Authorities at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) have started a study to assess how much the park contributes to the ecosystem of Mumbai and the well-being of its residents. The aim of the study is to place a monetary value on the different services of the park, which include purifying oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide and providing water to the city.
“Not many residents of Mumbai know the importance of the park to the city. For example, few people know that 12 per cent of Mumbai’s water supply is provided by the park. That is what we are going to do now. We have taken up a project for assessing and finding the monetary value of the park’s resources for the city,” said Anwar Ahmed, director, SGNP.
SGNP has roped in IIT-Bombay and the Wildlife and We Protection Foundation, an NGO that spreads awareness about the need for environmental conservation, to conduct the study. The study will consider three important aspects — the assessment of ecosystem services that provide well-being to humans, to develop a revenue generation model for these services, a catchment treatment plan and a carbon sequestration plan.
“We have commissioned the study to the two institutes and have given them different mandates. We started a year ago and it will take at least two to three years to complete,” said Ahmed. The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to conduct a study on these lines with its National Ecosystem Assessment. That study analysed the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides society.
“Assessment of ecosystem services has not been initiated much in India and we are attempting it at SGNP. It is a unique attempt that will give insight and foresight about the park and will help identify what steps need to be taken to protect and maintain it,” said Dr Shivaji Chavan, director, Wildlife and We Protection Foundation, which will be providing technical assistance for the study.
“The national park provides several services to humans like giving water, oxygen and good ambience, but we do not realise it as they are free of cost. Through the study, we will put a price on these services. But this does not mean that they will be charged. It is only to make people realise the monetary value of these services. The trees in the park absorb the carbon in the air and store it. But we do not know how much carbon is being absorbed by these trees. That will also form a part of our study,” added Chavan.
Ecosystem services include provisioning services like providing raw materials and medicinal resources, regulatory services like local climate and air quality control, habitat or supporting services like providing habitats for species and maintenance of genetic diversity, cultural services like recreation and tourism. The study includes the identification of these services, assessment of how they are functioning and finally their evaluation to give them a monetary value. While the identification and assessment will be done through ecological principles, economic principles will be applied for evaluation.