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Are alternative livelihood sources killing the fragile Sunderbans?

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Kolkata:  Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have recently discovered something unusual in the activity of insects that flit around the mangrove plants collecting pollen grains and nectar from flowers. These insects  unknowingly spread the pollen around, helping the plant species to reproduce (a process called pollination).

“In the Bali Island of the Indian Sunderbans in West Bengal, domestic bees from the bee boxes are not allowing wild insect pollinators to sit on the flowers of some species because of their aggression and large numbers. But in other islands, in the same species, we can see the wild pollinators visiting,” Bulganin Mitra, an entomologist with ZSI, told IANS.

This could indicate that means of local livelihoods, such as bee-keeping, may be “restricting” the natural work of these pollinators that have a role in the proliferation of the mangrove species in the Sunderbans, Mitra added.

Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its exceptional biodiversity in flora and fauna with a staggering 334 plant species and 693 species of wildlife, which include 49 mammals, 59 reptiles, eight amphibians, 210 white fishe, 24 shrimps, 14 crabs and 43 mollusks.

It is also home to the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger and reports of the endangered species attacking humans while fishing and hunting are common.

The livelihood issues in the Sunderbans are also linked to climate change with increasing sea-levels and salinity depriving locals of means of sustaining themselves.

At the core of sustainability, are the declining mangrove species (such as the Sundari trees) which are crucial to support livelihoods, as they provide carbon sinks and act as a buffer against climate change.

To shed light on protection strategies with a holistic approach, Mitra and a team of ZSI scientists are investigating the role of insect pollinators on the conservation of the major mangrove species of the Sunderbans, a project of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change.

Through observations carried out during the day as well as in the night on eight mangrove species (of the total 24) across five islands in the Indian Sunderbans, experts “unexpectedly” found that overall, more species of flies were visiting the plants instead of bees, which are known to be one of the most common insect pollinators.

“In Bali Island, however, where bee boxes are placed as a source of alternative livelihood, the wild insect pollinators are kept at bay. But one can’t simply ask the locals to remove the bee boxes because that would put them in harm’s way (tiger attacks and the like) as they would have to resort to other means of livelihood in another part of the island,” Mitra explained.

This intricate relationship between man and animal in the Sunderbans calls for discussions with all the stakeholders, according to ZSI director K. Venkataraman.

“There should be awareness initiated among the public and there should be co-management by the public and the government. There is a lot of research which is needed to conserve the Sunderbans and studies have to be taken up by various departments. Research institutions should give priority to other groups of animals and not just the tiger alone,” Venkataraman told IANS.

-IANS

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Gallery Dedicated for Disabled Indian Artists gets Inaugurated at UNESCO House

Enabling the participation of persons with disabilities in artistic and cultural life is a key priority for UNESCO

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To honour the talent of artists with disability, the first edition of 'Discovering Ability' art awards was also organised by Youth4Jobs Foundation, with UNESCO and HSBC. Wikimedia Commons

As part of an inclusive initiative, a temporary art gallery titled ‘Not Just Art’, dedicated to Indian artists with disabilities, was inaugurated by union minister G. Kishan Reddy at UNESCO Cluster House here on Monday.

The unique gallery has over 125 paintings done by disabled artists across 15 Indian states, and showcases their amazing talent with colour and form.

It will be open for public viewing on November 5-7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., UNESCO said.

To honour the talent of artists with disability, the first edition of ‘Discovering Ability’ art awards was also organised by Youth4Jobs Foundation, with UNESCO and HSBC.

The award celebrates the artistic abilities of persons with disability, who have hitherto remained a largely unrecognised talent pool.

The artists were awarded with a cash prize of Rs 50,000. They are Amrit Khurana and Rohit Anand, both autistic artists; Mallika Khaneja, an artist affected by cerebral palsy; Y. Raghavendran, an artist with speech and hearing impairment; Niral Hareshbhai Swati, an artist with intellectual disability; Mohammed Yasar who participated in the Paralympic Art World Cup in 2019; and Durgesh Kumar Rathore, an artist with dyslexia and bibliophobia.

“Enabling the participation of persons with disabilities in artistic and cultural life is a key priority for UNESCO. (The initiative adds to) disability-focused interventions in India. It signals our commitment to empower persons with disabilities to become both mainstream consumers and producers of art forms.,” Eric Falt, UNESCO Director, New Delhi said.

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As part of an inclusive initiative, a temporary art gallery titled ‘Not Just Art’, dedicated to Indian artists with disabilities, was inaugurated by union minister G. Kishan Reddy at UNESCO Cluster House. Pixabay

“If it’s the tag of just an artist, it would hardly get noticed. If we say disabled artist, people will still sit up and take notice. The awards feels like a great recognition,” Aarti Khurana, the mother of an autistic artist Amrit Khurana told IANS.

The jury was a panel of three eminent judges from the Department of Fine Arts, Sarojini Naidu College of Arts and Communication, Hyderabad, UNESCO said.

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As per Youth4Jobs head Meera Shenoy, said the initiative will also help artists develop market linkages, and they will continue to sell art online and through museums under the ‘Not Just Art’ platform. (IANS)