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OMCAR Foundation

OMCAR Foundation (Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness, and Research) was founded in 2007 with a special focus on conserving the Palk Bay ecosystem - especially the conservation of dugongs, agrasses, and mangroves using a combination of scientific and traditional knowledge. In 2011, OMCAR Palk Bay Environmental Education Centre was established. The centre provides an open platform for researchers from different institutions to work in areas related to coastal habitat conservation. Additionally, OMCAR also works on alternative livelihood support for artisanal fishing communities, facilitation of stakeholder conservation meetings, designing marine education toolkits and the like.

Palk Bay is situated between the southeast coast of India and Sri Lanka. The communities, consisting mostly of fisherpeople, are vulnerable to cyclones and other natural disasters. In 2018, when the region experienced the devastating Gaja cyclone, the aftermath of the cyclone revealed extensive damage to the villages.

Founded by Balaji Vedharajan PhD, OMCAR Foundation aims to conserve the Palk Bay ecosystem through participatory marine resource management. They do this by raising community awareness about nature conservation, enhancing community engagement in conservation efforts, and conducting research on coastal resource management.

Over time, the Foundation has developed partnerships with local governments, communities, and organizations both in India and other countries. In 2012, they became a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

OMCAR Foundation’s innovation lies in using technology to address the needs of vulnerable communities at the grassroots level. In addition to GIS mapping, they also trained their staff to use mobile apps for surveying vulnerable households and collecting the data in a central dashboard.

In order to get the technology to those who need it the most, the Foundation identifies the most vulnerable individuals and empowers local NGOs to replicate their approach. They go beyond data collection, offering support to families based on their needs. As the organisation grows, they want to prioritise pre-informed decision-making processes for coastal villages in India.

OMCAR Foundation’s innovative approach that leverages technology has made it possible for vulnerable coastal communities to be better prepared in the times of disasters. Armed with information and awareness, these groups are becoming more resilient and building better, more sustainable lives for themselves and their families.

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