Community Environmental Resource Centre is an ATREE Field academy engaged in wetland conservation, sustainable livelihood and climate action. CERC was established in 2007 to put in practice the philosophy of wise use of wetlands by the Ramsar Convention. Since then, CERC has been working in Vembanad region to enhance the capacity and institutional networks of local communities and stakeholders for the sustainable management of wetlands so that it is restored, protected and maintained for generations to come. Wetlands, being more vulnerable to climate change, invites urgent actions and combined efforts to combat threats to the lives and livelihoods. Over the years CERC has been trying to address them by establishing partnerships with various government departments, academic institutions and other civil society organizations. CERC has played a major role in the formation of inclusive institutions for sustainable livelihoods, empowering community for better resilience, promotion of Communication Education and Public Awareness (CEPA), better natural resource management and climate adaptation. The unique and pioneering work of CERC has reckoned its position as an institute of excellence in the area.
The Vembanad estuarine system in Kerala, a designated Ramsar site, is one of the most beautiful and largest humid tropical wetland ecosystems in the south-west coast of India. The veritable presence of numerous canals and streams along with the legendary backwaters, the never-ending panorama of lush green paddy fields, towering coconut trees and thriving birdlife make it a delightful destination for tourism.
This unique backwater with a surface area of 36,500 ha spreads across three districts of the state - Alappuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam. 1.6 million people depend on the lake and its natural ecosystem for their livelihood. Kuttanad region, the southern portion of the Vembanad Wetlands, has developed a unique system of below sea level farming which is declared a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). The six major rivers originating in the Western Ghats - Manimala, Achankovil, Pampa, Periyar, Meenachil and Moovattupuzhayar drain into Vembanad - making it an ‘inland fish basket’ of Kerala.
Eventually, this unique wetland had been subjected to intense human interventions for agriculture and developmental activities.
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) was established in 1996 to help curtail the rapid loss of India's biological resources and natural ecosystems, and work to understand the environmental, social and economic dimensions of this decline. It focuses on applied science through research, education and action that influence policy and practice on the conservation of nature, management of natural resources, and unsustainable development.
ATREE's mission is to promote socially just environmental conservation and sustainable development by generating rigorous interdisciplinary knowledge that engages actively with academia, policymakers, practitioners, activists, students and broader public audiences. A DSIR (Ministry of Science and Technology) institute, ATREE has been ranked as one of the leading environmental think tanks in the world.
For over two decades, ATREE has worked on social-environmental issues from local to global policy levels. ATREE envisions a society committed to environmental conservation and sustainable and socially just development.