What is the one thing that comes to your mind when you think of Delhi? Many will mention that the air pollution is what they usually associate the city with. However, the rich flora and fauna here cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, many Delhiites are still unaware of the significance of the Capital’s extensive green cover.
Realising the need to acquaint people with the trees of the city, Jamia Millia Islamia University conducted a botanical survey throughout the campus a few years ago in order to identify and record the different species of flora. Initiated by the University’s Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar and spearheaded by Dr Mohammad Irfan Qureshi, a professor of the Department of Biotechnology at Jamia, this survey is also an attempt to create awareness about flora among youngsters.
“While we have a huge campus, we did not have any record of the trees here. Some species such as Neem or Jamun are common, but a lot of uncommon ones were never identified,” shared Qureshi, when we visited him at the University. Pointing to one of the trees on campus, Qureshi elaborated, “No one knew this was the Putranjiva tree before the survey.” This exercise in collaboration with prominent botanist Wazahat Hussain was instrumental in helping Qureshi identify about 70 plant species and labelling 1,000 trees— along with the help of the Horticulture Department.
A twist to horticulture
By the end of last year, a placard featuring a special QR code, created by Qureshi, was added on each of these trees. These unique codes allow the viewer access to the online database of Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, United Kingdom. Here, the viewer can learn about the tree’s native continent, the type of tree (avenue, medicinal, or ornamental), etc. They can also view images of the tree as seen in different seasons. The common and botanical names of the species are also provided in English, Hindi, and Urdu.
“Earlier, you needed a specialist to identify a tree. Through QR codes, we are trying to make people understand that in the era of technology, awareness of flora biodiversity can be created smoothly,” explained Qureshi. By providing images of a tree, viewers can compare those to the tree they are scanning. “If the images don’t match, then the identification is incorrect. This way, the survey is authenticated.”
Javed Ahmad, a PhD student, concludes, “The codes are so detailed that people—even those who do not know much about trees—can identify them easily.”