World Wetlands Day 2004 -- India -- Mumbai


Report on celebration of 'World Wetland Day 2004' conducted at Pirojshanagar mangroves by 'Soonabi Pirojsha Godrej Foundation'

Every year at Pirojshanagar mangroves, 'Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation' (SPGF) and 'Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd' celebrate world wetland day to create awareness about importance of wetlands amongst residents of Mumbai residents.

This year too, an awareness programme was conducted for 150 students from 10 different schools of Mumbai. The programme consisted of a nature trail in Pirojshanagar mangroves, a slide show on wetlands, an interaction with noted environmentalists and a quiz to assess the learning outcomes of the educational programme.

About Pirojshangar Mangroves:

Situated in the midst of one of the most densely populated cities, i.e., Mumbai, the Pirojshanagar mangroves adjacent to Thane creek have an amazing biodiversity. There are approximately 15 species of mangroves and mangrove associates in the 1,750 acre area. The total plant diversity goes to over 200 species. The marine biodiversity is represented by 20 fish sps, 15 crab sps, 7 prawn sps and several mollusks. The terrestrial fauna is represented by 206 bird sps, 33 reptile sps, 12 mammal sps, the important mammalian species are the Jungle cat, Asiatic Jackal, Wild Boar and Indian mongoose. The reptilian fauna is vivid and main species are Binocellate Cobra, Russell's Viper, Rat Snake, Rock python, Indian Monitor Lizard, Dog faced water Snake, Wart Snake, Common skink, Snake skink, etc.. Important bird species of the area are White bellied sea eagle, flamingo, Imperial eagle, Lesser spotted eagle, Greater spotted eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzards. The wetland acts as an important stop over for over hundred species of migratory birds. Besides, a recent study showed 29 species of spiders within just 8 hours of field search.

The financial and operational activities of the Mangrove Project are handled by trusties of SPGF and management of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. Senior manager and education officer are responsible for routine activities of the project.

The mangrove project works on a 3 fold approach-research, conservation and education. Research projects include mapping of vegetation of Thane creek, survey on flora and fauna of the creek, research on impact of pollution on wildlife. Conservation activities include plantation of terrestrial and mangrove species as well as providing security to the forest from encroachment and other anthropological stress factors. Mangrove Interpretation Centre (MIC) is situated in
Udayachal Primary School, Vikhroli. The Centre is involved in educational activities such as nature trails, audio-visual shows and various other activities related to the mangrove ecosystem. The basic objective of the interpretation centre is to spread environmental awareness using mangroves as a platform. The centre has been largely responsible for promoting mangrove awareness in Mumbai and the State of Maharashtra. Thousands of people have visited the centre including many forest officials, who attended certain training programmes.

World Wetland Day Activities Conducted in February 2004:

1. An awareness programme conducted at Pirojshanagar mangroves on 2nd February 2004.
2. A slide show on wetlands followed by a visit to Pirojshanagar mangroves for members of an NGO, HOPE on 7th February and 8th February 2004.
3. A session on wetlands at St. Alexandra Highschool which consisted of a slide show on wetlands, project presentation by the students and an activity sheet solving.

2nd February 2004 :

The awareness programme was conducted for members of 'Programme for Environment Awareness in Schools (PEAS) and co-ordinated by St. Gregorious Highschool. PEAS is a unique education movement launched wherein many schools throughout Mumbai have grouped together. Every year one school co-ordinate the activities and take student members to different field trips to develop better understanding about ecological and social issues affecting the city. These members in turn present their experiences to other students of their school in the form of projects and exhibition and spread awareness about these issues.

This year, St. Gregorious Highschool was host for PEAS and a request was made to SPGF to conduct an awareness programme on wetlands. SPGF, St. Gregorious Highschool and 'Bombay Natural History Society' (BNHS) together designed this activity and a message about importance of wetlands was delivered to 150 students from 10 schools through first hand experience.

The programme began with a nature trail which was focussed mainly on mangrove ecosystem, its flora and fauna, threats, conservation efforts needed, role of students in conservation of mangroves and simple field techniques to note down observations about plants and birds. (An observation sheet is attached as Annexure I with the report). The students were divided into five groups and explored different trails with their group leaders. The group leaders included education officers of SPGF, BNHS and some senior experienced BNHS members.

After the nature trail, a slide show on wetlands was conducted by education officer of SPGF. The slide show discussed various aspects of wetlands such as types of wetlands, distribution in India, associated flora and fauna, ecological, economical and social importance of wetlands, threats to wetlands and conservation efforts needed. The slide show also discussed necessity for celebration of world wetland day, role of Ramsar Convention in conservation of wetlands world over and Ramsar sites in India.

The slide show was followed by an interaction with Mr. Sunjoy Monga, a noted environmentalist and author of books on natural history, Mr. Vivek Kulkarni, Sr. manager of Mangrove Project and a known consultant on mangrove ecosystem, Ms. Phiroza Godrej, President of 'Friends of Trees' and Ms. Smita Crishna, a senior member of Godrej family who has been always keen in environmental issues of Pirojshanagar, the industrial township of Godrej Group Establishments. It was a very informal chat wherein students asked questions on a wide range of issues such as population of the city and its impacts on wetlands, status of wetlands in Mumbai, opinion of all speakers on ways to tackle the environmental problems of the city etc.

A quiz was conducted later, to reinforce issues discussed during the entire programme and assess effectiveness of the programme. The quiz conducted of three rounds- true or false, answer the question and visual round. In visual round, the team members were shown slides of flora and fauna associated with wetlands and asked to identify the slides. (The quiz sheet attached as Annexure II with the report). Four teams were selected which included members from all the schools participated in the programme. All the participating schools were awarded with a book, 'Godrej: Symbiosis of Industry and Nature', which is an interesting pictorial elaboration of flora and fauna found in Pirojshanagar premises, potted plants as a token to be planted in the school, stickers and leaflets on world wetland day sent by Ramsar Convention to the Mangrove Project. The first three winners of the quiz were awarded with the poster on wetlands designed by Ramsar Convention.

We hope that these students will spread awareness about wetlands in their respective schools and make a strong case for protection of wetlands in Mumbai amongst students community.

7th February 2004:

A slide show on wetlands was conducted by Education Officer of SPGF for members of 'Here On Project Environment' (HOPE). HOPE is an NGO initiated by Rotary Club members of Thane city, senior citizens, noted environmentalists, professors from different educational institutes. HOPE is involved in spreading awareness about a range of environment issues, conduct plantations and accomplish field work in water harvesting projects in rural areas.

The slide show was atteneded by 50 members of HOPE. And it was mainly focussed on Thane Creek- its origin, social, ecological and economic importance of the creek, wildlife found around the creek, status of mangrove ecosystem and various anthropolgical stress factors adversely affecting existence of the creek. Many senior members narrated their experiences about the creek, observations about changing ecological scenario, dwindling wildlife which highlighted need for urgent conservation efforts for protection of the Thane creek.

8th February 2004:

HOPE members explored Pirojshanagar mangroves along with education officer of SPGF. A thorough nature trail for around four hours was enjoyed by all. The members tried to know about everything on their way-grasses, creepers, climbers, shrubs, trees, insects, spiders, reptiles, birds and were excited to see three mongoose basking in the morning sunshine. They were introduced to mangrove and mangrove associate sps found in Thane creek and their present status. The members climbed up 'watch tower' located in the midst of forest to have a bird's eye view of the entire creek and many of them admitted their ignorance about such a vast forest situated in their backyard.

17th February 2004:

Some students of St. Alexandra Highschool had already visited Pirojshanagr mangroves and the school management was keen to discuss issue of wetlands with other students. Thus, a programme was designed for all students of the school. A slide on show on 'Wetlands of Mumbai' was presented to around 180 students. Group of students which had already visited Pirojshanagar mangroves, prepared a project on mangrove ecosystem and presented it as an exhibition which was visited by all students in the school. Later, an activity sheet on wetlands of Mumbai was distributed among the students and its answers were discussed (Activity sheet attached as Annexure III). The activity sheet discussed issues such as threats to wetlands, ecological and economic importance and flora and fauna around wetlands. It had map of Mumbai on one side wherein the students were asked to locate wetlands of Mumbai. The other side contained a word scramble and 'who am I'.

Botany is the study of plants and the first step towards being a botanist is to first start knowing the trees around you. There are many aspects one can learn and observe about trees. How is the soil and climatic conditions in which the plant grows, what is the flowering season, whether it is a deciduous or an evergreen tree, how are the arrangement of leaves, flowers etc, what life is found on that tree (insects, birds, reptiles etc), are there any mythological stories or fascinating facts about that tree. Make an observation of one tree or plant and note it down.
Here are some guidelines to study the trees around you.
Name of the Tree: Common name-
Local name-
Botanical name-

1. Where found: Describe habitat-in forest / farm, near stream / pond,
or barren patches, high hills, slopes, ridges, city etc.

2. Type of soil: Black/Red etc

3. Nature of the Tree: Whether evergreen/ semi evergreen/deciduous

4. Shape of the canopy : Rounded, oval, Umbrella, Triangle, Inverted
Triangle (also tall/medium/short )

5. Texture of Bark : Rough, Smooth, Cracks-vertical, horizontal or
both, or flacks, knobs etc. Note and describe
bark patterns also if prominent.

6. Arrangement of Leaves : Alternate, Opposite, Whorled.

7. Type of Leaves : Simple/Compound ,any speciality, tendrils, climbing

8. Texture of Leaves : Rough, smooth, waxy, sandpaperish, prominent

9. Shape of Leaves : Associate with common objects like heart,
arrowhead or oval etc

10. Size of Leaves : Sketch shape and record dimensions ( in cm. )

11. Arrangement of Flowers : Single, clusters etc.

12. When does it flower ? : Season. Describe flowers-size, color, shape,
smell etc. Number of petals, stamen, stigma

13. When does it bear fruit ? : Season. Note seeds and methods of dispersal if

14. Economic use : Edible, medicinal, fuel, any other uses.

15. Life found around it : a) Plant epiphytes / parasites / other; b)
Animals- mainly insects and birds,
amphibians, reptiles, mammals.

Note: You can also take the bark imprints and make the herbarium of the flowering twigs and leaves of the tree or plant or draw them in your observation book.

Developed by: Laxmikant Deshpande, Archana Sase, BNHS.

Annexure II -Quiz Sheet

1. State whether following statements are true or false.
a. Mangroves are found only in tropical and sub-tropical countries.
b. Lions are found in the mangrove areas of Gulf of Kutchh.
c. Dugongs feed exclusively on mangroves leaf matter.
d. The only place in India where crab eating macaques are found is Sunderbans.
e. Estuarine crocodile is the largest reptile found in mangroves.
f. Avicennia marina or grey mangrove is the only species which can be found in temperate regions.
g. Mangroves are richest source of tannin which is used for curing in leather industry.
h. Agriculture is biggest culprit for reclamation of wetlands in India.

2. Answer the following:
a. Wetlands are lands where water level is not more than _ metres.
b. State examples of any two mangrove associate sps.
c. Give examples of any 3 wetlands in India recognised under Ramsar convention.
d. Biggest mangrove forest of India is found in ____.
e. State any 3 ecological uses of wetlands.
f. State any 3 economic uses of wetlands.
g. State any 3 threats to wetlands.
h. State any 3 commercial uses of mangroves.
i. When was Ramsar convention on wetlands signed and state the country where MAR took place.
j. Mangroves are believed to be evolved around ___ years back.
k. State any 3 environmental factors which affect growth of mangroves.
l. State any 2 mangrove indicator species.
m. Who is the current Secretary general of Ramsar Convention.
n. How many countries are party to Ramsar Convention presently.
o. State number of Ramsar sites in india.
p. Chilika lake is found in ____ state.

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