A ‘CBI’ ivestigation of the ecological kind

In an effort to bring more awareness to this dilemma and facilitate a positive change, the Kochi Municipal Corporation, with support from ICLEI, has brought out a City Biodiversity Index (CBI).
A ‘CBI’ ivestigation of the ecological kind

KOCHI: Caught up in our tangle of work, life and commute, it is difficult to imagine that Kochi, which dons an almost grey tapestry punctured only by tall, glass buildings and factory spires, could harbour a wealth of biodiversity. It is perhaps this very ignorance that has us blind-sighted to the slow ruin of our natural habitats.

In an effort to bring more awareness to this dilemma and facilitate a positive change, the Kochi Municipal Corporation, with support from ICLEI, has brought out a City Biodiversity Index (CBI). This is the first city-led initiative of its kind and serves as a tool for monitoring and enhancing key ecological details.

“Kochi is the first city to develop and implement a city biodiversity index. It aligns with our efforts for India’s first local biodiversity strategy and action plan,” says Kochi mayor M Anilkumar.

The Kochi CBI catalogues a large number and diverse variety of species while serving as a critical tool in ongoing efforts to conserve these unique ecosystems. Here are some insights from the species checklist and examples of biodiversity in Kochi.

Bird species: The presence of 183 bird species has been reported in Kochi, a vital habitat for migratory and conservation-sensitive species. Of them, the Black-headed Ibis and the Spot-billed Pelican are threatened species, and susceptible to extinction.

Floral species: There are 490 flowering plant species in Kochi, according to the CBI. It features both common and ecologically vital varieties. Noteworthy among them are Rhizophora mucronata and Avicennia officinalis, mangroves essential for coastal stability.

Butterflies: Nearly 100 butterfly species highlight the rich lepidopteran diversity within Kochi city. Among these, the rare and prominent species include the Tawny Coster, the Common Mime, and the Blue Mormon. These species play instrumental roles in pollination and maintaining the health of their natural habitats.

Invasive plant species: There are 39 invasive plant species, with 14 categorised as high risk. Among these high-risk invasive species are Chromolaena odorata, a fast-growing shrub that can dominate and alter native landscapes; and Mikania micrantha, a vigorous climber known as the mile-a-minute weed.

About the Index

It consists of 23 indicators across three categories: native biodiversity in the city, ecosystem services provided by biodiversity, and governance and management of urban biodiversity.

In addition, an illustrated natural asset map is also developed for Kochi by ICLEI South Asia. The map captures Kochi’s diverse ecosystems, from mashes and paddy fields to estuaries and mangroves, as well as hill forests. The city’s network of backwaters and key urban landmarks are also detailed.

Why does CBI matter?

One, conservation: cities are often located in biodiversity-rich areas, making urban biodiversity management pivotal in broader conservation efforts.

Two, sustainability: biodiversity enhances ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, plays an important role in ecological balance.

Three, quality of life: urban biodiversity can improve air quality, reduce urban heat effects, and provide recreational opportunities for city residents.

“We are supporting the city government in being better positioned to implement targeted conservation strategies,” says Emani Kumar, executive director of ICLEI South Asia.

Monalisa Sen of ICLEI South Asia notes that the idex “is important to gauge the impact that infrastructure development and rapid expansion or urban landscape can have on the ecologically-sensitive Western Ghats, home to many endemic species”.

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