OMCAR Foundation (Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness, and Research) was founded by Dr. Balaji Vedharajan in 2007, for the conservation of dugongs, seagrasses, and mangroves through scientific and traditional knowledge.
In 2011, OMCAR Palk Bay Environmental Education Centre was established. The center has been providing an open platform for researchers from the Wild Life Institute of India, SACON, and universities related to dugongs, seagrasses, and other coastal habitat conservation. In addition to this, OMCAR has been working for 1) Stranding response for dugongs and other marine mammals 2) Dugong and Seagrass conservation methods – training for Tamil Nadu Forest Academy 3) Active marine conservation education field trips to rural-coastal schools 4) Providing support for dugong habitat conservation research 5) Alternative livelihood support for fishers 6) Facilitation of stakeholder conservation meetings 7) Designing marine education tools 8) Providing technical support for coastal restoration and 9) Establishment of Dugong Conservation Reserve in Palk Bay.
Apart from this, the center also serves as an emergency response and shelter for poor fisher families during natural disasters and organized many health camps for fishers with the local government. The students from rural schools have been getting an opportunity to know about dugongs and other marine life through our underwater film show, scuba demonstration, marine conservation rescue, and research equipment and solar cookers.
We provide transport, food, and all of our field trip services free of cost. Fisherwomen benefitted from our livelihood training, which includes dressmaking, cotton bag making, candlemaking, hygiene fish handling, dry fish preservation, mangrove nursery techniques, mangrove plantations, and seagrass transplantation techniques.
OMCAR goat donations, vegetable gardens, and tree saplings have had positive impacts on the northern Palk Bay coastal villages since 2007, and our cyclone response protected fisher families during the cyclone and food distribution after the cyclone. Our covid response with the instructions from MHA, Govt of India, and the District Government has benefitted around 5000 families in 2020-2021.
Local fishers have been trained and involved in our mangrove and seagrass restoration projects. Since 2016, OMCAR has been working with WII and Forest Department for seagrass restoration and dugong conservation in Palk Bay and supported the government through our publications of seagrass mapping and dugong strandings records for declaring Dugong Conservation Reserve in Palk Bay.