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Are biodiversity parks helping the city’s environment? Delhi University experts to find out

Over the next few years, a team of researchers from Delhi University will undertake studies to find out how these parks are functioning — the amount of carbon they are able to sequester and whether they are able to recharge groundwater and control local temperature

delhi Updated: Feb 26, 2018 12:22 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times
biodiversity parks,delhi environment,Delhi University
Delhi currently has four functional biodiversity parks with two more coming up(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

A team of researchers from Delhi University will be carrying out a series of studies over the next few years to find out how biodiversity parks are functioning in Delhi and benefiting its environment.

Delhi currently has four functional biodiversity parks with two more coming up. Biodiversity parks are nature reserves, which harbour natural heritage and have functions like carbon sequestration — a process in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the plant body and soil, recharging groundwater and controlling the microclimate of an area, among others.

“We have initiated some studies. Over the next few years we will undertake more studies to find out how these parks are functioning — the amount of carbon they are able to sequester and whether they are able to recharge groundwater and control local temperature,” said CR Babu, who heads the biodiversity parks project of Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE) at DU.

These parks were set up for the first time in Delhi by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in collaboration with CEMDE. While four biodiversity parks — Aravalli, Yamuna, Tilpat Valley and Neela Hauz — are already functional, two more — Tughlaqabad and Kamla Nehru Ridge — are coming up.

“One has to calculate the tree’s canopy diameter, and its biomass from its height and its girth and calculate its productivity. Then with the help of proven international methods one can find out how much carbon a tree is sequestering,” said Abhijit Mitra, former head of the marine science department of Calcutta University, who had carried out a similar projects in Kolkata and its suburbs.

Plants store carbon not only in its body but also in the soil. DU researchers would carry out studies to find out how much carbon a tree is being able to sequester. “The results would reveal how much carbon dioxide — one the gases responsible for global warming and climate change — is being actually removed from Delhi’s air by these parks,” said Faiyaz Ahmed Khudsar, scientist-in-charge of the Yamuna Biodiversity Park.

According to the India State of Forest Report 2017, the total carbon stock of forests in Delhi is 3.4 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, which is 0.01 per cent of the total forest carbon in India.

Replenish groundwater

“Finding out whether these parks are being able to recharge groundwater is also a part of our study,” said Babu.

According to data provided by Central Groundwater Board of ministry of water resources to the National Green Tribunal, groundwater table across Delhi has declined from between six and 66 feet. The worst-hit were south Delhi and parts of southwest Delhi covering over 264 sq km where the water table has dropped by about 70 feet over the last 10 years.

Regulate temperature

Urban forests are known to control and regulate extreme temperatures in cities. Researchers would find out how biodiversity parks are buffering the local weather and climate from extremes.

“We know the Aravallis play a huge role in recharging the groundwater. But it will be interesting to know how biodiveristy parks are helping in recharging groundwater and controlling the microclimate. Authorities should also focus on eradicating the Vilayti Kikar (Prosopis julifora, an exotic plant) which has taken a toll on the biodiversity,” said Pradip Krishen, author and ecological gardener.

Meanwhile, scientists are also in talks with at least two government pharmaceutical research institutes to take medicinal plants from the parks to manufacture medicines.

First Published: Feb 25, 2018 22:37 IST