Month: December 2009

Workshop on a Biodiversity Management Committee for Pune

Nestling between the Deccan plateau and the Sahyadris or the Western Ghats mountain range, Pune has a variety of natural and semi-natural areas – rivers, streams, wetlands, forested patches and gardens. This green cover and natural areas are part of our city’s unique landscape and character, and make our city beautiful and livable.

Indian traditions include nature conservation everywhere. Several Indian cities have many large banyan, peepal trees that have been recognized as keystone resources. Cities also shelter large wild mammals like monkeys. Pune, in particular, with its hills, lakes and rivers has within the city limits, patches of natural forests, peafowl, barking deer, wild pigs, large flocks of migratory waterfowl etc. The culture of respect of the natural right of all living creatures to exist should not be eroded among city-dwellers.

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Forest Department, other government agencies, corporate groups, academic institutions, schools, several citizens groups and individuals are active in biodiversity conservation in many different ways. Their efforts can be strengthened by many more citizens taking actions as individuals and in collective ways.

Cities have not traditionally been the focus of biodiversity conservation efforts. Attention has been concentrated on protected areas, sites of rich biodiversity, endangered species, the role of traditional resource management strategies by communities directly dependent on biodiversity for livelihood and other reasons, etc. However, the importance of engaging cities in biodiversity conservation was recently recognized by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (see Decision IX/28 Promoting engagement of cities and local authorities). It states that the accelerated rate of urbanization, particularly in developing countries, increasingly concentrates decision-making and resources in cities, thereby creating opportunities for better resource management at the city-level.

People generally readily recognize the aesthetic and environmental conservation values of biodiversity. However, the direct livelihoods and survival related needs of some groups using biodiversity or bio-resources in urban areas are not so well known or understood. Some examples are fuel wood, grazing, collection of tamarind or other fruits, flowers, leaves etc. Recognition of the different values and dependence people have in relation to biodiversity in Pune is an important aspect for improved management. A consideration of both social and environmental dimensions and especially a consideration of the needs of marginalized groups is in line with notions of ‘sustainable development’.

This prize-winning photo by Alexander Fedorov Kyrgyzstan at the ACCU ESD Photo Festival depicts how all members of Kirghiz families join in the weaving of woolen blankets; very much like the tradition of gongali weaving by Dhangars who pass through Pune and depend on bio-resources, but are increasingly displaced by urbanization. (see more about this photo at the end of the post)

In order to discuss these aspects of biodiversity conservation and to get a better understanding of how setting up a Biodiversity Management Committee might help in conservation, CEE organized a workshop on 22 Dec in partnership with Intach and Eaton Technologies Pvt Ltd. Dr Yellappa Reddy, Chair of the Biodiversity Management Committee of Bengaluru city was a key speaker. Such committees are required to be set up by all local self-government bodies, as stipulated in the Indian Biological Diversity Act 2002. Prof. Madhav Gadgil chaired the workshop. About 30 representatives of NGOs, government organizations, government officials, and college students participated in the workshop.

Prof. Gadgil in his opening remarks introduced the Indian Biological Diversity Act 2002 and Rules 2004 and emphasized that the Act gives power to local bodies including Municipal Corporations to take concrete actions for biodiversity conservation and management. An active and vibrant city like Pune must form a Biodiversity Management Committee, as mandated by the Act.

Dr. Reddy informed about the functioning of the Bengaluru Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC). The BMC was formed in 2006. There are 9 members in the committee mainly experts in field of zoology, botany, veterinary sciences, health, pollution, planning etc. An Assistant Conservator of Forest level officer deputed to the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation is the Member Secretary of the Committee.

In the past two years, biodiversity documentation activities have been carried out in 50 electoral wards with the help of college students. A small financial support has been provided through various agencies to these students to undertake activities. Thus, fifty ward-level Biodiversity Registers have been developed. Findings from these registers have been widely publicised through the local media. After the problems related to particular habitats or areas were identified, the remediation/ follow-up was done with Municipal Corporation to take action. Other agencies like Bangalore University have also been involved to develop a Biodiversity Park in the city. The office of the Lok Ayukta has been approached to help with cases where action from government agencies needs to be expedited. One example where the Lok Ayukta helped was in directing the BMC to demolish a bus stand that was causing water logging.

After Dr Reddy’s talk, presentations were made on various ongoing biodiversity conservation initiatives in Pune.

Mr Sanjay Pathak, IFS, Conservator of Forest Pune Division shared the experiences of Urban Joint Forest Management efforts in three reserved forest areas in Pune city.

Rohit Nayak spoke about the voluntary work of the  Clean Earth Movement for soil and moisture conservation, tree plantation, awareness etc on the Baner hill. He emphasized scientific planning, involvement of technical people and volunteers and preference to local varieties of plants for plantation as the main elements of their work.

Shri Jagzap, Tree Officer Pune Municipal Corporation shared the experiences of the Pune Tree Authority’s work in Pune. Tasneem Balasinorwala of Pune Tree Watch shared the experiences of their campaign to save trees using Urban Tree Act provisions and involving people to use the Act effectively. The group is now suggesting changes in the Act based on their experiences and advocating for the same. She emphasized that to use such legal provisions effectively, voluntary groups should closely work with government agencies implementing such acts. Their efforts to take experts in Tree Authority along with Local Corporators has helped in bringing transparency of authorities work and improved collaboration between various municipal departments like road, transport and the Tree Authority.

Eaton Technologies Pvt. Ltd who partly sponsored the event shared their work with communities in and around Pune on issues of health, environment etc.

Bhavana from Ecological Society shared their efforts related to ecosystem restoration and for developing short courses on ecology and economics.

After these presentations, an open discussion was held to discuss about the opportunities for conservation that BMC formation would provide, the mandate and roles of BMC, how to involve colleges and other educational institutions and the need to approach the municipal authority with suggestions for the same.

We  decided that a paper would be developed through further discussions (both online and physical) with citizens groups, government departments, researchers to gather suggestions for the mandate, structure, role of BMC and to approach the municipal corporation in the coming months to discuss formation of BMC. The draft text of this paper will be placed on the Pune Tree Watch blog for comments.


About Ala-Kiyiz

Photographer: Alexander Fedorov, Kyrgyzstan

Far back in the past, humans understood that warm clothing, blankets and carpets could be made of wool. Keeping up the old traditions of processing wool, every Kirghiz family makes a carpet called Ala-Kiyiz when preparing the bride’s dowry. Making such a s carpet is like a festival, because all members of the family, both young and old, take part in it. Everyone has something to do – to dye the wool, stencil, and then to walk on it. Every carpet has its individual pattern telling the ancient history of the nation.

The Christmas Spirit

After a lovely – though exhausting – week of ‘Celebrating our Living Culture’, we had a visit by Shyamala Mani of the Waste and Resource Management group of CEE. She came like Santa Claus, bearing gifts of gold and silver pen-stands, coasters, baskets and bags from the CEERU Nemiraj Memorial Demonstration Unit in Kodagu. CEERU is Centre for Environment Education Recycling Unit. Shyamala says its also the Kodava word for the bride’s trousseau. She feels that the CEERU concept and method of recycling is a fitting trousseau.  Here are some of the products she brought …

Handcrafted recycled
CEERU products made from recycled paper and washed plastic bags

And was it divine coincidence that just as she was showing us the new products from CEERU that Rahul Chandavrakar called to ask what eco-friendly products CEE was offering for Christmas. His story  Its a Green Xmas in City is in DNA today.

Last week Guruji Ravindra Sharma said that in his village children are busy throughout the year with art and craft activities. Schools in our city too get children to do this, but I get a bit irritated when it involves  thermocol, plastic or kits containing new ice-cream sticks to make best-from-waste-crafts purchased from the market.  It would be fun if eCoexist, KKPKP and CEE could together organize festival workshops for children to prepare decorations, gifts, idols etc. and also talk about the materials we use and what we do with them.

Intangible Culture and the City

The nature of governance of the city, the occupations of citizens, their social life, leisure and recreation, religious belief and practices all dynamically shape urban spaces – residential areas, parks, formal-informal shops and market places, places of work and worship, places to meet and express ourselves. Conversely, the physical structure of the city can help community activity flourish and can also constrain it.

The intangible fabric of citizen activity shapes and is shaped by the tangible physical structure of the city. The two are inseparable. Destroy the physical structure, and the human activity that was nurtured therein may be irretrievably lost. On the other hand, what should be done with city spaces that were the context of occupations or activities that thrived once but are not relevant any more – should we preserve them as ‘museum spaces’, or think about the reasons that have led to the decline of certain types of cultural elements.

Consider Kasba Peth the location of the earliest settlement that evolved into Pune. The old settlement pattern is still visible with occupation-based streets and localities, though it is rapidly changing. Tambat Ali still has a few families of copper crafts-persons, but only a few. The economics of the craft and patronage is changing, and so is the physical structure of the core city. But the core city has several lessons to offer in town planning. Multiple use spaces which serve as work places during the day and places for socializing and recreation in the evenings; the intimacy and warmth of paars which serve as places to meet are very much a part of the concept of New Urbanism.

As part of the UNESCO ACCU Photo Festival currently underway at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha, a panel discussion on 21 Dec will explore the links between the cultural aspects (including social, economic, political life) and the physical shape of the city.  The speakers will illustrate this theme with examples, providing insights into how our city came to be. Further, through discussion, the event will explore what our city could be like in the future … what cultural elements are in play today, how will our city structure respond to the desire to be a ‘sustainable urban space’?

This type of reflection is especially relevant in the context of the rapid changes that our city is undergoing, often shaped by forces beyond the direct control of local citizens. It is also topical, given that the master plan for the old municipal limits is currently being revised, and which is likely to have far-reaching impacts on the physical structure of the core city. It’s a time to pause and consider what this will mean for the life of our city.

Festival Program

20 Dec, 11 am to 1 pm Traditional Drawing and Painting workshop for children
21 Dec, 2 pm to 5 pm Discussion: Intangible Culture and Urban Spaces
22 Dec 1 to 5 pm Workshop: Biodiversity Conservation in Pune in partnership with Eaton Technologies Pvt Ltd
23 Dec 12 to 4 Workshop: Education for Sustainability
23 Dec Community Drum Circle by Varun Venkit and Taal Inc
25 Dec ‘City and Sustainability’ Walk
To register Contact Amar between 9 am to 6 pm (M) 9028532347, (O) 020-25898447 or email

Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen

Rixa Schwarz from CEE Germany follows the international negotiations on climate change

Did you already notice the first impacts of climate change? Extreme-weather events like heat waves in North India, droughts, storms and changes in the pattern of the monsoon in Western India? Scientists predict even more serious impacts if the main causes for climate change are not controlled. Probably you agree with me when I say IT’S TIME TO ACT!

Government representatives from all countries are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark from 7 December to 18 December 2009 for exactly this reason – how can human kind control the root causes of climate change.

The international body for climate issues, the United Nation Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathers representatives from all countries around the world once a year (with one preparation meeting) at meetings called ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COPs) to discuss the protection of the earth’s climate and adaptation to climate change impacts. This year is different though: we had five preparation meetings for the crucial COP 15 in Denmark.

Read the full Earthcare Sakal Young Buzz article on kidsRgreen