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12 Jun 2019 | Blog

ICIMOD supports efforts to integrate the use of geoinformatics into biodiversity conservation in West Bengal, India

Nakul Chettri, Prashanti Sharma & Kabir Uddin

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Group photo with participants, resource persons, and government dignitaries

Wildlife monitoring and the management of protected areas can benefit tremendously from the use of geospatial tools. With this in mind, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Department of Forest, Wildlife Wing, North, Government of West Bengal collaborated on a training on the use of geoinformatics for biodiversity conservation.

At the end of the five-day training, the participants had identified priority intervention needs for the protected areas of North Bengal. Held in Murti, Gorumara National Park, West Bengal from 1 to 5 May 2019, the training enhanced the capacity of Wildlife Wing staff on the use of geospatial tools. The focus was on biodiversity conservation, regular monitoring, and protected area management.

“Geospatial technology is a powerful tool that will enable us to make better and informed decisions related to biodiversity conservation and protected area management,” noted Ujjal Ghosh, Chief Conservator, Forest, Wildlife Wing, North. As he spoke at the event inaugural, Ghosh encouraged the participants to take full advantage of the training and strengthen their biodiversity conservation efforts.

The training was facilitated by a team from ICIMOD’s Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative. The resource persons provided theoretical and hands-on training to 27 participants – 24 men and 3 women – composed of staff and officials associated with the Forest Department.

ICIMOD expressed gratitude to the Department of Forest, Government of West Bengal, for recognizing it’s expertise and delight at the opportunity to share knowledge with the Department’s staff. He noted, “Technology has evolved and there are ample opportunities and possibilities to translate field data into convincing visual forms using geospatial platforms for better interpretations and decision making for effective management.”

Over the course of the event, the resource persons shared case studies on ecosystem service assessment, habitat suitability modeling, and human-wildlife conflict mapping. They noted that these methods and approaches can be replicated for the management and conservation of North Bengal’s biodiversity and ecosystem.

The five-day course was compact, covering the theoretical aspects of biodiversity conservation and the fundamentals of GIS and RS. There were also practical hands-on sessions on the latest software. Interactive group sessions helped participants learn about the use of spatial datasets and field data on GIS platforms through interactive group sessions.

The theoretical sessions were supplemented by a field survey of a plantation area at Gorumara National Park. The participants worked with field data in groups and presented their work on the final day of the training. Participant Uttam Chandra Pradhan, a Range Officer, said, “This was an excellent opportunity and increased our understanding of the theories underlying GIS and RS. The field session enabled us to gain real-world experience in handling spatial data.”

The participants of the workshop have requested that similar, more in-depth trainings be organized in the future. Acknowledging the value of geoinformatics, they have also requested their departments to ensure the availability of licensed RS and GIS software.

As the training wrapped up, Ghosh indicated interest in establishing a GIS Cell in North Bengal and having selected staff get advanced RS and GIS courses from ICIMOD or another relevant institution.  Speaking to the participants he said, “I encourage our staff to use GIS and RS to support everyday decision-making processes, work on relevant topics, and share their ideas with ICIMOD.”

The training was rolled out by ICIMOD’s Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative with support from the Geospatial Solutions theme upon special request by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Wing, North, Government of West Bengal.

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