers, the dump height level is variable from 133 m to 188 m above mean sea level having varied slopes, terraces and locations. The dumping has yielded a high level of undulation and the site is devoid of organic matters sustainable for vegetative growth. JMD was posed environmental, safety and health hazards for the people of Jamshedpur.
The objective of JMD development was to create environmentally safe and sustainable ‘Green Cover’ and suitable ‘Geo Green Blanketing’ to protect side slopes and prevent soil erosion and dust control while adding aesthetic value to the steel city of Jamshedpur. One of main focus area of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and to rehabilitate the degraded lands and create forest cover for arresting desertification.
Due to sandy soil texture, there was a high probability of ash and cinder being washed off from the dump slope into nearby waterbodies during heavy rains. Fire hazard was also anticipated as the dump was formed with the stacking of ash and cinders of unburnt coal which when exposed to air could result in spontaneous combustion specially in the peak summer months. This posed a severe health and safety hazards especially for those who engaged in illegal collection of unburnt coal particles from the dump. The temperature of the majority of the dump area due to the burning of the half-burned coal, is around 50 to 70oC, which was a huge challenge for growing plants. Considering the soil conditions and characteristics of the JMD, a comprehensive rehabilitation plan has been implemented for slope stabilization and vegetative growth for biological reclamation of the muck dump. Eco-restoration approach implemented with 100% biodegradable non-synthetic geotextile coir mat and coir logs on the dump slope and with application of growing media in slurry form of minimum 5 cm thickness, with a ratio of Neo-peat, top soil, and manure with micro nutrients before and after laying of the geotextile coir mat, followed by plantation of grass and shrubs. Therefore, to have a sustainable green cover over such a soil texture is to create a surface which enhanced water retention, provide better aeration, improve physical and biological conditions of soil and promote development of root system which has given strength of dump soil stabilization. One of the important features of this project was to develop a sustainable source of water supply to the JMD site, because there was no such water source which could provide a perennial water source for the sustenance of biological reclamation proposed through propagation of vegetative growth over the dump slope surface as well as in the non-slope areas. It was proposed to reuse the drain water from one of the big drains running near to the dump site to start the eco reclamation process. Additionally, once the slopes were stabilized at the dump site and a table top was created, rainwater harvesting system was also created within the eco-park for self-sustenance of the eco-park.
JMD is helping in achieving this objective of UNCCD by arresting the soil erosion and assisting in air pollution control and checking in the contamination of water of bodies through plantation and dump reclamation as eco-park. Considering the biodiversity conservation through restoration, rehabilitation and managing ecosystem services JMD has become home for different species medicinal plants, birds, small animals, butterflies etc. To minimise emissions and mitigate climate change, JMD contribute in stopping fire hazard caused during peak summers. Water bodies created within the reclaimed dump, not only help in rain water harvesting but have also enhanced the biodiversity with fishes and ducks. The water fountain in water bodies help in aeration of water bodies and also provide an appealing look to the entire area. Pond Liners are used to prevent seepage and leaching. Solar Energy is also being harnessed at the Park for generation of electricity for irrigation and lighting. JMD is now developed as an eco-park and has also enhanced the biodiversity in the area and also minimize the environmental impact of a dump area.