The Centre for Urban Ecology and Sustainability (CUES) conducted a one-day orientation for the II year students of the School of Design, Ambedkar University Delhi in Sanjay Van, a city forest close to JNU.
PhD scholar Budhaditya Das of the School of Human Ecology had been teaching Design School students a course in Human Ecology for the past several weeks. During the duration of this course, students expressed their desire to visit some sort of a natural space in the city where they could have an experience of what that space looks like and the kind of activities that take place in such a space. After consulting us researchers at CUES, it was decided that Sanjay Van would be ideal for such a trip.
On 25 March 2017 at around 7:30 am, a group of 10 students led by their teacher Budhaditya, and Sonali, Vijaylakshmi and Ajay, researchers at CUES, gathered at Sanjay Van. After the students were given a brief introduction of Sanjay Van and the kind of things to watch out for, we proceeded into the forest. Almost as soon as we began walking, we started spotting various species of birds. Some of the birds that we saw were bulbul, yellow-footed green pigeon, jungle babbler, purple sunbird, peacock, black kite, and rufous treepie, besides others. Budhaditya and the researchers helped students spot and identify birds. Students used binoculars, cameras and bird books to get a clearer look at these birds.
During the orientation, Sonali gave the students a brief introduction of the trees of the Delhi ridge and talked of their origin, significance, and some of the issues surrounding them. For instance, she talked of the invasive tree species Prosopis juliflora, and how this species has invaded the Delhi ridge, causing a great deal of harm to native tree species. She also talked about how native tree species are being increasingly replaced manually by non-native species that have greater appeal, and are relatively more charismatic. Ajay gave the students a brief introduction of the mammals of Sanjay Van, and how animals in such forests adapt and survive. We were fortunate to spot a group of nilgais foraging in the scrubs not too far from the machan we were observing from.
One stop on our walk through Sanjay Van was lake Neela Hauz and the interconnected group of water bodies within Sanjay Van. These water bodies have undergone a massive transformation in the last few months with them being dredged and restored to a much healthier state. Vijaylakshmi, who has expertise in restoration ecology, talked of some the issues involving wetlands in the urban. This generated an interesting discussion on the ecological and socio-political aspects of wetland restoration in the urban. During this discussion, we were interrupted by sightings of spot-billed ducks, little grebes, herons, coots and kingfishers.
After a two hour long walk through Sanjay Van, the orientation concluded with Sonali providing a historical background of the Delhi ridge, and how the ridge has been subject to continuous transformation through the years. After this talk, it was time to disperse.
The orientation provided students with a great opportunity in the field, to engage with a whole range of subjects and issues pertaining to a natural space like Sanjay Van. Overall, it was a great experience for both students and researchers.