As India preps for the 11th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which will be held from 1-19 October, 2012, in Hyderabad, we decided to take a look at what world leaders had agreed to do at the 10th CBD meet in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. What were the targets put up for countries and what has India managed to achieve? In a nutshell, do genetic resources stand a better chance of survival? The biodiversity targets were divided into five parts, named Strategic Goal A, Strategic Goal B and so on till E with separate targets under each part. Out of all these, Strategic goals B and C are directly related to conserving biodiversity. Let us look at both of these. Goal B is ‘To reduce the direct pressure on biodiversity and promote sustainable use’. Here are its targets: Halving and bringing to zero, if feasible, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, by 2020 Managing and harvesting all fish, aquatic plants and invertebrate stocks sustainably by 2020. Managing areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry sustainably. Bringing pollution to levels that are not detrimental to the functioning of ecosystems or biodiversity. Minimising the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification by 2015.
According to a Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) report, India’s forest cover went up from 6, 83,100 square km in 1994 to 6, 96,260 square km in 2007 (latest data available). However, during 2009-10, India lost 367 square kilometres of forest cover, as per the India State Forest report from February 2012. So at present, the total forest cover is 6, 92, 027 square km, with a 0.6 percent decrease in India’s forest cover from 2007 to 2012. If the forest cover figures still seem optimistic, the environmental journal, Nature, feels they are also misleading because native forests are being replaced with plantations, which are like artificial forests. Non-native trees like acacia and eucalyptus have very low biological value and end up damaging local biodiversity.
India has been coping with the issue of over fishing for a long time now. Giant trawlers that break all rules on coastal lines are destroying marine biodiversity and natural breeding habitats like mangroves. According to a recent news report, 90 per cent of India’s fish resources are estimated at or above maximum sustainable levels of exploitation. A Press Information of Bureau report dated 2011 says that around 25 species of fish and amphibians that are critically endangered are not even included in any conservation programme and do not have protected habitats.
The inclusion of corals under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1971, has helped preserve them to an extent. According to a 2010 news report, the end of coral mining in 2005 and other efforts have bumped up enhancement of live coral from 37 per cent in 2005 to 43 per cent in 2009. However, excessive climate warming caused corals on the southern coast (Mandapam, Tuticorin) to bleach.
Of all the threatened species in the country, perhaps none has received as much attention as the tiger. As per the MoEF report in 2011, the population of tigers has jumped from 1,411 in 2007 to 1,636 in 2010, which is a 12 per cent rise. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list, the threat level of seven Indian birds has risen in the last year. While there are some species that have moved from endangered to critically endangered, there are others like Sinhoe's storm petrel that has moved from least concerned to near-threatened this year. Currently there are 18 species of amphibians, 14 of fish, 10 of mammals and 25 of birds in the IUCN list. Sporadic instances of success make it hard to decide if there is indeed a rise or decline in numbers. But according to MoEF’s report, there has been an increased number of endangered species (all types) from 2009 to 2010.
C for Conserve
Goal C talks about three things:
Preventing extinction of known threatened species and improving their conservation status. Conservation of at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially those of biodiversity significance by 2020. Maintaining the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of their wild relatives. It also highlights that while there have been many new programmes and measures undertaken by organisations for preserving marine biodiversity, the lack of infrastructure and technical expertise are constant roadblocks.
As per GT records October 31, 2005
As ornithologists delve deeper, they are coming up with some pretty scary facts. In the last 300 years, out of 8700 species of birds world over, 80 have become extinct. Take the case of vultures, nature’s winged scavengers. Since 1997, about one lakh of the species have disappeared in India. No one has been able to pinpoint the actual reason behind this, till today. While some scientists believe that it is due to the lethal effect of a drug called Diclofenac sodium, used to treat sick animals, which is then passed on to the vultures that feed on dead cattle, others blame it on the intake of pesticides. Whatever the reason is, the vanishing vultures are causing serious concern worldwide. Why? Because the scavenger birds help cleanse the natural ecosystem of decaying carcasses. And, keep the cities and villages free of diseases. Curiously, with fewer vultures to feed on animal remains, kites and are getting a larger share of matter to scavenge on. This recent phenomenon of avian opportunists taking over the domain of the less adaptive varieties has been termed synurbisation by incredulous bird watchers.