Quest for ‘e-flora’ of India
Why don’t we have ‘Flora of India’ like ‘Flora of China’ etc.?  For views, pl. click on the following link:
 
 
The primary problem Indian naturalists face is lack of access to suitable information and knowledge about
their own biodiversity.
Very often, this knowledge exists but is locked up in the minds and notes of experts. The common man is denied access to the fruits of  research, very often most of which has been funded by public money. Among the many inequalities in India, a de facto caste  system separates those involved in science from those interested in science…. Read on a thought-provoking opinion piece by Shyamal at the link given below –

http://thebutterflydiaries.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/open-science/ (Ashwin Baindur- 10.8.09)
 
Thanks, Ashwin ji for sharing it. Wonderfully written by Shyamal ji. Some relevant extracts “Indeed it is hard to understand why the Zoological Survey of India, the Botanical Survey of India, and the Bombay Natural History Society, all of which receive public funds from the Ministry of Environment and Forests should not scan and make its library and specimen collections publicly available. In the meantime, as individuals, one can do their bit by sharing their daily learning and adding a drop of knowledge into the ocean.”  I have been emphasising for creation of e-Flora of Indiaon the lines of e-Flora of china, e-Flora of Pakistan, e-Flora of Nepal etc. for sharing vast knowledge that we have with us. Is anybody listening? Earlier Indiantreepix thread in this regard: http://groups.google.co.in/group/indiantreepix/browse_thread/thread/7aba8eb1b7d99b56 (J.M.Garg- 10.8.09)
 
This is in quest of ‘e-flora’ for India. Can we develop an e-flora of India?, is a million dollar (sorry, crores of rupees) question? I personally feel that it is neither impossible, nor a very easy task. But it is there in everybody’s mind as an unfulfilled dream/ expectation. It is the need of the hour. It is clear that neither an individual nor an ngo can do it without support from the government. It should be a combined effort and the output would be a national asset. Just adding pictures into the web can not be called as an e-flora, i think. It has to be technically strong and authentic. It has to have elaborate, uniform, complete and verified info on each and every taxon. It has to be regularly updated. Preparing Flora of India is a mandate of Botanical Survey of India. But, the questions [with no intention to blame the effort and commitment of any individual or institution] in everybody’s mind are, when that will happen?, what is the proportion completed ever since the project started in 1970s? how long we have to wait to have an electronic flora for the country in the world wide web for everyone’s access? Is it not our right to know the information – about our country’s plant wealth? Most of the time we have to rely on the Flora of British India, Flora of Presidency of Madras, etc. to identify our plants owing to lack of updated flora for many states as well as country. The positive truth is that the data is there but highly scattered and/or inaccessible. So, how to go about it? I view like this: * an ‘eflora’ team/ forum should be set up forming interested and technically sound experts as well as young field botanists and plant lovers. BSI or IAAT should be the nodal agency and other research / academic institutions will be part of the forum (personal opinion only). * prepare an updated checklist of all flowering plants of India [we know that Dr. S. Karthikeyan, a renowned scientist (retd.) of BSI has compiled list of all flowering plants of India (about 19500 taxa, as of the year 2000) — that should form the basis].
* prepare a standard format for collection of data. The collection / digitization of data should be from different sources e.g. published literature, data from all the herbaria, ph.d. theses, state/regional biodiversity resource compilations, private databases, etc. Each information should have a reference attached to it. * append drawings/ pictures of each taxon * regularly update the e-flora with new findings, distribution records etc.
We understand that it is a mammoth task. So, to start with, can we do like this? Let’s prepare a digital flora of India with quality authentic pictures with botanical & local names for all the fl.plants of India for immediate use.
Slowly with support (time, effort & sharing of knowledge) from members/volunteers let us widen and deepen up the digital flora with relevant data to make it an e-flora of India. (Vijayasankar Raman- 14.8.09)
 
I feel to start with, we need to put whatever we have (even if conflicting) on the net as has been done by A.P. Govt. for Forest Flora of Hyderabad State at http://forest.ap.nic.in/Forest%20Flora%20of%20Andhra%20Pradesh/Flora%20by%20M%20Sharfuddin%20Khan/index.htm (just to give an example). Is it difficult? Not at all. It’s so useful without going into any nitty-gritty. Similar attempts can be made by all the State Govt., BSI etc. Let all the books whose copyright has expired, be also digitised & put on net. See what Wikipedia has done for making available information on the Flora in such a short time. It’s not a question of putting all the 19000 or so species all at the same time or all the latest updated inf. at the same time. Let it be done by all concerned for their respective areas for whatever species they have. All the State & Indian Floras (in print) should be put on net without any further delay. I don’t think it requires much energy or amount to do so. Standard formats are already there to see for other Floras or can be designed suitably without much fuss. (J.M.Garg- 15.8.09)
 
Thanks for letting me know Gargji, it is very Interesting and seems like there is a lot of hope. People are finally beginning to see the power in themselves and in the stage of self organizing ! I think the point is to start small, and keep the system correctable rather than expecting perfection from day 1 which causes too much analysis – paralysis ! And one must be willing to let go of the possibility of “completion” (however one might want define it ) of the project in our generation and be willing to leave it for future generations to continue. Both of which essentially need one to give up “copyright” and allow the system to live on, mutate and evolve. (Shyamal- 15.8.09)
 
… looks like a long-standing wish of putting flora of India on internet will soon get realized. Shyamlal ji’s clarity of thoughts are encouraging to laymen like me. (Dinesh Valke- 15.8.09)
 
Let me first put on record the great service rendered by Mr J. M. Garg and the contributers of Indiantreepix. Mr Garg is the driving force for this great initiative which is helping hundreds of nature lovers and botanists. Having said that I largely agree with Mr Vijasankar for a need to have a single complilation of the Indian Flora. We may have few volumes of Flora of India, many regional floras (which only means duplication of effort, and often conflicting interpretation), but these pertain to diiferent time periods, can’t provide updated information. More so these are not easily available to general user, and only those associated with large institions have access to these.
The approach to dissemination of botanical knowledge, and with the availability of cameras which can shoot real time pictures, the utilisation of colour photographs has greatly eased the process of identification, a fact vividly shown by interactions in our group. Many recent books on plant systematics now use photographs are plants and plant parts in place of line drawings. These can be easily related to the live plants. I think the begining can be made to attempt an eflora for our country. There are several experts in this group (and outside the group who may be interested) who are quite competent to compile information on the pattern of efloras of China, Pakistan, Missouri, etc. Each expert can choose a few families which he/she thinks can handle best, and has good literature about. Once this has been done, other members can send all relevant information available to them. This group is lucky to have such a large database of photographs of flowering plants. With links to these photographs Indian eflora should become much more valuable than existing efloras. Views of other members may help in reaching a concrete result. (Gurcharan Singh- 15.8.09)
 
I am not finding many responses in this regard. Does anybody have any information about any organisation (howsoever small), who will be putting up (or toying with the idea, making efforts etc.) any worthwhile data w.r.t. Indian Flora on net so that it’s available for all to see?
Till than I think we have to manage with whatever we have on ‘Indiantreepix’ or ‘Flowers Of India’ or ‘Wikipedia/ Allied Organisations’. (J.M.Garg- 23.8.09)
 
Gargji, this is only to be expected when we assume that action needs a formal group. Formal organizations quickly becomes bureacratic and being to require funds to just keep the organization running and all those activities can ironically make the group lose sight of the primary aims. This has happened with too many organizations and it has now been recognized that new forms of organization that are lighter will be longer lived. 
Anyway, I think wikipedia continues to be the best option for secondary compilation. If any primary research needs to be published on a stable and long term platform, I would suggest that material is compiled into electronic documents and published via
www.archive.org , a system which ensures long term data preservation. (Shymal- 23.8.09)
 
Just see the following link: http://www.biotik.org/species_list_india.html. French Institute of Pondicherry disseminating the floral information of Western Ghats through the web. (A. Stephen- 24.8.09)
 
eFloras: New directions for online floras exemplified by the Flora of China Project- An interesting read at http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/PDF/misc/eFloras_Taxon_55_188-192_2006.pdf as to how they have gone ahead. Certainly a good area for our Taxonomists. I am sure India is certainly capable to do that. Everybody should try to make a move in this direction. (J.M.Garg- 24.8.09)
 
 

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