The Indian Institue of Technology (IIT) Jodhpur has launched an innovative idea to preserve and restore the Thar Desert. It aims at conserving its minerals, its medicines, flaura and fauna by carrying out ecosystem balance in terms of medical, engineering, environmental and life sciences.
The initiative named Desert Ecosystem Sciences Guided by Nature and Selection (DESIGNS). It comes under the aegis of the Jodhpur City Knowledge and Innovation Cluster.
Under this initiative, the researchers will use IOT enabled devices and Big Data analytics framework to crowd source observations from the local ecosystem to the regional level keeping the cultural context and traditional medicine knowledge in perspective.
Researchers would also integrate computer vision and machine learning along with domain knowledge to infer links between environment, phenotype and genotype at geo-spatio temporal scales and identify signatures of Thar Desert DESIGNS for early actionable intervention strategies.
Thar Desert also known as Great Indian Desert. It is an arid region in the northwestern part of Indian Subcontinent, forming a natural boundary for India and Pakistan. Its world’s 20th largest desert and the world’s 9th-largest hot subtropical desert.About 85% of the Thar Desert is in India, and about 15% is in Pakistan. The desert has both a very dry part (the Marusthali region in the west) and a semidesert part (in the east) that has fewer sand dunes and slightly more precipitation.
The Indian desert, the Thar Desert, has its own importance and specific characteristics with respect to endemic and medicinal plants. Forty-five plant species are rare and/or endangered. The desert has a large number of plants of economic importance and medicinal use. Desert is thickly populated in comparison to other hot deserts of the world. Indeed, there are 17.44 million people and 23.33 million livestock in the region. These populations exert pressure on the biological resources of the Desert causing a lack of sustainability and necessitate conservation of biodiversity actions.
Mitali Mukerji, professor and head, Department of Bioscience and Bioengineering said, “The impact of loss of natural deserts is immense. As, these habitats are rich in flora and fauna as well as minerals and medicines. That nurture and maintain different life forms on earth. Often, considered as wastelands deserts are crucial for stabilisation of climate. Any shift in climate change or anthropogenic activity can lead to mal-adaptations for organisms and loss of diversity. Ultimately, an ecosystem collapse. As a result, this threatens the lives and livelihood of the native inhabitants”.