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Saving biodiversity, securing earth’s future

Context:

On this World Environment Day June 5th 2021, with the novel coronavirus pandemic raging across our vast country, we must reflect on the ways to rebuild our relationship with nature.

Climate change and the ongoing pandemic will put additional stresses on our natural ecosystems even though it is becoming clear that repairing our dysfunctional relationship with nature is one of the ways to mitigate climate change and curtail future outbreaks of infectious diseases that can bring unimaginable misery. Thus, preserving biodiversity is directly relevant to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of our people.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India’s Biodiversity Value
  2. National Mission on Biodiversity
  3. The Benefits: An important framework

India’s Biodiversity Value

  • India’s people benefit from its biodiversity in so many ways – it affects the food they eat and their health and provides protection from natural disasters – and this is exemplified in how biodiversity is interwoven in many of our land’s cultural practices.
  • From an economic standpoint, the natural services associated with biodiversity provided by India’s forests alone, are valued at a whopping Rs. 128 trillion/year.
  • Yet, biodiversity science and its links to human well-being in India largely remain unexplored and neglected. Only a small part of India’s immense human population knows about the role and importance of biodiversity in its lives.
  • To address this lacuna, a group of scientists from several institutions have created a framework for an ambitious national initiative – the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being.

National Mission on Biodiversity

  • The National Mission on Biodiversity proposes a national effort that aims to transform biodiversity science by linking it to the peoples’ economic prosperity.

The National Biodiversity Mission proposes a two-component programme to bring biodiversity science to the forefront of scientific and public engagement:

  • The first component, titled the ‘Cataloguing and Mapping Life of India’ programme will focus on building an inventory of India’s biodiversity, and will use digital tools to map this biodiversity with people, cultures, and management regimes.
    • This component aims to build databases that can assess and monitor changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services, and link biodiversity knowledge with societal benefits.
    • The component will also engage citizens in collecting biodiversity data to build awareness of the rich natural heritage of India and the need for conservation.
  • The second component is divided into six programmes, which will focus on biodiversity with regard to ecosystem services; climate change and disaster risk reduction; agriculture; health; bio-economy; and capacity building and outreach.
    • The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services programme will focus on identifying, quantifying and mapping key ecosystem services such as pollination, food production, water availability, soil fertility, and others in different habitats such as forests, grasslands, rivers, etc. The programme will also document threats to biodiversity due to changes in factors like land-use and non-native invasive organisms, in addition to developing conservation actions that can protect biodiversity while maximising benefits to local people.
    • The Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Reduction programme will map and quantify the role of India’s forests in regulating monsoonal rains and mitigating climate change. This programme will provide data for constructing policies on managing and reducing the occurrence and impacts of climate change-induced natural disasters such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and landslides.
    • The Biodiversity and Agriculture programme aims to measure the economic value of India’s biodiversity in agro-ecosystems to ensure the country’s food security. It will focus on how biodiversity can enhance agricultural productivity and rural incomes by sustainable use of local ecosystems.
    • The Biodiversity and Health programme will look into two aspects of how biodiversity can improve healthcare – one will create an interactive citizen’s portal on medicinal plants of India to provide reliable information for managing human, livestock, and crop health. The second aspect will investigate the relationships between biodiversity loss and patterns of infectious diseases that spread to humans from animals (such as SARS, Nipah, and swine flu).
    • The Biodiversity and Bio-economy programme will explore ways to reduce ecosystem stress caused by economic drivers. This programme will look for ways to reduce carbon emissions, and the effective use of bio-resources for renewable and sustainable livelihoods for people.
    • The Biodiversity Capacity building and Outreach programme will work to develop educational and training programmes for biodiversity professionals, support existing and develop new citizen science initiatives, and bring biodiversity into the public consciousness.
  • It further aims to help India realize the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by using India’s rich biodiversity to create solutions for challenges in agriculture, health, and climate change.
  • Under this Mission, research institutions, government, and non-government organizations will work together to catalogue, map, assess, monitor, and use our vast but declining natural assets sustainably.
  • The Mission will also help create a cadre of biodiversity science professionals to sustain and secure Indian biodiversity.
  • The Mission hopes to initiate a mass movement to engage India’s massive population to feel pride in our natural heritage, and help in restoring and conserving nature.
  • One of the key aspects of the Mission is its inclusivity – the Mission will involve scientific institutions, several ministries, government agencies, and non-government organisations. The people who will power the Mission will be the citizens of India.

The Benefits: An important framework

  • The ongoing spread of COVID-19 places this National Biodiversity Mission among the most significant national initiatives.
  • The pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and nature, and we must urgently address the issues it has laid bare:
    • the emergence of infectious diseases;
    • lack of food and nutritional security;
    • rural unemployment; and
    • climate change, with all its stresses on nature, rural landscapes, and public health.
  • In response to these critical and interrelated issues, the Mission offers a holistic framework, integrated approaches, and widespread societal participation.
  • The Mission’s comprehensive efforts will empower India to restore, and even increase, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees. Mitigation programmes will lessen the impacts of climate change and other natural disasters, such as pandemics and floods.
  • We can rejuvenate agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture while also creating millions of green jobs in restoration and nature tourism.
  • Restoration activities across India’s degraded lands, which amount to almost a third of our land area, alone could generate several million jobs.
  • The Mission will help India meet its commitments under the new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs related to pressing social issues including poverty alleviation, justice and equity, and protection of life.
  • It will generate a strong national community committed to sustaining biodiversity, promoting social cohesion and uniting the public behind an important goal.
  • Mission programmes will offer nature-based solutions to numerous environmental challenges, including degradation of rivers, forests, and soils, and ongoing threats from climate change, with the goal of creating climate-resilient communities. Scientific inputs, especially related to geospatial informatics and policy, can guide the development of strategies for conservation and ecosystem management.
  • Equally important, the Mission’s “One Health” programme, integrating human health with animal, plant, soil and environmental health, has both the preventive potential to curtail future pandemics along with the interventional capability for unexpected public health challenges.

-Source: The Hindu

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