Conservation of Periurban Wetland Ecology
Peri-urban areas are neglected zones in terms of strategic planning and fall between the urban and rural development trajectories. They are areas that respond to urban demands, but face ecosystem degradation amidst rising poverty. Planners often respond to immediate needs of these spaces in an ad-hoc manner, lacking adequacy in sustainability perspective.
Conservation of such periurban wetlands in the rapidly urbanizing Ganga-Brahmaputra basin is a flagship program of SAFE and it has ongoing community based interventions pertaining to habitat restoration, biodiversity conservation and livelihood management towards poverty alleviation in these areas.
Some significant contribution is enlisted hereunder.
- East Kolkata Wetlands Ramsar site, Kolkata West Bengal: SAFE successfully launched Indian first BIORIGHTS project in this Ramsar site with a mission to prevent it from getting recorded in the Mauntrex list, owing severe urban encroachment, habitat and biodiversity loss and deteriorating ecosystem services. In the context of the project 37 Sq Km of core wetlands in the urban fringe could be restored as per the norms of Ramsar Convention. This has saved the livelihood of nearly 25,000 wastewater fishers, who have formed the first “Wastewater Fishers Association” in the world promoting natural resource recycling, ground water charging, rain water harvesting, Biodiversity conservation and as well augmentation of carbon sequestration potentials in the wetlands. SAFE prepared the first GPS based wetland inventory for the study area. SAFE has carried out massive financial inclusion program for the poor fishers and promoted ecotourism as an alternative livelihood for compensating the opportunity costs, incurred in their conservation efforts through micro-insurance coverage.SAFE’s endeavor in conserving the East Kolkata Ramsar Wetlands has saved it from getting delisted and the Biorights case has been showcased as a best practice inclusive model in the 4th TEEB Report of UNEP. (http://www.teebweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Conserving-wetlands-through-microfinance-programs-India.pdf)
The activities of SAFE has been supported by Govt. of West Bengal, DFID (UK), British Ecological Society, American Consulate in Kolkata, Various corporate houses like PWC, VEL, DLF etc. A publication is cited here on Biorights:
- DeeporBeel (Ramsar Site), Guwahati Assam: SAFE has launched an action research in collaboration with NABARD Guwahati to evaluate the ecosystem services extended by the wetland to 12 rural villages and the city of Guwahati using geospatial decision support tool that would also map livelihood patterns and undertake decadal change detection research. Following this SAFE would launch a program in DeeporBeel for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture to reduce pressure on livelihood and diminish man-elephant conflict in the area.
- Barapani Lake Shillong, Meghalaya: SAFE in collaboration with Shillong Municipal Corporation under urban development authority of Meghalaya is monitoring the water quality of Barapani Lake and studying its seasonal plankton vegetation dynamics in order to prepare a conservation program to preserve the water resource for the city. This is a part of SAFE’s ongoing monitoring program on high altitude water bodies in eastern ecoregion of India for which SAFE has been awarded the International BIWA Research Award from ILEC, Japan.
- Bihar Wetlands: SAFE has been relentlessly working in conservation of wetlands in Bihar-Nepal border areas that lies in continuation with the Kosi-Tappu Ramsar site of Nepal since 2004. These community based interventions are for developing resilience and preparedness to combat the erratic Kosi floods. IUCN has published references papers on these works from Bangladesh through their international workshop proceedings.