Sahyadri E-News : Issue LXXVIII (78)
Ecosystem Restoration for Water & Food Security
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Ecosystem restoration refers to "a process of rejuvenating degraded ecosystems, so as to attain the ecosystem structure to maintain ecological processes and sustain ecosystem services to support the dependent biota. Ecosystem restoration enables the ecosystem to regain functional capabilities and improve the capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of society". This is achieved by allowing the natural regeneration of overexploited ecosystems (protection through the provision of fencing) or by planting trees and other plants" (UNEP, 2019) to contribute to the conservation and contribute to improve food and water security, peoples' livelihoods, and helps in decarbonization to mitigate and adapt to climate change" (CBD, 2019). Planting native species communities in the degraded landscape would help in restoring the ecological processes. The resultant vegetation demonstrating aesthetic and dynamic characteristics of the natural communities, will pave the way to sustainable development with the interplay of ecology, sociology, economics, and culture. In this regard, United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declared the UN Decade (2021-2030) on Ecosystem Restoration, as governments have recognized the need to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide for the benefit of both people and nature. It is expected that eco-restoration initiatives could remove up to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Restoration initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem from a degraded state (IPBES, 2018). Restoration is guided by principles adopted by the Parties to the CBD (CBD, 2019) and supports the objectives of international agreements and global objectives, including the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically Target 6, 14, and 15), the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 (specifically Target 15), the Paris Agreement, the Land Degradation Neutrality goal, the Global Forest Goals, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The current issue of Sahyadri E-News presents success stories of Eco restoration.

Water availability, ecology, and biodiversity linkages with land cover: Ecosystems are socio-ecological areas with multiple functions that benefit all stakeholders. A comparative assessment of people's livelihood with soil water properties and water availability in sub-catchments of four major river basins in the Western Ghats reveals that streams in catchments with > 60% vegetation of native species are perennial with higher soil moisture (Ramachandra et al., 2020). The higher soil moisture due to water availability during all seasons facilitates farming of commercial crops with higher economic returns to the farmers, unlike the farmers who face water crises during the lean season. In contrast to this, streams are intermittent (6-8 months of water) in catchments dominated by monoculture plantations and seasonal (4 months, monsoon period) in catchments with vegetation cover lower than 30%. Also, lower instances of COVID 19 in villages with native forests highlight the role of ecosystems in maintaining the health of biota.

The need to maintain native vegetation in the catchment and its potential to support people's livelihood with water availability at local and regional levels is evident from the revenue of Rs. Rs.2,74,658 ha-1 yr.-1 (in villages with perennial streams and farmers growing cash crops or three crops a year due to water availability), Rs. 1,50,679 ha-1 yr.-1 ( in villages with intermittent streams) and Rs. 80000 ha-1 yr.-1 ( in villages with seasonal streams). Also, the crop yield is higher in agriculture fields due to efficient pollination with the prevalence of diverse pollinators in the vicinity of native forests (Ramachandra et al., 2020). The study emphasizes the need for maintaining the natural flow regime and prudent management of watershed to i) sustain higher faunal diversity, ii) maintain the health of the water body, and iii) sustain people's livelihood with the higher revenues. Hence, the premium should be on conserving the forests with native species to sustain water and biotic diversity in the water bodies, which are vital for food security. There still exists a chance to restore the lost natural ecosystems through appropriate conservation and management practices to ensure adequate and clean water for all.

Mini Forest of native species: Demonstration of vegetation cover in the landscape and sustenance of water

Details at:

The recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity and sustainability is evident from an initiative of planting (500 saplings of 49 native species) in a degraded landscape (dominated by invasive species) of two hectares in the early 1990s, and the region has now transformed into a mini forest with numerous benefits such as improvements in groundwater at 3-6 m (compared to 30-40 m in 1990), moderated microclimate (with lower temperature) and numerous fauna (including four families of Slender Loris). While confirming the linkages of hydrology, ecology, and biodiversity, the experiment advocates the need for integrated watershed approaches based on sound ecological and engineering protocols to sustain water and ensure water for all.

The area developed rich micro- and macro-fauna, from insects, frogs, snakes to birds and smaller mammals like the most elusive Slender Loris. Smaller plants such as mosses, algae, fungi, ferns, herbaceous plants and climbers have grown well adapting to the change. The entire plot is amazingly transformed into the type of a habitat that prevails in the moist forests of Western Ghats. The water table at this location was in the range of 30- 40 m depth before. At Present monitoring of water table shows the level of water is at about 3 to 6 m below the ground. This indicates that land cover dynamics play a decisive role in recharging the groundwater sources. Other ecological benefits have resulted from creating the miniforest in urban ecosystem are;

  1. Improved campus microclimate (temperature is at least 2oC lower than other parts of 178 hectares campus) and reduced SO4 and Suspended Particulate Matter in the atmosphere which was emitted by the vehicles;
  2. Carbon sequestration and reduction in air pollution - reduced atmospheric CO2 ;
  3. Reduced surface water runoff; infiltration of rain water and recharging of ground water resources;
  4. Eradication of invasive plant species;
  5. Supports diverse fauna (4 families of Slender Loris, wide variety of reptiles, butterflies, etc.);
  6. Mitigation of temperature and urban heat islands;
  7. Enhanced the aesthetic value (feel of rain forest in Bangalore);
  8. Good experimental plot with diverse micro habitats;
  9. Enhanced the recreation and has become campus visitor's favorite spot.

The creation of mini forest was mooted three decades ago at the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore and tree species of Western Ghats forests. This exercise also helped in evaluating the performance of Western Ghats native plants in the Deccan plateau region - Bangalore. A small vacant space (about 1.75 hectare) that was beset with scrub vegetation (infested with invasive weeds - Parthenium) opposite to the CES in the campus of Indian Institute of Science was chosen for planting tree saplings from the forests of the Western Ghats. This region is now popularly known as IISc mini forest. Saplings (480 no's.) belonging to forty nine species which were raised at the CES Field Station Nursery at Sirsi, Uttara Kannada district and from forest divisions of Uttara Kannada district (Karntaka Forest Department, Canara Circle) were obtained and planted along with few species already existing on the plot with a spacing of 3 x 3 m.

It is observed that in less than 25 years, the experimental plot, now termed 'Miniforest' on account of the limited area, is transformed into a lush green forest on a terrain that was originally a scrub vegetation of the Deccan plateau type with apparently conditions alien to most of the species that have been introduced. The miniforest, in this respect, presented an opportunity to study the adaptations capability of the Western Ghats native forest species in Deccan plateau. The species composition that emerged in the experimental plot is quite interesting. Majority of them are the Western Ghats species whereas the others, the native to scrub vegetation, both found growing in perfect harmony, in spite of the difference in rainfall (850 mm), humidity, temperature and soil conditions for the former species.

The mini forest trees exhibited normal robust growth, flowered and set fruit as they would do in their native habitat. Some of the trees, for example Mitragyna parvifolia (Roxb.) Korth., Chukrasia tabularis A. Juss., Duabanga grandiflora (Roxb. ex DC.) Walp., Garcinia indica (Thouars) Choisy, Holigarna grahamii (Wight) Kurz, Lophopetalum wightianum Arn. and Syzygium laetum (Buch.-Ham.) Gandhi have grown as well as they would do in the evergreen forests.

Now this model is being replicated in various education institutions in Karnataka.

Design and Implementation of a waterbody at IISc campus - Harvesting 10 Lakh Litres of rainwater

Water harvesting - Centenary pond at IISc campus: Taking advantage of the undulating terrain in the campus, a water body was implemented in a low-lying area, which has been storing ten lakh liters of rainwater every year since 2010. This region has a rich biodiversity with otters, fish, and a variety of microalgae. This pond (centenary pond) has been aiding as an open lab for biodiversity studies by interns (part of environmental education programme - 2-3 youngsters, school and college students are allowed to learn the structure and functional aspects of ecosystems.

Integrated Wetland System for economical treatment of Sewage: A well-known and successful model of lake ecosystem is at Jakkur in Bangalore with an integrated wetlands ecosystem (Secondary treatment plant integrated with constructed wetlands and algae pond). Complete removal of nutrients and chemical contaminants happens when treated sewage (secondary treated) passes through constructed wetlands and algae pond, undergoes of biophysical and chemical processes. The water in the lake is almost potable with minimal nutrients and microbial counts. This model has been functioning successfully for the last 10 years after interventions to rejuvenate the lake. This system is one of the self-sustainable ways of lake management while benefitting all stakeholders - washing, fishing, irrigation and local people. Wells in the buffer zone of 500 m now have higher water levels and are without any nutrients (nitrate). Groundwater quality assessment in the same region, before the rejuvenation of Jakkur Lake, had higher nitrate values. Adoption of this model also ensures nutrient-free and clean groundwater, which helps in achieving the goals of providing clean water to the local community.

Design of Integrated Wetland System: Tertiary Treatment of Sewage

The benefits of eco-restoration with location-specific native species are (i) improvements in the micro-climatic conditions with the relatively lowered temperature in the landscape and enhancement of moisture condition, (ii) diverse vegetation would enhance the soil carbon and nutrients supporting diverse microbiota, (iii) soil would have lower bulk density (with the enhanced organic content, (iv) soil will be porous or permeable allowing water infiltration, which enhances the water retention capability of the landscape, (v) improvements in sub-surface water flows with the availability of water during all seasons and low rainfall period, (vi) supports diverse biotic elements (birds, butterflies, etc), enhancing the spiritual potential of the region, (vii) improvements in the landscape structure with diverse vegetation land cover, would support diverse pollinators abundantly which will improve the pollination process in the neighbourhood leading to the higher crop yield and improvements in the socio-economic status in the neighbourhood.


  1. Ramachandra T. V., Vinay S., Bharath S., Subash Chandran M. D. and Bharath H. Aithal, 2020. Insights into riverscape dynamics with the hydrological, ecological and social dimensions for water sustenance, Current Science, Vol. 118(9): 1379-1393
  2. IPBES. (2018). The IPBES assessment report on land degradation and restoration. Montanarella, L., Scholes,
  3. Convention on Biological Diversity CBD (2019). ‘Decision XIII/5. Ecosystem restoration: short-term action plan', in, p. 10. Available at:
  4. UNEP (2019) New UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration offers unparalleled opportunity for job creation, food security and addressing climate change opportunity. Available at:

RESTORATION - Success Stories - ENVIS[RP] at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore -,

  1. Design - Lake Rejuvenation Blueprint

Publication (copies already submitted to the Ministry)

  • Bellandur and Varthur Lakes Rejuvenation Blueprint, Ramachandra, T, V., Durga, M. M., Vinay, S., Sincy, V., Asulabha, K. S., Sudarshan, P. Bhat., Bharath, H. Aithal, 2017. ENVIS Technical Report 116, Environmental Information System, CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. [This report aided in formulating action plan by the Bellandur lake expert Committee], Available at

  • Rejuvenation Blueprint for lakes in Hebbal valley, Ramachandra T V, Vinay S, Asulabha K S, Sincy V, Sudarshan Bhat, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, Bharath H. Aithal, 2018. ENVIS Technical Report 141, Environmental Information System, CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012
  • Rejuvenation Blueprint for lakes in Vrishabhavathi valley,Ramachandra, T V, Vinay, S., Asulabha, K. S, Sincy, V., Sudarshan, Bhat., Durga Madhab. Mahapatra, Bharath, H. Aithal., 2017. ENVIS Technical Report 122, Environmental Information System, CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, Available at:
  • Wetlands: Treasure of Bangalore, Ramachandra T V, Asulabha K S, Sincy V, Sudarshan Bhat and Bharath H.Aithal, 2015. ENVIS Technical Report 101, Energy & Wetlands Research Group, CES, IISc, Bangalore, India, Pp 512, available at

Success: Bellandur and Varthur lakes are being rejuvenated as per the blueprint with the monitoring of NGT - National Green Tribunal Committee

Signs of improvements are evident from

Foaming or Algal Bloom in Water bodies of India: Remedial Measures-Restrict Phosphate (P) based Detergents, Ramachandra T V, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, Asulabha K S, Sincy Varghese, 2017. ENVIS Technical Report 108, Environmental Information System, CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012,

This has contributed to BIS formulating norms to restrict usage of phosphates in the manufacture of detergents. Details are at

Success stories of Lake rejuvenation

Rejuvenation and Sustainable Management of Gokarna Temple Pond - Kotiteertha,Ramachandra T V, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, Subash Chandran M D, Sincy V, Asulabha K S, Rao, G R, Vishnu D. Mukri, Akhil C A., 2015. ENVIS Technical Report 99, Sahyadri Conservation series 52, CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, Pp 65

Details at:

Replication of this model:

Eco-management of Muchlukodu Subramanya temple pond and Neelavara Shri Krishna temple pond, Udupi, Ramachandra T V, Saranya G, Sachin N Hegde., 2018. ENVIS Technical Report 139, CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012

Pond with Native Green cover (in the catchment) to Sustain Hydrological regime- Jain Temple (mutt) Area, Moodabidri, Dakshina Kannada District. Ramachandra T V, Vinay S, Akhil C A and M D Subash Chandran, 2016. Sahyadri Conservation Series 60, ENVIS Technical Report 112, Energy & Wetlands Research Group, CES, IISc, Bangalore, India


Environment Education:

  1. Setting up water testing labs in 6 schools (2017). Details at

  1. Biennial Lake symposium since 1998 - 12th event during 28-30 Dec 2020. Details at
  2. Course on Environment Management (20 sessions), offered since 2003, for capacity building in-service professionals. Details at

  1. Development of Environmental Engineering Courses - developed environmental engineering modules in self learning format for launching in distance education mode. These modules are being validated and pilot tested.
    • Ramachandra T.V., 2006. Management of Municipal Solid Waste, Printed by Capital Publishing Company, New Delhi [Reprinted in 2009 by TERI Press, New Delhi].
    • Ramachandra T.V., 2006.Soil and Groundwater Pollution from Agricultural Activities, Printed by Capital Publishing Company, New Delhi [Reprinted in 2009 by TERI Press, New Delhi].
  • Vijay Kulkarni and Ramachandra T.V., 2006. Environmental Management Printed by Capital Publishing Company, New Delhi [Reprinted in 2009 by TERI Press, New Delhi].

Courses - Environmental Management and Municipal Solid waste Management are being offered during August-December session through Centre for Continuing Education. 20th Session details at

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