Country's first inventory of urban biodiversity to kick off in Kolkata

Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times

Kolkata, Nov. 1 -- It would the country's first inventory of urban-biodiversity. A city-based NGO, experts of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and Vigyan Prasar have come together to prepare the urban-biodiversity of Kolkata. And what could be more ideal than to kick off the project on the World Ecology Day, which is being celebrated on November 1.

"The idea is to prepare a list of the species, which are found in and around the city and their present status. We would be starting it with certain pockets that are home to several species of reptiles, birds, insects and mammals.

"This is the first such inventory on urban biodiversity in India," said Dipayan Dey, director of South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE).

While preparing the inventory, experts would also study the species, which were not of Indian origin and was introduced in our system at some point of time, their status now, whether they are threatening our endemic species etc. Some of these species such as water-hyacinth, tilapia fish have thrived to such an extent that they have become invasive species at present.

The project would start off on Thursday when at least three teams comprising experts and students would visit certain pockets within the city, which are known to be ecologically vibrant.

Some of the locations that have been identified are East Kolkata Wetlands, Rabindra Sarovar, a few graveyards and parks, the creeks, which comes out of the river Hooghly among others.

Dey said the idea was mooted at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity held in Hyderabad. While it is being kicked off on the World Ecology Day on November 1, the target is to publish the inventory in the form of a book on May 22, 2013 which is observed as International Day for Biological Diversity.

He added that while the NBA would be providing the expertise and required training, NGO officials and school students would do the fieldwork. The students who would be picked up from schools and colleges would be trained on how to collect samples and take photographs among others. They would be also trained in photography so that they can take pictures the species.

"India is home to more than 92,000 species of animals and every year we are adding more to the list as new species are being identified. But we just know their names and how they look. We understand the ecology (lifecycle, habitat, importance etc) of only 5 % -10 % of the species. For the rest we are still in the dark and hence cannot undertake their conservation," said director of the Zoological Survey of India K Venkataraman. If the project proves to be successful the NGO plans to take the initiative to other metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai as well.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.