With cities ever-expanding, rivers, lakes, and floodplains within urban stretches are encroached upon leading to the destruction of the water body and its biodiversity. This is a growing concern and in order to rehabilitate and restore such regions, biodiversity parks can be established to bring a balance between economic development and environmental conservation.
Conceptualizing a biodiversity park
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is an agency of the Government that is responsible for authorizing, planning, developing, and monitoring land-owning, land management, and development projects in the city. In 2012, the DDA and the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE) of the University of Delhi collaborated with a team of scientists under the guidance of Professor C.R. Babu to develop Biodiversity Parks.
Biodiversity parks are a holistic methodology developed by the DDA to rejuvenate rivers and restore their water quality, volume, and floodplain (Singh & Rosencranz, 2022). It usually works with a three-stage action plan which includes restoring the urban water bodies, bioremediation the wastewater, and using the land adjacent to the waterbody to clean and store floodwater. These efforts will not only help in reviving the biodiversity but also aid in keeping the floodplains and waters clean. In the long run, this initiative can help recharge the groundwater and also ensure that there is a sufficient supply of water throughout the year. Essentially biodiversity parks, with the benefits they offer, will create a self-sustaining ecosystem which will further pave the way for improving the urban environment. (Kumar & Sinha, 2015)
There are 6 biodiversity parks developed across Delhi namely – (i) Yamuna Biodiversity Park, (ii) Aravalli Biodiversity Park, (iii) Neela Hauz Biodiversity Park, (iv) Northern Ridge (Kamla Nehru Ridge), (v) Tilpath Valley Biodiversity Park and (vi) Tughlaqabad Biodiversity Park. (Biodiversity Parks: Examples of Innovation and Best Practices for Biodiversity Conservation Centre for Environmental Manageme, n.d.). Among these 6 parks, the pilot project was the Yamuna Biodiversity Park which has significantly helped in rejuvenating the floodplains.
Components of a biodiversity park
Biodiversity includes flora and fauna and all the other living species of the region. A biodiversity park can consist of a “nature conservation zone that has terrestrial biological communities, and a mosaic of wetlands interspersed with grasslands all of which represent the natural heritage.” (Kumar & Sinha, 2015). Further, the parks can also include botanical gardens, herbal gardens, and conservatories to house threatened species of plants in the region. This way a biodiversity park can hasten the process of rejuvenation of the urban water bodies.
In October 2020, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change published an extensive guideline for setting up biodiversity parks across rivers in India including River Ganga. The guideline was a result of the order passed by the Principal Bench National Green Tribunal (NGT) dated 14th May 2019 which recognized the environmental objectives of biodiversity parks and directed the CPCB and MoEFCC to delineate the approach to be adopted to set up biodiversity across India using the Delhi model and provide a framework for stakeholders to design such parks in urbanized locations. Biodiversity parks come under the forest ministry and thus, the development of parks can add to the forest cover and render multiple services including “carbon sequestration, recharge of groundwater aquifers and educational as well as recreational benefits to the urban society” (Concept of Biodiversity Parks, 2021).
Aravalli Biodiversity Park: A success project
On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, 2022, the Aravalli Biodiversity Park was declared India’s first “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECM) site (Kumar & Roy, 2022). This shows the success and potential benefits of a biodiversity park.
Aravalli Biodiversity Park is located in Gurugram spread across 390 acres and is home to approximately 300 native plants, 101,000 trees, 43,000 shrubs, and several species of birds. It was initially a barren mining site that was transformed into an urban green cover with the help of the Biodiversity Park initiative by the Government. Other organizations also lent their support towards protecting and preserving the ecology of the Aravalli considering it is the lungs of the Delhi-NCR region providing up to 7.07% of the oxygen required (Kumar & Roy, 2022).
With the example set by the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, biodiversity parks have ecological implications that can bring back flora and fauna into the urban infrastructure paving the way for greener and cleaner cities.
Biodiversity Parks: Examples of Innovation and Best Practices for Biodiversity Conservation Centre for Environmental Manageme. (n.d.). Delhi University. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from http://du.ac.in/uploads/06032018_Biodiversity_Parks.pdf
Concept of Biodiversity parks. (2021, July 14). DDA. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://dda.gov.in/concept-biodiversity-parks
Kumar, V., & Roy, S. (2022, February 3). Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Gurugram declared as India’s first OECM site. Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/aravalli-biodiversity-park-in-gurugram-declared-as-india-s-first-oecm-site-101643834401345.html
Kumar, V., & Sinha, R. (2015). Biodiversity Park: An innovative approach for conservation and protection of natural heritage. The Biobrio. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from http://www.thebiobrio.in/contentj/3_%20Biodiversity_Park.pdf Singh, G., & Rosencranz, A. (2022, April 29). Urban floodplains must become biodiversity parks. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www-deccanherald-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.deccanherald.com/amp/opinion/urban-floodplains-must-become-biodiversity-parks-1105153.html