World Environment Day: Biodiversity conservation herculean task

Pawan Kumar Singh

New Delhi, Jun 5 (PTI) Conservation of biodiversity in 2020 so far has been a tight-walk rope as the country is grappling with several unprecedented challenges including coronavirus pandemic, cyclones, attack of locusts and recurring earthquakes.

While the world is still grappling with ways to fight the life threatening virus and experts are on their toes to speed up vaccine development, it is unclear yet as to when scientists would actually succeed to deliver a COVID-19 antidote.

Environmental challenges such as impacts of climate change, loss of biodiversity, over-use of natural resources and environmental and health issues are receiving a growing level of public, private, and governmental attention.

Today is June 5 which is celebrated as 'World Environment Day' to encourage awareness and environmental protection.

The theme of the World Environment Day this year is 'Biodiversity', which is described as the variety of life in a particular habitat or ecosystem, where each species has an important role to play.

India's top environmental watchdog National Green Tribunal has been playing a key role since its inception in upholding for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

The issue of 'Biodiversity' is also under consideration by the NGT after a Pune resident Chandra Bhal Singh in 2016 filed a petition seeking implementation of provisions of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Biological Diversity Rules, 2004.

It was alleged that various states in the country have failed to give proper attention to the unique biodiversity prevalent in India and they have also not undertaken their statutory obligations with 'seriousness and have remained oblivious in discharging the statutory provision in last couple of years'.

It further said the Peoples Biodiversity Register (PBR), a document which records diversity of flora and fauna, has not been prepared and maintained by the Biodiversity Management Committee by some of the states.

The Biological Diversity Act 2002 aims to preserve biological diversity in India and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge.

The 2002 Act was enacted to provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits and for matters connected 'therewith or incidental thereto' with a view to give effect to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity which came into force on December 29, 1993.

This Tribunal issued notices to all the States and Union Territories, Boards and authorities and the matter has been considered on several dates in the last two years.

During the hearing, a monitoring committee comprising officials from the Ministry of Environment and Forests and National Biodiversity Authority informed NGT that as against 2,52,709 panchayats where Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) were to be constituted, total of 1,44,371 BMCs have been formed, which shows a gap of more than one lakh.

With respect to People Biodiversity Registers, 6,834 have been documented so far and another 1,814 are in progress, the NGT was told.

Ministry of Environment and Forests also filed a report in August 2019 stating that the Principal Secretaries of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Departments were asked to expedite the setting up of the BMCs and three regional meetings were held with all the States and the State Biodiversity Boards.

The NGT was apprised that as against the need to constitute 3,17,519 BMCs, only 1,55,838 BMCs have been constituted and 6,868 PBRs have been documented, while 1,692 PBRs are still in progress.

There is an urgent need to document details of local communities as India is one of the recognised mega-diverse countries, harbouring nearly 7-8 per cent of the recorded species of the world, the National Green Tribunal has said.

Commenting on the report, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said there was 'zero' progress with regard to the Peoples' Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) in Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

On the subject of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) there is 'zero' progress in Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir, the tribunal noted.

It had directed chief secretaries of all the states, where the defaults are continuing to consider giving warning to the panchayat secretaries for their past failures.

It said there is an urgent need to document the knowledge of the local community in the form of PBR as India is one of the recognized mega-diverse countries of the world, harbouring nearly 7-8 per cent of the recorded species of the world, and representing 4 of the 34 globally identified biodiversity hotspots.

'So far, over 91,200 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants have been documented in the ten biogeographic regions of the country. The indigenous and local community are a repository of traditional knowledge and their knowledge and practices help in conservation and sustainable development of the biodiversity,' the NGT said. PTI PKS SJK SA