4th Indian Biodiversity Conference, Pondicherry University, 2017

We are pleased to have been partners of the recently concluded Indian Biodiversity Conference, which was held over three days in Pondicherry University from 10th-12th March, 2017.

It is the largest get together of scientists, conservationists, environmentalists, civil society groups and local communities in India.

Three members of the team were closely involved:

  1. Bubesh presented the camera trap study of the mammals in Pitchandikulam Forest
  2. Lourdes presented alternative educational methods in environmental education – a case study from the Kazhuveli bioregion
  3. Parvathi represented women’s groups and their eco-products at a stall throughout the conference

In addition to his own research, Bubesh was one of the national coordinators of the conference. He was also coordinator of a national wildlife photography competition, and judge for both the photography contest and a drawing competition that was held in schools in and around Pondicherry.

In the wildlife photography competition, 250 photographs were received from across India. The top three were selected, along with five more commendations.

Presence and Status of Mammals in Pitchandikulam Forest, Auroville

Bubesh gave a paper on the ongoing research into the biodiversity of Pitchandikulam: Status of Mammalian Fauna is a Man-Made Forest Plantation in Auroville, India. The presentation discussed the presence and status of mammals in the study area – which species are present, how many there are, and which systematic methodology was used.

Overall, richness of the fauna in our mature forest in Pitchandikulam, Auroville is as follows, with 213 species documented so far:

Taxa # of Species # of Families
Mammals 20 12
Birds 85 27
Reptiles 35 10
Amphibians 15 5
Butterflies 58 5

Additional data was collected during a camera-trap study, which was published in the abstract book of the conference. A total of ten species belonging to eight families were recorded, and 137 photographs were obtained from three camera traps over 37 days.

Note: an article and photographs from the research will be published here on the blog in a few weeks.

Update

Bubesh’s paper has been awarded Second Prize at the National Seminar of the 4th Indian Biodiversity Congress!

Environmental Education – an ecological, problem-based learning method

Lourdes presented the paper at the conference: Environmental Education using alternative educational methods in rural schools in Tamil Nadu: a case study from the Kazhuveli bioregion. His presentation detailed our activities in alternative education, how we are using these methods to impart knowledge of ecological issues in 14 schools in the Marakkanam block, Tamil Nadu.

This was a grass-roots presentation about our child-centred education method, explaining what we do on the ground with communities and how we use environmental education in an hands-on manner – giving snapshots of fifty ecological classroom projects chosen by the children (eg ponds, the Kazhuveli bioregion, water bodies, trash etc).

Lourdes also spoke about school-based environmental activism in Pudupakkam,  a village whose palm trees were being cut down by villagers and being sold as firewood for brick kilns. The children took it on as a topic, examining the trees and their history, collecting songs about the trees, talking to elders and creating a public drama for the whole village. The effect was clear: the village’s palm trees are no longer being cut down.

He also discussed the model environment centre at the government high school in Nadukuppam, where we have been working for many years.

Some drawings from Pondicherry school students exhibited at the conference

"If every school uses this method, not just for environment but for any subject, the children will not forget what they have learnt for their entire life."
 Lourdes Epinal

Transforming the Poonga: A Note from Joss

 

Storks in the Adyar Poonga wetland park, Chennai
Storks in the Adyar Poonga wetland park, Chennai

Nine years ago when we gave the concept master plan of the Adyar Wetland Park to our client the government of Tamilnadu we didn’t  know quite what we were getting into.  All I knew was that we had been given an opportunity to nurture a change, to help protect and restore a sixty-acre patch of the planet in the middle of a huge community of ten million people.  We signed a contract and played a pretty hard game.

We have moved a few steps down the path.  There are 19 different dragon and damsel flies and a painted stork  has been seen.  Fungi of many colours and the sight of the white-bellied sea eagle is common. Let’s not kid ourselves: it was tough being chained to the Public Works Department rates and standards.  It was a battle with a system that doesn’t understand that plans can evolve, change, but it’s  also been an experience of working with many dedicated, impressive government officers as well as some  immovable monumental bureaucratic egos and thousands of citizens craving for the transformation  of the city landscape.

The Pitchandikulam team is still there helping to maintain the park and now we have extended our responsibility to another 300 acres of the Adyar estuary.

A community in harmony, well-grounded, will show tendencies in its practices of a much larger longer term plan.  It seems often these days that knee-jerk surgery is more the order of the day. It is not exactly the 100 year plan that we dream of, but we will try .

Living in the beautiful forest that we have planted in Auroville, never would I have imagined spending more than a fleeting visit to the mayhem of Chennai.  In the early morning in Chennai , it is a train or a jet plane and mostly crows that wake you and not the myriad sounds of a waking diversity that greets us in Pitchandikulam.

But this search for gold amongst the garbage is the challenge.  When you look up into the wide sky of the wetland and thousands of fruit bats fly between you and the emerging stars and because of how we have created the protected space, one only hears the frogs you  rejoice in the sink of silence that is here and hope that it helps some residents of the vast city to see and then work towards a healthier future for their environment .

It has been a hope that the people around the wetland would see it as their jewel, the place where not just the rainwater flows but they flow there also.  To know of its healthiness would be a boon while struggling with the challenges of the city.  To walk along the wetland’s peaceful paths would help heal the damage that this massive urbanization creates.  It would help to remember where we come from and guide us to work towards the day when the banks of the Adyar can watch the peaceful river flow again.

Light,

Joss