Private equity firm WestBridge Capital and Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies have jointly committed Rs 5.5 crore to set up two new centres at the Bengaluru-based research institution, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).
The two will engage with policy leaders on issues such as climate change and look at using the research grant to offer sustainable business opportunities for local communities.
The Centre for Policy Design and Centre for Social and Environmental Innovation — to be set up at ATREE’s campus — will focus on research and formulation of sustainable and scalable policies to address socio-environmental problems. They are expected to tackle critical problems such as invasive species, climate management, and food systems.
“We need to do more research and also create an environment where the research leads to better policy making,” Rohini Nilekani, who is also a board member of ATREE, said. ATREE is among India’s few environmental organisations that do research over long periods to understand the impact of shifts in environment, which is valuable when faced with climate change, she said. Sandeep Singhal, MD of WestBridge Capital, said the growing conversation about climate change triggered the grant to promote environment related issues.
“The situation is like everyone’s house is on fire,” Singhal said. “(Influencing) policies take time, it requires investment”. ATREE, besides providing policy inputs to tackle environmental degradation, is also looking to provide sustainable income for local communities living near forests. It also has set up programmes to commercially exploit invading species such as Lantana in Biligiriranga hills in Karnataka.
“With biodiversity, water and climate change being our focus areas, we intend to look at issues from an interdisciplinary standpoint and to put the research to use to address real world problems. In fact, the Westbridge and Rohini’s initiative to fund the project has triggered interest among other funders too, with whom we are seeing potential participation in future,” Nitin Pandit, director of ATREE, said.