Dhaara – Digest for July 2021

धारा (dhaara; stream)

Greetings for a new month!

Rain is one of the things that sets a dhaara, a stream, in motion. Record rainfall in July triggered streams and rivers to flood many regions across the country.

It’s rarely possible to tame the forces of nature. Have a go at this simulation game by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction to see just how tricky flood-mitigation measures can prove to be. We can, at best, buffer ourselves if we act in time.

At the Rainmatter Foundation, we spent the month tying up the loose ends of ongoing discussions and plans. This included grant support for the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) to carry out an assessment of the water situation across six locations in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and develop tools with the local communities so they can identify and implement solutions as per their needs.

Our sapling giveaway initiative is slowly gaining pace. Five organisations and three individuals have taken 10,000 saplings thus far.
Akshayakalpa is the latest organisation to plant 500 saplings along a one-kilometer stretch of the road in Tiptur, Karnataka. A lot more saplings remain in the nursery. If you can help us find permanent spots for them, please email Divya, who can assist on available species, number of saplings as well as coordinate logistics:
[email protected]

Saplings planted at Akshayakalpa

Saplings being planted near Akshayakalpa’s dairy factory in Tiptur, Karnataka. Photo courtesy: Akshayakalpa

About the proposed Social Stock Exchange

We also spent considerable time attempting to understand the proposed Social Stock Exchange (SSE) being mooted by the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

India has at least 31 lakh non-profit organisations (NPOs), more than double the number of schools and 250 times the number of government hospitals, according to an estimate in this
report by SEBI’s SSE technical group. Broadly, the idea behind the Exchange is to allow these lakhs of NPOs to raise money from the market as well as for donors/investors to be able to access information and measure the impact of their contributions.

Here are some observations:

The good: Some of the proposals are likely to encourage individuals and organisations to donate to NPOs. For instance, the technical group has proposed that first time retail investors be allowed to avail a 100% tax exemption on a maximum investment of Rs 1 lakh in the SSE Mutual Fund structure. It has also proposed doing away with the 10% cap on income eligible for deduction under 80G, for donations to all NPOs that benefit from the SSE.

The bad: Apart from NPOs, the SSE is also meant for for-profit social enterprises (FPEs) wanting to raise funds. The technical group has not defined, for now, what constitutes an FPE. The group’s logic is that enterprises should be able to “choose whether they want to be categorised as a social enterprise, and consequently commit to additional reporting on social impact”. This is a grey area and may not augur well for the Exchange and NPOs in the long-term.

The ugly: The Exchange seeks to bring in transparency in the NPO sector by mandating increased reporting (financial, social and governance). While transparency in itself is good to aim for, mechanisms that are dependent on information risk leaving out the smallest of NPOs from the SSE’s ambit. The Exchange also risks alienating organisations whose effort and/or impact may not render itself to being adequately captured/reported. For instance, organisations involved in prison reform, environmental justice, digital rights and other areas wherein existing systems and processes are stacked against them.

In addition, the proposals ask that NPOs furnish “more refined statements of intent, more rigorous assessments of the social impact, shift towards outcomes-oriented measurement, granular disclosures of governance mechanisms and financial operations”. It notes that “difficulties of measuring outcomes have, in practice, been overcome to some extent by funding platforms such as GiveIndia and GuideStar”. At the same time, it places emphasis on “social auditors” that “can be required to do independent verification of such reporting”. The worry with these proposals is that it might lead to the creation of middlemen agencies. This can turn out to be problematic, and run counter to the spirit of the entire endeavour. Such agencies may gain unchecked power and influence upon the NPO-donor-Exchange ecosystem, especially since no counter-balancing mechanisms have been proposed to regulate them.

As of now, the Social Stock Exchange is a concept that exists on paper. It’s a worthy idea, and one that needs deep and deliberate consultations with all stakeholders. Its realisation and eventual value to these stakeholders, especially to the NPOs, will depend on some of these critical, early choices that are made.

From the community

Waste warriors is partnering with the NCR-based
Architecture for Dialogue to design Dharamshala’s first material recovery facility. Waste Warriors wants the space to be more inclusive as well as educational for waste workers who will come there to deposit collected dry waste. You can read more about Waste Warriors’ recent work

The Nature Conservation Foundation‘s (NCF) scientists and researcher Chayant Gonsalves studied how rainforest birds fare in different kinds of tea plantations (conventional tea with agrochemical use, organic tea, tea with mixed native shade) compared to in rainforest fragments and continuous forests. They note in their
research paper that while all tea plantations are poorer than rainforests for birds, incorporating native shade tree species in tea plantations can help aid in bird conservation at the landscape level (Authors’ note: Table 2 in the paper is incorrect and will shortly be corrected by an Erratum in the journal).

NCF planted about 5,530 saplings of around 130 rainforest tree species at seven sites in the Valparai Plateau during May, June and early July. The plantation is part of their rainforest restoration efforts in the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu, now in its 21st year. Photo courtesy: NCF

NCF co-founder and now an independent researcher, Dr MD Madhusudan, has been selected to be the
first recipient of the Obaid Siddiqi Chair in the History and Culture of Science at the
Archives at NCBS, Bengaluru.


📌 Bengaluru tree census app: The Karnataka Forest Department and Bengaluru’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), launched an app to crowd-source information for the city’s tree census. Residents can download the Tree Census app (for
Android and
Apple users) to start uploading photos, GPS coordinates and other details of trees standing on private lands. Do note that a tree is defined as one which has a minimum girth of 27.5cms. Once uploaded, Forest officials will verify the details.

📌 Watch Mongabay India editor S Gopikrishna Warrier talk about the next
significant report about climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Assessment Report 6, and its relevance to India.

📌 Karma points if you can help Waste Warriors find a funding partner for its solid waste management project for rural villages near Ramnagar outside the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand. Get in touch with Vishal: [email protected]

📌 CWS is recruiting for several positions including environment economist, animator, outreach coordinator and geospatial analyst. All positions, job descriptions and application information is
here. Apply, recommend or spread the word (bonus karma points).

📌 The directory of services focusing on environment and sustainability is off to a good start. Much gratitude for your suggestions. And do keep them coming –


We learnt that Vepanapalli village in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district, where we are developing a permaculture farm, likely derives its name from the neem tree;
Vepa maram is Tamil for neem tree. Villagers pick neem seeds and sell them in Vepanapalli for approx Rs30/kg. The seeds are then transported to be processed into oil, which, in turn, is used as an ingredient in ayurvedic medicines, for pesticides and for other applications.

A resident in Vepanapalli village shows some neem seeds. Photo courtesy: Ganeshram/Rainmatter Foundation

Parting shot

Ever paused to think about why we buy so much stuff? Sociologist Juliet Schor says it’s not just advertisements, but societal factors too play a role in consumerism. Money, displayed in terms of consumer goods, becomes a measure of worth, and that’s really important to people. To meet climate targets, we will need to consume differently and consume less. #insightful #long #totally-worth-it

Until next time, may your roads be auspicious,

śubhāste panthānaḥ santu

Team Rainmatter Foundation

This entry was posted in Digest, General on by .

About Marisha

Resident listener at the Rainmatter Foundation. A large part of her role is to listen... not just to the people and entities Rainmatter engages with, but also to the message that the planet has been sending: we have to be sustainable, not extractive.

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