Scientist Fayaz Khudsar pointed to a sapling of Mitragyna parvifolia, a tree species that has a beautiful canopy. He handed it to chief guest Gajendra Kumar, chief engineer, North Zone, Delhi Development Authority, for planting, and explained how trees help maintain ground water. Professor C R Babu and Fayaz Khudsar have been jointly working on replenishing degraded ecosystems in New Delhi and have successfully facilitated the planting of more than a million trees. The duo guided the plantation drive at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park chapter of the 2019 Hero TOI Green Drive on October 22, facilitated by The Speaking Tree.
Hundreds of student volunteers with Teach India – an initiative by the Times of India – trooped into the park located in Jagatpur Khdar village to plant saplings of species native to the Yamuna floodplain. “This is the first time that Hero Times of India Green Drive is taking place on the floodplain of the River Yamuna. A mosaic of forests will be developed on the floodplain; it will include grassland, wetland and trees.
Grasslands are important for the ecosystem as they provide food and shelter to herbivores; they attract primary carnivores such as wild cats and jackals, and secondary carnivores like tigers and leopards. Herbivores hide in grasslands during the day and also feed on it. Grasslands were there in the beginning, but they vanished because of encroachments,” said Professor Babu, explaining that to improve the Yamuna’s ecosystem we will have to make its floodplain, top priority. The Biodiversity Park also has a wetland area that contains 500 gallons of floodwater and it helps recharge bore wells of neighbouring houses; water from the river, in turn, recharges the wetland. When the river’s wetlands are properly developed, they will help reduce the velocity of flood waters.
Wetlands also help in drastically reducing sediments in the river system, as sediments get settled in them. The vegetation acts as a sponge as it removes toxic elements from the river’s water – the main purpose of having floodplains. Professor Babu recalled that recently in a conference, he made a pitch for creating green ways and bund roads along the 52-km stretch of the River Yamuna in New Delhi. For cleaning up Delhi’s air, he has a simple solution – plant more trees. He said that dust settles on trees’ leaves and is later washed down by rain; trees help in cleaning the air of all kinds of dust particles. He also suggested replacing Prosopis juliflora, extensively planted in the Delhi ridge area, with the city’s native species. “This, “he said, “will help in reducing air pollution in the Capital.
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