A Transformative Youth Working for Biodiversity Conservation

I’m currently a Teaching Fellow at Ashoka University. In the past I have worked on research projects in the field of wildlife biology. Ever since I was a child, I have observed the effects of the changing environment around me. As I ventured into my academia and entered the work field, I gained greater knowledge and understanding about the importance of biodiversity conservation for climate action. Not wanting to be a mere spectator, and empowered by the writings of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, I decided to take action to combat climate change and become a transformative youth.

When BSG launched the ‘BSG for SDG’ initiative in 2021, I felt further encouraged to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in my own unique way. Inspired by this initiative, I have chosen to focus on SDG 13 (Climate Action). As I have learned from the Soka Gakkai – that the place to take action is right here and the time to take action is right now, so I have started off from where I am – my neighborhood and my community.

The city of Kolkata is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea level rise and extreme weather events. Patuli township, the place where I live, is situated in the southern fringes of Kolkata and lies along the Tolly Nullah, which was once a major distributary of the Hooghly river, the Adi Ganga. The area was developed in the late 1980s, before which it was a wetland ecosystem. Over the years, despite rapid pace of urbanization, Patuli has held on to its ecological roots and the area hosts many water bodies as well as open fields, green areas, parks and avenue trees that serve as important habitats for many fauna including birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, amphibians and many types of invertebrates.

The presence of biodiversity is an indicator of the health of an ecosystem and wetlands are important ecosystems for several reasons. Wetlands act as sponges and store excess rainwater, filter wastewater, recycle nutrients, and can potentially provide food and livelihoods in the form of local fisheries, and ecotourism. Due to their ability to soak up excess water, wetlands are particularly important for mitigating the effects of climate change arising out of severe weather events such as floods and storms.

Each year, during the winter months (from mid-November to mid-March), Patuli hosts a roost of about 2500 wetland birds. In addition to the wetland birds that visit the area each winter, Patuli is also home to many other resident bird species as well and is listed as a bird biodiversity hot-spot in eBird. Biodiversity conservation is one of the best ways to mitigate the effects of climate change because biodiversity and the biogeochemical cycles (such as the water cycle, carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle) exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium and influence one another. The natural world acts as a self-sustaining system where climatic stability maintains ecosystems and ecosystems regulate the climate.

For the BSG for SDG campaign, I envision contributing to the transformation of Patuli into a sustainable township in the future. I started off by first documenting the biodiversity of the area, taking bird counts and identifying trees. Recently, I have started discussing the importance of biodiversity conservation with the local citizens of the area and getting them acquainted with the many species of birds that are found in the area. I am planning to organize birdwatching sessions in the future and hold discussions about the many steps that we as citizens can take to ensure that the natural heritage of the area is protected. I have also been involved in tree plantation drives.

I am determined to work soon with the citizens and concerned authorities to preserve the wintering roost and other green areas and waterbodies in Patuli for generations to come.