Richness of Biodiversity in India and it's value

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

New Delhi, India, Oct 15, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB) Biological diversity, encompasses all life forms on earth. Biodiversity maintains the ecological balance and continues evolutionary processes. The very survival of humankind depends on these core ecological functions. The indirect ecosystem services provided through biodiversity include: photosynthesis, pollination, transpiration, maintaining the balance of atmospheric gases, maintaining hydrological cycles, chemical cycling, nutrient cycling, pest control, etc. Biodiversity also has aesthetic and recreational value. Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is therefore fundamental to ecologically sustainable development. In fact the very survival of humankind depends upon biological diversity.

Biodiversity manifests itself at three levels: species diversity which refers to the numbers and kinds of living organisms, genetic diversity which refers to the genetic variation within a population of species, and ecosystem diversity which is the variety of habitats, biological communities and ecological processes that occur in the biosphere.

Under the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act 2002, so far State Biodiversity Boards have been constituted in twenty two States, namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Several steps have been taken to revitalise the afforestation Programmes implemented in various states. These include approval of 796 projects of Forest Development Agencies covering an area of 1.65 million hectares under the National Afforestation Programme. Two new Eco-Task Force (ETF) battalions for eco-restoration of degraded areas in Assam have been operationalised in addition to supporting the existing four ETF battalions in the country. Mooting of a new scheme for afforestation involving Panchayati Raj Institution, various afforestation schemes of the State Governments, tree planting activities under the Central Government, notably National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Greening of six million hectares of degraded forests under the National Action Plan on Climate Change etc. are also strengthening biodiversity. Other steps include introduction of a new state plan scheme during 2009-10 on ‘Additional Central Assistance for Accelerated Programme of Restoration and Regeneration of Forest Cover’ and implementation of many externally-aided projects on afforestation of degraded forests in a number of states.

Richness of Biodiversity in India

India is one of the identified mega biodiversity or biodiversity rich countries of the world. With only 2.4% of the land area, India already accounts for 7-8% of the recorded species of the world. Over 45,968 species of plants and 91,364 species of animals have been recorded so far. The wide variety in physical features and climatic situations have resulted in a diversity of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, coastal and marine (mangroves and coral reefs), 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. India is also one of the 8 primary centres of crop diversity, and has several wild varieties of crop of rice, maize, millets, barley and brinjals. Many breeds of domesticated animals (buffaloes, cattle, sheep, goat, camel, horses, donkeys, etc.) are also found in the country.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), one of the key agreements adopted during the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is the first comprehensive global agreement which addresses all aspects relating to biodiversity. The CBD has near universal membership with 193 countries as its Parties. India is a Party to the CBD. The Convention, while reaffirming sovereign rights of nations over their biological resources, has three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.

Operationlizing the access and benefit sharing provisions of the CBD has been of special interest to countries such as India which is rich in biological resources as well as associated traditional knowledge.

Major Programmes for Conserving Biodiversity

India has a long history of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Strategies and plans for conservation and sustainable use of bio-resources are ingrained in Indian ethos and ways of life. Environment protection is enshrined in our Constitution {Articles 48 A and 51 A (g)}. Over a period of time, a stable organizational structure has been developed for environment protection. Numerous and wide ranging policies, programmes and projects are in place which directly or indirectly serve to protect, conserve and regulate sustainable use of the biological resources of the country. These include:

• Legal and policy regime {e.g. Forest (Conservation) Act, Wildlife (Protection) Act, Biological Diversity Act, National Forest Policy, National Wildlife Action Plan, National Forestry Action Programme, National Environment Policy}.
• Survey and inventorisation of floral and faunal resources.
In-situ conservation through establishment of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Biosphere Reserves, etc.
• Conservation of ecologically fragile areas such as mangrove, wetlands, coral reefs.
Ex-situ conservation through setting up of botanic gardens, zoos, gene banks, etc.
• After ratification of CBD in 1994, the Ministry of Environment & Forests initiated the development of legislation on biological diversity. The Biological Diversity Act was enacted in 2002 and Rules notified in 2004, and further a policy and action strategy on biodiversity were also developed.

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. Thereafter, an externally aided project on National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was also implemented in the country during 2000-2004, adopting a highly participatory process involving various stakeholders. After approval of the National Environment Policy (NEP) in 2006, preparation of National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) was taken up by revising and updating the document prepared in 1999, and by using the final technical report of NBSAP project. The NBAP thus prepared was approved by the Cabinet on 6th November. (PIB Features)


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