Keystone has guests visiting all through the year, and one such interested guest who wanted to know about our work visited recently. He was quite impressed by the work each group does separately and also has a holistic approach towards ecology, biodiversity, livelihood and market. He also wanted Keystone to work in his estate which he owned and located around the Aracode region in Kotagiri. We were asked to write a proposal focusing on aspects of Bee Keeping, Soil and Water Conservation and Eco – Restoration.

A proposal along with budget was sent to Mr. Srini (owner of the estate). Bala and Gokul visited the Anjanagiri estate, a small tea estate amidst forests on the eastern slopes of the Nilgiris.  A drive from the Kotagiri town towards Sholurmattam and Kadasolai gets you into this estate. This 20-acre estate is surrounded by thick jungle, where we heard a number of birds singing on arriving at the estate gate. There goes a small forest path with steps which leads us to the Rangaswamy peak temple where people from various regions around the Nilgiris and from Coimbatore district visit once a year for a festival.DSC04969We were welcomed by Mr. Srini and the managers of the estate and premises Mr.Anand and Dr.Charles. This was the first step before starting work in the estate. We from the water team comprising of four lead the discussion on how the watershed will be studied and what can be done, and we were given a go ahead signal from Mr. Srini immediately. We visited their premises several times after that as a team and sometimes individually just to understand the area better. Mr.Anand and Dr.Charles took us around the estate, where we made observations on various aspects of Water sources like Wells, Springs and the Geology in the region.

Our second visit was to conduct a pumping test in one of their open wells. This exercise was done to understand the aquifer characteristics and its capacity to store and transmit water to the well. The more interesting part of this work was to create a small reservoir at the entrance of the estate. The check dam which was built years ago was a leaky structure which let out water to drain into the nearby stream.DSC04927

With the help of Mr. Robert Leo who heads the Appropriate technology programme in Keystone, a design was proposed to repair and redo the check dam to create a small reservoir. This reservoir is not just for the estate’s use or aesthetic beauty but also for the Indian Gaur, Elephants and other small mammals to come drink water during their walk past this estate.

The above map was prepared to suggest potential areas and plans for implementing soil and water conservation measures. Soil and Water Conservation along with Rainfall monitoring in the Tea estates is a need of the hour to understand and battle the run-off, soil erosion and ground water recharge issues across the Nilgiris district. A report was prepared with the data collected and suggestions along with implementation plans were shared with the estate.

Working with the personnel and the landscape was a completely new experience for the group. It was a pleasure to work with like minded people who think about Water as a scarce resource that needs conservation effort not just for human use but also for wildlife to access. It was surprising to see the wildlife friendly estate with minimum fencing, allowing wildlife to walk freely across the estate to move into adjacent forest patches. By taking up the Soil and Water conservation measures along with Bee Keeping and Avenue planting, this estate is moving towards an eco-friendly environment along with its green surroundings.

The Avenue plantations and the Bee story with Bear threats will follow up in coming months.