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.

3 thoughts on “Workshop on a Biodiversity Management Committee for Pune

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for an informative article.
    Could you kindly provide some information about the current status of Pune BMC?
    Has it been formed yet? And if no, then what exactly holds it back?

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