UPSC IAS Interview 2017-18

India - A Biodiversity Rich Nation

by Kalpana Palkhiwala,

Deputy Director ( M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.

Biodiversity as we see today is the outcome of over 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history, shaped by natural processes and increasingly, by the influence of humanbeings. Biodiversity forms the web of life of which man is an integral part and upon which he fully depends.

Biodiversity is not distributed uniformly across the globe. Certain countries, lying wholly or partly within the tropics, are characterized by high species richness and more number of endemic species. These countries are known as Mega diverse countries. India is one of the identified mega diverse countries of the World. With only 2.4% of the land area, and accounts for 7-8% of the recorded species of the world. Over 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals have been recorded so far. It is remarkable to note that India maintains this biodiversity while supporting 20% of the world’s human and cattle population. The wide diversity in physical features and climatic situations has resulted in a diversity of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, coastal and marine (mangroves and coral reefs) and deserts. Among these, the forest ecosystem in particular exhibits tremendous variability ranging from temperate alpine to tropical wet evergreen forests. There are 16 major forest types in India and it is also one of the eight primary centres of the origin of cultivated plants and is rich in agricultural biodiversity. India is an acknowledged centre of crop diversity, and holds 320 wild varieties of crop relatives mainly of rice, maize, millets, barley and brinjals. About 114 breeds of domesticated animals (buffaloes, cattle, sheep, goat, camel, horses, donkeys, etc.) are also found in the country.

India also has four of the 34 identified hot spots of the world, which are characterized by high degree of endemism and are therefore areas of global conservation concern.

Threats to Biodiversity

Extinction of species and gradual changes in ecological communities is a natural phenomenon. However, the pace of extinction has increased dramatically as a result of human activities. Ecosystems are being fragmented or eliminated, and several species are in decline. The fragmentation, degradation, and loss of habitats pose serious threat to biological diversity. It is estimated that species are disappearing at an alarmingly higher rate than the evolutionary processes and this is predicted to rise dramatically. These losses are irreversible and pose a threat to our own well being, considering our dependence on food crops and medicines, and other biological resources. The loss in biodiversity impoverishes us all, and weakens the ability of the living systems on which we depend, to resist growing threats, such as climate change.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Global concern about loss of species and ecosystems found expression in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD is, one of the two agreements adopted during the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the other one being on UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

India is a Party to the CBD. India signed the Convention on 5th June 1992, and ratified it on 18th February, 1994. The Convention came into force on 29th December, 19993, 90 days after the 30th ratification.

CBD – Important Provisions

The CBD has 23 preambular paragraphs and 42 articles. The preambular paragraphs interalia recognize and reaffirm the following:

• Intrinsic value of biodiversity
• Biodiversity conservation as common concern of humankind
• Sovereign rights of States over their biological resources
• Responsibility of States to conserve and sustainably use their biodiversity
• Precautionary approach towards biodiversity conservation
• Vital role of local communities and women in conservation, and sustainable use of biodiversity
• Need for provision of new and additional financial resources and access to technologies to developing countries to address biodiversity loss.
Economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding pri0rities of developing countries.

Implementation of CBD in India

In India, conservation of biodiversity did not start with the CBD. India has a long history of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, which is engrained in our ethos and is a way of life for us. This is reflected in an individual’s practices as well as social systems prevalent at different times in India’s history. Modern India, as the world’s largest democracy is testimony to this, as environment protection is enshrined in the Constitution of India itself in Article 48 A and Article 51A (g).

There are numerous and wide ranging policies, programmes and projects in place for conservation of biodiversity.

National Biodiversity Action Plan

In pursuance to Article 6 of the CBD, India within five years of ratifying the Convention had developed a National Policy and Macro level Action Strategy on Biodiversity in 1999. After approval of the National Environment Policy (NEP) in 2006, the 1999 document was updated and revised as the National Biodiversity Action Plan which was approved by the Cabinet in 2008. The NBAP 2008 draws upon the main principle in the NEP that human being are at the centre of concerns of sustainable development and they are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Biological Diversity Act

In pursuance to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), India had enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 following a widespread consultative process over a period of eight years. The Biological Diversity Rules were noticed thereafter in 2004. The Act gives effect to the provisions of the CBD. It also addresses access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge to ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising out of their use to the country and its people. India is one of the first few countries to have enacted such legislation. Twenty two State Biodiversity Boards have been established till date.

Similarly, setting up of BMCs by all local bodies within their areas, for the purpose of promoting conservation, sustainable use and document of biodiversity is an essential requirement under the Act. So far, 29,150 Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) have been set up in eight States.

India at COP-10 on Biological Diversity at Nagoya

More than 190 countries are negotiating at Nagoya, Japan to reach an agreement to protect the diversity of natural resources all over the world. The 12 day conference which started on 18th of this month is very important for India as it seeks a single legally binding international protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) under CBD.ABS will provide a mechanism to regulate and protect traditional knowledge and genetic resources. The developed countries are not in favour of this, but developing countries do. India and Brazil are leading the developing countries to ensure that ABS covers human pathogens as a bio resource. Traditionally the pharmaceutical companies from developed countries take advantage of bio-resources located in the developing countries without sharing the benefits adequately with the local people. In terms of disclosure of biodiversity, India will insists on complete transparency against graded transparency demanded by developed nations. India will also demand to link the CBD with the World Trade Agreement on the Trade related “Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)”.
(PIB Features)

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