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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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Rani Ki Vav: A Mesmerising Stepwell Built In The Memory Of A King By His Queen

Rani Ki Vav is also considered the queen of stepwells in India

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Rani Ki Vav is one of the greatest stepwells ever made in India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma 

  • Rav Ki Rani in Gujarat is one of the biggest stepwells in India
  • It is famous for its size and beautiful architecture
  • The stepwell is one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

Stepwells are an important part of India’s architecture and its

Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat is one of the biggest stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons
Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat is one of the biggest stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons

history. Throughout India, there are many stepwells present which may though look similar, but differ in their architectural and historical significance. One such stepwell is Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat.

Rani Ki Vav – A monument breaking the norms 

India has many monuments which have been built by the kings in the memory of their queens, Taj Mahal is one of the greatest examples of that. However, Rani Ki Vav is different. Breaking through the norms, this monument was built by a queen in the memory of her king.

Rani ki Vav, which means, Queen’s stepwell is near Patan in Gujarat. It was constructed sometime during the 11th century in the memory of Bhimdev, the son of Mularaja who was the founder of the Solanki dynasty. The richly sculpted stepwell which is considered a masterpiece was dedicated to the king by his widowed wife, Udayamati. It was flooded by the river Saraswati in the 1980s.

Also Read: Nalanda Mahavira makes it to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites

Rani Ki Vav – Architecture 

Rani Ki Vav stepwell was recognised as World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2014.

This stepwell was built by a queen in the memory of her king. Wikimedia Commons
This stepwell was built by a queen in the memory of her king. Wikimedia Commons

Rani Ki Vav is built inside an opening in the ground, which makes it special. The east facing stepwell is constructed in seven storeys and is approximately 64m long, 20m wide & 27m deep.

The central architectural theme of the stepwell is “Dasavatars,” meaning ’10 incarnations’ of Lord Vishnu. There are over 800 sculptures in the seven galleries, out of which, majority are devoted to Lord Vishnu only.There is also a carving of Vishnu reclining on one thousand snakeheads. The lowest level of the well is blocked by stones and silt now, after the flooding by river Saraswati, however earlier it used to be an escape route to the neighbouring villages.

Rani Ki Vav is considered queen of stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons
Rani Ki Vav is considered queen of stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons

Rani Ki Vav is one of the finest step wells in India and the most famous in Gujarat. It has many pillars and walls which are sculpted in the beautiful Maru-Gurjara architectural style. It is nothing less than a mesmerizing sight.

Also Read: 5 Traditional Water Conservation Methods In India 

It is one of kind type of mesmerising structure which is definitely worth visiting. Rani Ki Vav is also considered the queen of stepwells in India. Rani ki Vav was also among the five international heritage sites selected by the Scottish Ten team for digital preservation and scanned in 2011. It is one truly remarkable monument.