Europe and Central Asia
1 Jul 2015

Venturing into new territory, Africa and Asia

Quarry site, Indonesia © Boris Barov
By Boris Barov

Newly industrialised nations are catching-up quickly with ‘western’ standards of consumerism: more money, more cars, more of everything, leading to some of the most spectacular building projects in recent years. The demand for cement and building materials has also been tremendous. This is why the BirdLife and HeidelbergCement partnership has ventured into new territory in Asia and Africa.

With booming construction and development comes a rising expectation for greater transparency, corporate accountability, and respect for the environment, also in newly industrialised and developing nations. This is where the HeidelbergCement-BirdLife Partnership comes timely as a positive role model because at the heart of their strategy is addressing global sustainability priorities while serving local needs. The Partnership is now taking first steps in Indonesia, India and Ghana where environmental, social and cultural sensitivities mix together. 

Indonesia, with only 1% of the earth's land surface, has incredible biodiversity. Its rainforests teem with incredible life - 10% of the world's known plant species, 12% of its mammals - including endangered orangutans and critically endangered Sumatran tigers and rhinos, and 17% of all known bird species. Biodiversity conservation is a top priority for BirdLife here. Regarding Indocement (Heidelberg partner in Indonesia) plants in the country, Tarjun is a remarkable example. Some of the last remnants of tropical rainforest and mangroves of South Kalimantan have been preserved in the vicinity of the plant. They believe that mining in such a sensitive ecosystem while protecting and restoring the most valuable patches requires long term vision and adherence to strict plans. The new partnership will benefit from the great experience of Indocement with CSR programmes, but also the technical understanding of ecosystem restoration which is one of the strengths that Burung (BirdLife partner in Indonesia) brings to the table. 

Land management and natural resources play an important role in the livelihoods of local communities in Ghana, which are often interconnected with biodiversity. As Ghacem’s (Heidelberg partner in Ghana) experience has shown, mining and mine restoration plans are strongly influenced by local stakeholder attitudes to a particular company. The new partnership with the Ghana Wildlife Society will help ensure that the company takes on board local community interests. At the same time they will help the company achieve good quality biodiversity baseline studies, which is a prerequisite for sound management and site restoration. We've seen this in the Yongwa quarry, where restoration of the mining area has aimed to contribute to local subsistence farmers livelihoods and to the restoration of native forests and rare tree species.

In India, HeidelbergCement India Ltd. has recently rehabilited its Narsingarh mining site in Madhya Pradesh. To the benefits of local farmers the rehabilitation has created more land for cultivation. The backfilling of the mining pit also created several water reservoirs which allow the farmers to irrigate and produce one extra harvest each year. However, challenges for biodiversity remain. One is reliance of households for firewood for fuel, leading to severe pressures on the few remaining trees (natural and those planted by the company). A more sustainable energy source for cooking is needed, and so the partnership will try to find solutions with the help of the Bombay Natural History Society. It is hoped that this will result in long term conservation of the biodiversity value of the wider landscape.

It’s an exciting time for BirdLife and HeidelbergCement as they venture into new territory in Asia and Africa. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that economic growth builds on a sustainable foundation from environmental and social perspectives. The first projects are expected to break ground by late summer.

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.