World Wetlands Day 2008 -- India

26/02/2008

Visit to Katraj Lake, Pune, Maharashtra, India

A 'Water Walk and Talk' was organized by Centre for Environment Education on February 1, 2008 evening to celebrate World Wetland Day at Katraj lake, Pune. The walk was attended by school teachers and led by Mr. Vijay Paranjpye, Head of Gomukh, a Trust involved in issues related to wetlands and sustainable water management.

The objectives of the event were to sensitize the participants about water resources for Pune city, issues and stakeholders involved in their management, waterbodies to be managed as integrated systems and uses of waterbodies by several creatures.

The participants gathered at one of the Katraj lakes which forms part of water provision system for Pune city. Mr. Paranjpye, through discussions, pointed out that four main aspects of a water system need to be studied for its scientific and sensitive management- natural (biodiversity), civics (social), hydro-geological and cultural. He presented interesting facts like origin of lake, Ambil stream. Ambil means sour in the regional language. Long back, the stream had chickpea farms on its banks. Early morning, the farmers would collect dewdrops from plants and use it as medicine for stomachache. This liquid is sour in taste and gave the name Ambil to the stream. Also, there is legend about the goddess Ambabai on the hill adjoining origin of the stream which is believed to give the name Ambil to the stream.

Mr. Paranjpye talked about ancient water system built by King Peshwas, around 250-300 years back. Ambil stream has been dammed to form the Katraj water supply system Katraj lake has a sump that would carry water to Hauds (tanks) through underground tunnel system. Then, the entire city depended on this single water system.

After this brief introduction, participants were asked to form two groups and take a walk along bank of the lake in two opposite directions. They were asked to maintain total silence during the walk and observe every thing in and around the lake. The observations could be related to different creatures using the lake in various ways, biodiversity in and around the lake, events happening in and around it, geological features of it, human interventions in and around it etc. The observations would be discussed after both groups coming together. Thus, the groups had slow, silent walk on the lake bank for an hour.

After coming together, the participants were asked to share their observations and note observations of others. A number of interesting observations related to human activities, plants, birds, domestic animals, soil and water features, structures built by human beings, ongoing repairing works, condition of labours involved in the repairing etc, use of lake for livelihood etc. were shared and discussed. The participants were amused with variety of observations and new learning that took place in just one hour.

Mr. Paranjpye reminded participants about types of studies discussed in the beginning and asked which observations fell into those categories. After some thoughts and discussions, everyone agreed about waterbodies being complete system integrated with different aspects of a city and a need for holistic approach in its management rather than sectoral and short-sighted activities.

Mr. Paranjpye asked the teacher participants if they do and would like to try 'hands on' experience in the school education system. Thus, opportunities and constraints were briefly shared by the participants regarding education system; however all agreed for a need of the innovations in the formal education system. Mr. Paranjpye suggested that teachers should try to use the WWD walk and information gathered as an opportunity to create modules on Ambil stream which would guide students about its important aspects. He suggested each school to take one of the following aspects - Construction of water system, Geo-hydrology, Biodiversity, Management of water systems by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Laws and legislation applicable for management and use of water systems and lastly, Sociology and growth of human settlements around the water system.

As a start up, St. Paul's school was asked to draft a letter addressing Municipal Commissioner highlighting status of labours involved in repairing of the Katraj water system and temporarily settled on its bank. During the walk, every one observed various sub-standard life-supporting facilities (polluted water for drinking and other domestic uses, no toilets, smoky huts etc.) being used by these families and strongly felt about the issue. Mr. Paranjpye asked St. Paul's school to raise this issue with the PMC with a care to avoid sheer criticism and offer alternatives. He stressed on importance of factual accuracy. Teachers from St. Paul's school gathered related observations from other participants (After the walk, school has drafted the letter to be sent to the PMC).

Mr. Laxmikant Deshpande, Programme Officer, briefed the participants about World Wetland Day, wetlands, Ramsar Convention, its history and purpose. The education material (posters and stickers) sent by the Ramsar Convention was displayed to school and explained. A set of the material was given to participating schools for display on February 2, 2008 and encouraged to discuss the same with students.

With a informal vote of thanks, the programme was concluded and the participants dispersed.

About Centre for Environment Education:
Centre for Environment Education (CEE) was created in recognition of the importance of environmental education in India's overall environment and development strategy. The result of a unique partnership between government and a non-governmental institution, CEE was established as a Centre of Excellence in 1984 and is supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. CEE's primary objective is to improve public awareness and understanding of environment and development issues, with a view to promote the conservation and wise use of nature and natural resources. More information about CEE is available at www.ceeindia.org.

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