I have been working in development sector for six years, longer if you include student life in my alma mater’s rural management program. So would you believe that I have never, not once, have a meeting with an ecologist? I had only attended a small talk by Mr. Pankaj Sekhsaria in early monsoon of 2011.
I accompanied office colleagues to a meeting at the Aravalli Biodiversity Park. We met Mr. M. Shah Hussain, Scientist In-charge and Ms. Aisha Sultana, Field Biologist. It was worthwhile experience to understand the technical process that went into setting up the whole park. The ecological conservation and restoration started in 2004 and 450 acres (total area 700 acres) have been completed by now. The whole area was Acacia dominated forest with mesquite (Vilayti Babool trees) as a dominant species. The team of ecologists replaced mesquite with forest communities present on Aravali range in Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Their efforts has converted open mining pits into micro habitats through landscape management.
Good park management has lead to increase from 50 to 200 bird species, 25 to 50 butterfly species with even flourishing of jackal and blue bull. Conservation efforts are being carried in all forms through action research, education model, and awareness building.
They also suggested that any new area for bio-diversity conservation efforts need brief profiling, area identification and legal acquisition. The acquisition of land for conservation is the toughest part and needs patience to navigate in legal and government machinery. Once acquired, land must be fenced and compartmentalized in small habitats. Stage wise restoration is better strategy even if land mass for conservation is huge.
Additional Suggestion from our team:
1. There must be a feasibility analysis on connecting underpass between Aravalli Biodiversity Park, JNU and Sanjay Van. This underpass can provide corrugated landscape for migration of the animal within large areas.
2. The promotion campaign required for community awareness is bit missing. There is heavy emphasis on protecting biodiversity and securing ecosystem services. But, there is less emotional connect of the surrounding colonies (posh) except considering whole area as a jogger park. There must be introduction of concept like: Shinrin Yoku in the park.
3. The economic value of park in terms of reducing CO2 emission isn't used in spreading awareness. This park is an open facility without any fees to the visitors leading to financially unsustainable model. There must be concept of polluter's fee for conservation efforts.
Thanks Note: Nature requires interpretor to understand the whole ecological balance. It was my honor to be educated on conservation, flora and fauna by Mr Shah & Ms Aisha. Hats off to team behind Aravalli Biodiversity Park for their passion and commitment.
Enjoy a video that took 7 years in making !