Pokkali rice fields on the southern fringes of the city. Malabar Trevally and Brown Surgeonfish in the Arabian Sea. Sesarmid crabs and milkfish in the backwaters. These are the kind of floral and faunal wealth even Kochiites wouldn't have been aware of.
All of this thanks to a new illustrated natural assets map of Kochi, Kerala's financial hub, as part of a German-funded project on mainstreaming biodiversity and communicating the significance of a city's ecosystem to its citizens. Spread on a blue-green topography, the map, drawn by illustrator Rohan Chakravarty, captures Kochi's ecological strengths -- its marshlands, heritage towns like Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, open green spaces, prawn-cultivating regions, mangroves and paddy land.
The map also doesn't fail to document the city's urban transport options including the elevated Metro train system and its decades-old inland ferries that connect the city with nearby islands. But perhaps, its biggest feature is how it has portrayed Kochi's avian and fish population, that includes the likes of the famed Brahminy Kite, Blood-spotted swimming crabs, Red-snapper fish and the common Indian mackerel.
The natural asset map was developed as part of the INTERACT-Bio project jointly conducted by the ICLEI South Asia and Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development of the Cochin Corporation. The four-year project seeks to help local bodies and governments with solutions on the utilisation and management of natural resources within an urban landscape.
The project will help governments at all levels, from local to national, in integrating their resources in performing functions such as land-use development, spatial planning, local economic development and infrastructure design. While Kochi was selected as the model city, the project is planned for Panaji and Mangalore as well. The INTERACT-Bio programme is being implemented in India, Brazil and Tanzania as they are signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
At the city-region level, the project will conduct in-country scoping, stakeholder engagement and capacity building. A sub-national biodiversity strategy and action plans will be developed.
At the national level, project partners will attempt to promote nationals-subnational engagement and foster strengthened cooperation between different government levels for improved biodiversity management. The project, which began in January 2017 is expected to conclude by December, next year.