Monga explores the biodiversity of Mumbai

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 15 Juli 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The garbage dumps of Mumbai are not synonymous with exotic birds. And yet congregations of waders from the Arctic tundra and rosy starlings from Central Asia now flock to Mumbai's landfills to feast on the insects that breed there. And while barn owls were once associated with the barns of industrializing Europe, they have fast adapted to Mumbai's modern architecture. The nooks and crannies within the city's sky-scrapers, and even flyovers such as the one at Andheri, make perfect homes for owls.

These are amongst the species that have found their way into 'Mumbai Safari: Nature in the eXtreme', a coffee-table book by naturalist Sunjoy Monga on the explosion of plants and animals that co-exist with people in one of the world's most populous cities. Monga, who has for decades observed the rise and fall of Mumbai's biodiversity, has studied the manner in which urbanization in and around Mumbai has resulted in some species vanishing from sight while others have actually taken advantage of the concrete jungles of Mumbai.

"The human hand, often unknowingly but sometimes intentionally, has resulted in conditions that a rising number of species of plants and animals can take advantage of, and yet others cannot and loose out," says Monga, adding that his book is the first to document biodiversity within and around an Indian city.

Monga's research shows a 50% decline in wetlands, grasslands and agricultural land in the Mumbai region over the last decade and an 80% deterioration in the quality of this habitat, which has been ruined by weeds, garbage and an overall apathy towards these habitats. This, in turn, has resulted in a decline of several open-land species such as harriers, quails and larks that were once widespread in Mumbai.

Vanishing ground-level foliage, herbs and grassland in the city has resulted in a loss of ground birds in the region, such as peafowl, partridges, red spur fowl and grey jungle fowl.

The increasing protection given to Mumbai's mangroves have resulted in an increase in birds found along the city's creeks, such as the glossy ibis, painted stork and black-winged stilt. Meanwhile, the last couple of years have witnessed the discovery of some birds and animals seen in and around Mumbai for the first time, such as the ruddy mongoose. Maharashtra's first orange-breasted pigeon was found in Mumbai's Sanjay Gandhi National Park a couple of years ago.

But rapid deforestation and the planting of exotic trees not native to Mumbai has also resulted in the decline in bats and butterflies. "LBS Marg once had the largest number of colonies of the Indian flying-fox, the country's largest bat. Because of massive development, many old trees along that road have been lost, which have scattered these colonies," says Monga. biodiversity,biodiversity

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