Saturday, 27 October 2012

COP 11 on Biological Diversity: Look beyond Hyderabad Summit

By Syed Akbar

The success of the United Nations summit on biological diversity,
which concluded in Hyderabad last week, testifies to India's ingenuity
as a leader-nation, backed by 5000-year-old civilization that sees
divinity in Nature. It was one of the biggest politico-scientific
events in the world, and India has successfully brought 175
negotiating nations towards consensus on contentious issues like
protection of life in the oceans, funding from developed nations to
developing states, and linking livelihoods to protection of plants and
animals.

India also played a key role in convincing developed and polluting
nations to double their financial contribution, though it kept
everybody guessing on its strategy till the eleventh hour, on
mobilization of resources to meet the targets fixed two years ago at a
similar event in Nagoya, Japan. The targets, named after Aichi, a
locality in Nagoya, are to be met by 2020, and India, as the new Chair
will guide the world nations in the next 24 months in achieving some
of them.

The task for India however is not over yet. Though it has played the
much-needed leadership role successfully on the world forum, it needs
to do a lot on the home turf. India, with all its varied and unique
life forms, is a mega diversity nation. This makes the task even more
challenging. All is not well with the biological diversity in the
country and its exclusive economic zone extending into the Indian
Ocean. Statistically India may have presented a rosy picture to the
world outside. But on the ground level, the protection and
conservation strategies and laws are far from complete.

The health of India’s forests and its vast water bodies is fast
deteriorating. Poaching goes on unchecked in the wild, while the
rivers and seas are overexploited and polluted. The population of big
cats is fast dwindling. The country has also failed to insulate itself
from bio-pirates, who smuggle out the germplasm of India’s indigenous
flora and fauna. India’s success on the bio-piracy front at the world
forum has been limited, though it could win the neem and turmeric
patent cases. India’s forests are the source of hidden biological
treasure. Every year dozens of new plants and animals are discovered,
and many of them brim with medical, genetic and economic resources.

We have enough laws to protect our biodiversity. We, however, lack in
their implementation. Our civilization has evolved in the last five
millennia on the fulcrum of this major Vedic principle, “prakruti
rakshati rakshitaha” (Nature protects if she is protected).
Incidentally, this was the slogan of the Hyderabad summit. We should
stop basking in the glory of our success at the summit. It is high
time we looked beyond Hyderabad and set right our forests, rivers and
seas. For, in their well being alone lies human happiness and
survival.

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