April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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MUTHA RIVER BANK BIODIVERSITY DECLINE

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TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: The recent study on the plant biodiversity of the Mutha river bank reveals a significant decline in the number of plant species over the past 66 years.

EXPLANATION:

  • The study, published in the Journal of Ecological Society in December 2023, sheds light on the impact of urbanization, channelization of the river, and other environmental factors on the plant diversity along the 22-kilometer stretch between Khadakwasla and Bund Garden.
  • In 1958, botanist VD Vartak conducted a survey recording 400 plant species between Vitthalwadi and Yerawada.
  • The recent study, however, found only 243 plant species along the same stretch, indicating a loss of over 200 plant species.
  • The decline is particularly alarming as it includes a significant number of indigenous plants.
  • The primary driver identified for the decline is urbanization.
  • The expansion of Pune city has led to alterations in the landscape and waterscape of the Mutha riverbank.
  • Urbanization is associated with environmental degradation, including habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, all of which contribute to the decline in biodiversity.

Marshy Land Decrease and River Channelization:

  • The research paper highlights a substantial decrease in marshy land due to river channelization.
  • The channelization process has not only altered the natural flow of the river but has also adversely affected the plant biodiversity in the area.
  • The loss of marshy land is a crucial aspect as it serves as a unique habitat for various plant species.

Endangered and Endemic Species:

  • The study identified eight endemic species, including some assessed as endangered by the IUCN Red List.
  • Eriocaulon dalzellii, classified as endangered, was found during the study at the Khadakwasla site.
  • This underlines the urgency of conservation efforts to protect such vulnerable species from further decline.

Comparative Floristic Diversity:

  • Comparison with Vartak’s 1958 study revealed the disappearance of plant species from various families.
  • Invasive species, including eichornia crassipes and parthenium hysteophorus, have become more prevalent, replacing native species.

Recommendations and Solutions:

  • The study concludes with recommendations to address the environmental degradation and biodiversity loss:
    • Ecological planning of the riverfront to facilitate natural regeneration and maintain microhabitat diversity.
    • Establishment of sewage treatment plants along the river stretch to mitigate pollution.
    • Avoidance of cement materials to preserve riparian microhabitats.
    • Removal of cement walls and development of buffer strips with native vegetation.
    • Protection of upstream forest cover to conserve vegetation in downstream areas.

Mutha river:

  • The Mutha River is a river in western Maharashtra, India.
  • It arises in the Western Ghats and flows eastward until it merges with the Mula River in the city of Pune.
  • It has been dammed twice, first at the Panshet Dam (on the Ambi River), used as a source of drinking water and irrigation for Pune city.
  • The water released here is dammed again at Khadakwasla and is an important source of drinking water for Pune.
  • One more dam has been built later on the Mutha river at Temghar.
  • After merging with the Mula River in Pune, the Mutha flows on as the Mula-Mutha River to join the Bhima River.

Conclusion:

  • The findings of the study underscore the urgent need for proactive conservation measures to mitigate the adverse impacts of urbanization and river channelization on the Mutha river bank’s plant biodiversity. The loss of over 200 plant species, including endangered and endemic ones, emphasizes the critical role of human intervention in preserving and restoring natural habitats.

SOURCE: https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/mutha-river-bank-lost-over-200-plant-species-in-last-66-years-study-101708628799636.html

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