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Saving Bengaluru’s burning lakes

Natural resources like lakes and forests are suffering from over-exploitation by humans. How can people better understand and manage our ecological resources? An Indian think-tank, supported by Norway, is working towards a solution.

The lakes of Bengaluru have been much in the news lately. In the news that appeared, one could see some of the city’s lakes frothing, and parts of the froth was burning from extreme pollution. The rapid urbanization in the south Indian city has contributed to bad water quality, which poses a big threat to the ecosystems and people’s health.

The Ashoka Trust for Research in the Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) is a Bengaluru-based think-thank, academy and NGO that works to involve urban and rural stakeholders in natural resource management. Their work gained limelight when it actively engaged with the government and citizens to protect the lakes of Bengaluru from pollution. ATREE researchers are conducting water quality measurements and land use mapping to find management options for the ecosystem.

The Norwegian Embassy has worked closely with ATREE for the last four years to strengthen its institutional capacity to conduct research, teach students and improve its infrastructure. There are also several exchange programs between students and staff from ATREE and Norwegian environmental institutions, such as the University of Oslo, Noragric, Inland Norway University in Evenstad, and NINA.

In addition to ATREE’s work as a think-tank, it also has an academy that teaches and trains Ph.D. students on conservation science and sustainable development. The Ph.D. program is popular for its inter-disciplinary nature, which combines an ecological and social science approach to study complex environmental problems. In 2017, there were 140 applications for ten Ph.D. positions. ATREE also manages a website called India Biodiversity Portal. The website provides information on the biodiversity in the country, and is open for participation from the civil society. Today, information on 28432 plant and animal species are available on the website, and the number is increasing.

ATREE was established in 1996, and has been assessed as one of the top 20 environmental think-tanks globally. The Norwegian Embassy looks forward to continue the collaboration with ATREE in the future.