OMCAR Foundation (Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness, and Research) was founded by Dr Balaji Vedharajan in 2007, with a special focus to conserve the Palk Bay ecosystem, especially the conservation of dugongs, seagrasses, and mangroves using scientific and traditional knowledge.
In 2011, OMCAR Palk Bay Environmental Education Centre was established. The centre has been providing an open platform for researchers from the Wild Life Institute of India, SACON, and universities to work on dugongs, seagrasses, mangroves, and other topics related to coastal habitat conservation. In addition to this, OMCAR has been working towards
1) Stranding response for dugongs and other marine mammals
2) Training for Tamil Nadu Forest Academy staff on Dugong and Seagrass conservation methods
3) Field trips for rural/coastal school students to educate them on marine conservation
4) Providing support for dugong habitat conservation research
5) Alternative livelihood support for artisanal fishing communities
6) Facilitation of stakeholder conservation meetings
7) Designing marine education toolkits
8) Providing technical support for coastal restoration and
9) Establishment of Dugong Conservation Reserve in Palk Bay.
At the centre, we conduct educational camps for students from the school in coastal villages to provide them with an opportunity to learn about dugongs and other marine life through our underwater film show, scuba demonstration, marine conservation rescue, research equipment and solar cookers. We provide transport, food, and all of our field trip services free of cost for these schools. Apart from this, the centre also serves as an emergency response and shelter for poor fisher families during natural disasters and organizes health camps for fishers with the local government.
Our cyclone response protected fisher families during the cyclone and food distribution after the cyclone. Moreover, our covid response with instructions from MHA, Govt of India, and the District Government benefitted around 5000 families in 2020-2021.
OMCAR’s sustainable livelihood programs - goat donations, vegetable gardens, and tree saplings have positively impacted the northern Palk Bay coastal villages since 2007. Also, fisherwomen have 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.
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.