Field Studies in India I: East Kolkata Wetlands

Authors: Brian Okey*, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, David Miller, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Subrata Chattopadhyay, Indiana Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Haimanti Banerji, Indiana Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
Topics: Asia, Human-Environment Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: India, wetlands, ecosystem services
Session Type: Illustrated Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Canal St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In June of 2017, a study abroad program was conducted to explore contemporary issues of sustainability in India. This was a collaboration involving students and faculty from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (IIT-Kgp). Seven IUP undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines registered in a geography special topics course and participated in field data collection and report writing. They were assisted by two masters students from IIT-Kgp. This exercise in interdisciplinary and international collaboration examined cases in West Bengal, including the current status of the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW). EKW is a significant conservation priority listed under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty to protect wetlands. IKONOS and Worldview high-resolution satellite images were used for base mapping and to document urban encroachment into EKW between 2000 and 2015. Field exercises involved water quality tests (pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, phosphate) and observations of fish and vegetable marketing. An ecological balance exists in EKW ponds involving bacteria, algae, and fish, which naturally treats wastewater received from the city. Sampled outflows from ponds exhibited reduced phosphate levels and higher oxygen levels than the inflowing wastewater, demonstrating a natural treatment effect. Fish ponds are interspersed with vegetable plots which also contribute to the city’s food supply. Vendors sell 15 different fish and 15 vegetables produced in the wetlands. Our findings highlight the significant role played by the wetlands in managing Kolkata’s wastewater and feeding the urban population.

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