Workshop on Coastal Ecosystem Health Report Cards

Workshop 1 : Jamnagar

An International collaboration with University of Maryland on developing health report cards to determine status of environment in the Marine National Park and the Gulf Of Kachchh.

On September 2-4 2013, the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), Department of Forests and Environment, Govt. of Gujarat, organized the first session of the Workshop on Coastal Ecosystem Health Card for the Marine National Park (MNP), in Jamnagar. The workshop was held in collaboration with the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai and the Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Maryland Centre for Environmental Science (UMCES), USA.

Officials and representatives from various Government departments such as the Gujarat Ecology Commission, Marine National Park & Sanctuary, Gujarat Maritime Board, GEER Foundation, BISAG, Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Coast Guard and Fisheries Department such as Essar, Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Oman Refinery Ltd., among others, attended the workshop.

The workshop was inaugurated by Dr. A. K. Verma IFS, Member Secretary, GEC and Project Director, ICZM project, Gujarat. A lamp lighting ceremony and bouquet presentation for the guests was followed by a formal welcome to all participants. Dr. Vermagave an introduction of the ICZM Project in Gujarat. He spoke about the importance of conserving the ecosystems of the Marine National Park area, and commended the report card as an instrument to aid in decision making. He also stressed the importance of the report card in creating a visual impact for the reader.

Dr. A.K. Verma, IFS, Member Secretary

Dr. A.K. Verma, IFS, Member Secretary, GEC and Project Director, ICZMP, Gujarat making the welcome speech while Prof. Ramesh, Director, NCSCM( to Dr. Verma's extreme right), Dr. Bill Dennison, Vice President, Science Application, UMCES and Mr. R.D. Kamboj, IFS, CCF, MNP (left) look on.

Prior to the workshop on September 2nd a field visit was made to wetland areas and the Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary. The participants witnessed the varied biodiversity in the area during the evening tour. The workshop aimed at conducting a broad-level, participatory yet quick, environmental assessment. This was done by developing indicators and thresholds toidentifythe threats, pressures, State responses and their progress, in an ecosystem. The final step was fitting all the data into a graded report card framework for evaluation.In other words, the workshop aimed to train participants in developing and applying a strategy to quickly build, and effectively communicate the environmental assessment of a particular ecosystem through a report card. The MNP located along the coast of Jamnagar in the Gulf of Kachchh was the case in point at the workshop.

Catching glimpses of Khijadiya
Catching glimpses of Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary

The UMCES team
The UMCES team accompanied by members from GEC, MNP and NCSCM takes a stroll on Narara beach

Workshop Participants come together for a group photo
Workshop Participants come together for a group photo

Dr. Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Application, UMCES, briefed the participants about the process of developing an ecosystem health card and the importance of communicating with the layman about environmental health. MNP authorities gave a detailed introduction about the Marine National Park and Sanctuary located in the Gulf of Kachchh, the importance of preserving its rich marine biodiversity and the various efforts of the MNP to restore degraded ecosystems suchas corals and mangroves. On the basis of the information supplied by MNP officials, Dr. Heath Kelsey, Program Director, UMCES, directed the participants in zoning the MNP area and accordingly developing indicators to conduct an environmental assessment of the MNP.

Participants from diverse backgrounds actively worked to identify and develop indicators and to delineate the base area for the exercise by sharing information, participating in reporting and grading activities, and asking questions. The Ecosystem Health Report Card was created based on the information and facts provided by the participants. The report card graded the Marine National Park on a scale of A-F on factors such as water quality, diversity of fish species and biodiversity.On the second day of the workshop,Dr. Jane Hawkey, Senior Science Communicator, shared the draft layout of the report card based on the discussion held on the previous day.

Following the technical sessions in Jamnagar, another visit to Narara was organized for the participants to observe and experience the corals and marine diversity. Several corals and key marine species were spotted during this Coral walk including puffer fish, star fish, sea cucumber, neptune crab, wolf crab, sea anemone and octopus in addition to several coral species.


Workshop 2 : Gandhinagar

Shri H. K. Dash, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary
Shri H. K. Dash, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Forests and Environment addressing the workshop participants:To his right is Shri Bharat Pathak, IFS, Director, GEER accompanied by Dr. A.K. Verma, Member Secretary, GEC, Project Director, ICZMP, Gujarat, Dr. Bill Dennison, Vice President, Science Application, University of Maryland Centre for Environmental Studies (UMCES) and Shri R. D. Kamboj, CCF-MNP; to theAdditional Chief Secretary’s left are Dr. Harapanahalli, National Project Director, SICOM, Prof. Ramesh, Director, NCSCM, Mr. Heath Kelsey, program Director, UMCES; Mr. A.C. Sampat, GFS, Director, GEC and Additional Director, ICZMP, Gujarat

The second workshop organized on September 5-6, 2013 in Gandhinagar focused on developing a framework for a “Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment for Gulf of Kachchh”(EIA). The session was inaugurated by Shri H.K. Dash, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Forests and Environment, Govt. of Gujarat. Shri H. K. Dash congratulated the team for the innovative and novel methods adopted for the study. He also encouraged GEC to use the participatory process followed for the Report Card preparation for other Eco-sensitive areas in Gujarat. The Chief Wildlife Warden commended the efforts of GEC, NCSCM and the UMCES for collaborating to prepare a Health Card for MNP and a Cumulative EIA for Gulf of Kachchh.

Some of the other dignitaries present for the workshop were the Director, GEER foundation, Chief Conservator of Forest, MNP; Director, NCSCM, Chennai, and Member Secretary of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and Director (Environment).

The Gulf of Kachchh is home to several sensitive ecosystems like mangroves, corals and sea grasses. It also houses various industries, which are vital for the economy. Unless the current conditions, pressures and effectiveness of current responses are not examined on a regular basis, information and data on designing better conservation strategies, in accordance with changing trends in climate change and development, will remain incomplete.

Dr. Harapanahalli
Dr. Harapanahalli, National Project Director, SICOM, looks on as Prof. Ramesh, Director, NCSCM, briefs the Additional Chief Secretary about the Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment

Dr. A.K. Verma, Member Secretary GEC
Dr. A.K. Verma, Member Secretary GEC and Project Director, ICZMP, and Dr. Heath Kelsey from the University of Maryland engage in a group activity as part of the workshop with other workshop participants

Today, evaluating and reporting environmental impact assessments is more important than ever. Educating the general public about environmental issues is imperative as the world struggles with the adverse impacts of climate change. A precise yet informative and user-friendly resource such as the Environmental Health Report Card keeps the general public informed about themes in environmental issues such as restoration and conservation. Overall, the workshop was a multilateral collaboration with inputs from different stakeholders participating in the workshop.

The Gujarat Ecology Commission looks forward to taking its commitment to the environment further by working closely with UMCES and NCSCM over the next 2-3 months to develop a detailed and systematic report card for the Gulf of Kachchh, a gem of our national biodiversity heritage.The Environmental Health Report Card concept is a novel method of communicating science to the general public, communication that is based on scientific data and information, and is yet visually appealing and easy to understand.GEC seeks to further engage in similar endeavours to enhance the policy dialog on the environment.