World Wetlands Day 2006 in India


World Wetland Day 2006-Mumbai

The Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Marine Ecology Centre (SPGMEC) is celebrating the World Wetland Day in a unique fashion since the 1997. This year, the series of activities included programmes that involved a wide spectrum of people, from industrial workmen to the school children. There was a nature trail for a group of children from various schools, a visit to the Mangrove Interpretation Centre, an awareness campaign through posters exhibition and interaction with members of the Godrej Industry and a Nature trail that was organized for the members of the Bombay Natural History Society, the oldest natural history organization from India.

The SPGMEC is a joint initiative taken by the Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation and Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd, Mumbai. The centre aims for management and enhancement of a vast (about 6 sq. kms.) privately managed mangrove forest with three-pronged approach of research, conservation and awareness. In 1985, the SPGMEC was formed to promote conservation of mangroves and since then, the Centre has successfully completed several surveys on bio-diversity and other aspects of mangrove ecosystem. The Centre provides technical assistance to researchers from universities and other organizations. Around 5000+ people visit the project every year and target groups include students, teachers, other NGOs, corporate groups and nature lovers from other parts of India.

Activities on 2nd February 2006:

Our long day started at 7.45 a.m. when 70 students with their teachers from 9 different schools of Mumbai gathered at Udayachal Primary School, Vikhroli (East). The schools contacted us under 'Programmes For Environmental Awareness In Schools' (PEAS), an education movement to promote environmental awareness amongst students. PEAS was started by Dr. Kol Gnanakan at national level to promote environmental awareness in schools and enhance interaction amongst schools from different states of India. The nature trail started with a brief to students about concept and need of World Wetland Day, types of wetlands, Ramsar Convention and Ramsar sites in India by our education officer, Mr. Laxmikant Deshpande. The group spent three hours in mangroves watching birds and insects, which were at the peak of activity basking in morning hours. Children observed many butterflies, grasshoppers, wild flowers and threw questions all the time to the group leaders. The view of vast mangroves from watchtower was breath taking. As it was a low tide, the mudflats were exposed and birds like sandpiper, black winged stilt, shanks were busy feeding on smaller creatures in the marsh. On reaching to the creek bank, children learnt about the identification of mangrove species and characteristics.

After nature trail, the group reached Mangrove Interpretation Centre. Children shared their observations and learning from the nature trail in a feedback session. The session continued with a fun-filled discussion on wetlands, international obligations, the Ramsar Convention, wetland laws, etc. The group dispersed at 1.00 pm.
Next activity was posters exhibition to create a dialogue with employees of the Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., a multi product manufacturing unit of the Godrej Group of Companies.

Udayachal School, a school created for the employee's children of the Godrej Group, is working closely with the SPGMEC for several years. Mangrove Project in environment conservation activities through awareness programmes for students and research projects on mangrove ecosystem. The school has a Mangrove Club that now is most popular Club amongst students. The Mangrove Club members of Udayachal Highschool developed series of eight posters on various aspects of mangrove ecosystem like their locations and adaptations, species of mangroves in Godrej campus, wildlife and prominent birds in the area, their ecological and economic importance, threats to them and role of citizens for their conservation. The posters were bilingual-English and Marathi, regional language of Mumbai, to reach all sectors of the society. The exhibition was displayed from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm, when Godrej employees leave offices. The exhibition was displayed at one of the exit gates of Godrej, which is most crowded place in the campus. "SIFE" group of R. A. Poddar College of Commerce and Management, Mumbai joined hands with Mangrove Club members for this campaign. Around 20 members of SIFE group volunteered and interacted with the Godrej employees.

Mangrove Trail on Sunday, 5th February: A mangrove trail was announced for interested citizen's and members of the Bombay Natural History Society on Sunday. As the interest to protect mangroves is increasing in the society, there were several enthusiastic faces gathered for the trail. The youngest member was Sameeha, a 1.3 year old girl and the eldest was a 67 year old person. The group started their trail with a white breasted waterhen and a Terek's Sand piper and recorded over 40 species of birds on their way. The trail ended by a commitment from the participants to save mangroves and pressurize the authorities to complete the correspondence with the Ramsar Convention to declare Thane Creek as a Ramsar Site.

Vivek Kulkarni- Executive Officer
Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Marine Ecology Centre

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