Country’s first moss garden comes up in Uttarakhand’s Nainital district

The Uttarakhand forest department on Friday dedicated the newly-built Moss Garden to the people, claiming that it is the country’s first such garden, spread over 10 hectares in Kumaon’s Nainital district.

The moss garden, which took nearly a year to build, was inaugurated by Water Man of India Rajendra Singh. Singh said it is a good initiative taken by the Uttarakhand forest department and will go a long way in mending the relationship between mankind and Nature.

“Now, it is time to rekindle the relationship between people and Nature. If we don’t take any initiative now to rectify our errors, we will be treading the path of destruction,” he said.

Last year, the state forest department had approved research projects to study moss species, considered the most significant indicator of ecosystem fluctuations as they are more sensitive towards habitat and climate changes.

Of the 2,300 moss species found in India, 339 are found in Uttarakhand according to experts. Mosses are non-vascular plants that belong to Bryophyta division. They are small flowerless plants that typically grow in damp and shady locations. They play a very important role in maintaining and developing the ecosystem and biodiversity including soil formation, water retention, checking erosion and acting as nutrient sink.

Sanjiv Chaturvedi, chief conservator of forests (CCF) and in-charge of the state forest research wing said it is the country’s first moss garden spread over 10 hectares, with an interpretation centre, 30 representative moss species and other bryophyte species, including two species listed in IUCN Red List (Hyophila involuta and Brachythecium buchananii ) and a moss trail nearly 1.25 km long.

Chaturvedi said the Moss Garden built near Khurpatal under the CAMPA scheme was developed under a project approved in July 2019, with the aim to conserve various species of moss and other bryophytes and to make the people aware of ecological and other useful roles of moss in our environment.

“Moss gardens are very popular in Japan and are the craze there but in India, we have neglected this side so far,” he said.

“It has an interpretation centre, in which different aspects of Moss are displayed through models, including First World War paintings showing the use of Sphagnum moss as a dressing for wounds as it absorbs liquids about three times more quickly than cotton, is cooler, softer, and less irritating than cotton and has antiseptic properties. There is also a Dinosaur model showing the existence of Moss since the Jurassic era. Then there are nests of birds using moss for temperature regulation and antibacterial purposes,” he said.

The CCF said the moss species are pioneer species, and the first plants to grow on rocky land by breaking down the rocks and the soil they help create a suitable environment for other plants to grow. “They also act as bio-indicators for environmental pollution because they get most of their nutrients directly from the air and rain, rather than the soil,” he said.

Chaturvedi said, unfortunately, these species face a threat from mounting pressures of urbanization, habitat destruction, deforestation and pollution.

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