If it’s Maximum City, it’s minimum biodiversity. But that’s not the case, according to a new map made by artist and cartoonist Rohan Chakravarty. ‘The Biodiversity Map of Mumbai’ teems with an abundance of species, right from the humble mangroves to the wondrous Atlas Moth, one of the biggest and most beautiful insects in the world.
Chakravarty (33) has presented the map as a vibrant document that is rooted in fact and keeps it fun. Among the 90-plus species, a Greater Flamingo swoops past the Sewri Mudflats, while an Asian palm civet scales a palm tree near Vasai Creek.
It’s almost as if an invisible population of reptiles, birds, butterflies and wildcats roams this city and has found a voice through this map.
“The main motive behind creating this map is to make young Mumbaikars pause and think about how they share space with this incredible biodiversity. There is a lot of misgovernance in the country, and in Mumbai specially as state projects seem to threaten pockets like Aarey and the city’s coast,” Chakravarty said.
The map has been created specially for a campaign called ‘Biodiversity by the Bay’, initiated by Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, a youth collective for climate action. The campaign has a five-point objective, including getting protected status for the Lesser Flamingo and livelihood support for coastal Koli communities.
“This map is the first of its kind, and is intended to inspire pride in all of Mumbai’s treasures. It shows our audience how they are connected to Mumbai’s biodiversity,” said Sonali Bhasin, senior strategist at Purpose Climate Lab, the international social impact agency behind the campaign. The map will be part of the campaign’s social media strategy on September 30. Bhasin said that they hope to see this map somewhere in Mumbai, perhaps in the BMC office, or outside the city’s parks, or in the state environment department.
Chakravarty has made several such biodiversity maps, including one for Maharashtra that he made in 2019 commissioned by WWF Maharashtra. In Mumbai’s biodiversity map, he brings in local landmarks and familiar sights, similar to the ones he has done for cities such as Kochi and his home, Nagpur. That’s how a gecko crawls beside a Metro train and a black kite goes hunting above a BEST double decker bus. There are also some who call Mumbai their home and have been named after parts of it, such as the scorpion Lychas aareyensis. Even the gecko, Giri’s geckonella, was discovered in Aarey Colony in 2016. The map also includes two of Mumbai’s important indigenous communities, the Warli and the Koli.
For a city surrounded and streaked by water bodies, a variety of marine creatures have made their way to the map. Such is the case with a mottled Goniobra-nchus bombayanus, or the Bombay Sea Slug, that graces the title of the map.
Chakravarty has also provided a special section on “Intertidal Wildlife Hotspots”, thanks to the work done by Marine Life of Mumbai which holds “shore walks” on which citizen participants have often spotted crabs, corals and cowries. These creatures may well be the city’s first citizens, the original “Mumbaikars”, and at risk because of the coastal road project, environmentalists have warned. “We hope that this map brings governments to comply with environmental demands,” Chakravarty said.
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