KOCHI: Amid cities battling pollution and the rapid decline in green cover, a group under the banner of the Development Action Council for Kerala (DACK) has taken it upon itself to protect acres of urban forest on the HMT company premises at Kalamassery. As part of conserving the green cover in the locality, experts from World Resources Institute India and other nature enthusiasts visited the forest on Monday to explore the different species of vegetation and birds in area.
DACK chairman Mukkapuzha Nandakumar, who is also the former chairman of one of Kalamassery Municipal standing committees, said the aim is to conserve the forest in HMT and nearby wetlands as a biodiversity park. “Of the total 251 acres of land owned by HMT at Kalamassery, around 115 acres were reclaimed by nature in the past 50 years following disuse. The land has now become a sanctuary for over 196 species of birds, both native and migratory,” he said.
Nandakumar said there was nothing artificial about the forest. “The entire area has plants endemic to the region, with some having medicinal properties,” he said, adding DACK has been demanding the conservation of the forest area for quite some time.“As part of our initiative to protect the habitat of birds and the city’s lungs, we prepared a proposal and approached Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) and the Kerala Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA),” said Nandakumar. He said the agencies responded very positively.
Meanwhile, Polly Kalamassery, a bird watcher said, “The forest at Kalamassery is home to almost the same number of birds as Thattekattu bird sanctuary." “The urban forest is also home to the state’s butterfly Papilio Buddha, which is enough to declare it as protected. Another rare bird which comes to Kochi from Kashmir and stays here for three months is the Indian paradise flycatcher,” he said. He said due to the presence of such a large number of birds, the forest has become a haven for bird watchers.
Speaking about Cities 4 Forests, which, in India, is a joint initiative of World Resources Institute, India, Revolve and Pilot Projects in partnership with Kochi Municipal Corporation, Nandakumar said Cities4Forest initiative works to preserve urban and peri-urban forests and identify potential open spaces to extend green cover. “WRI India through technical assistance under C4F can help us realize the importance of this forest tract and look into the potential for converting it into a biodiversity park,” he said.
“Just an hour-long walk reveals the treasures the forest is hiding,” Rajeev Malagi form WRI India said, adding, “Kochi, the only Indian city to be listed by Cities4Forests among 61 others from across the world, is blessed to have such a variety of flora and fauna.” He also said preserving and conserving biodiversity and urban development need to go hand in hand. Besides Kalamassery, WRI India will be documenting places like Container Road (known for its mangrove trees) and Mangalavanam in the city.