National biodiversity plan admits India has failed to conserve biodiversity

Published: Monday 15 October 2007

-- Down to Earth The Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) says India's vast gene pool in agriculture and livestock has been widely ignored, creating a food security risk in the country

Down to Earth Measures to conserve its rich biodiversity have not been sufficient. Despite many laws in place (Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Forest (Conservation Act), 1980, Biological Diversity Act, 2002), the report admits that there is lack of effective enforcement of the laws to protect biodiversity

Down to Earth Much of India's forestland has been given away for industrial and infrastructural activities. Since the enactment of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, about 15,000 projects involving 1.14 million hectares of forest have got official clearance

Down to Earth Over 40 per cent of India's forests face different levels of degradation. The plan blames domestic demand for timber, fuel-wood and grazing for the crisis. About 80 per cent of the forest area faces heavy grazing while fire affects 50 per cent of the forest cover

Down to Earth India now has just 12 varieties of food, which provide 80 per cent of the food energy. Changing lifestyles have affected variety, taste and nutritional value of food

Down to Earth Agricultural biodiversity has been declining in India with more number of crops being commercially cultivated. Number of varieties grown under different agricultural systems has also fallen. Over 300,000 samples of indigenous plants kept in the National Gene Bank have gone out of cultivation

Down to Earth Nearly 140 native breeds of farm livestock are facing survival threat. Low genetic diversity in natural conditions has affected the evolutionary development of indigenous wild species

Down to Earth About 90 per cent of India's traditional herbs are being traded. India's share in the global complementary medicine market valued at us $62 billion is only 0.3 per cent, out of which 70 per cent comes from the export of raw materials

Down to Earth Grasslands, rivers, wetlands and coastal and marine ecosystems are under threat causing widespread damage in support system for various species

Down to Earth Grassland species like the Great Indian Bustard are under threat

Down to Earth With just 180 left across the world, the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), a riverine species, is in the critically endangered category of the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (iucn)

Down to Earth Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), is in iucn's endangered category

Down to Earth Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) is also in the critically endangered category

Down to Earth Despite biosafety concerns, genetically modified crops like Bt cotton have got official approval for commercial use

Down to Earth 70 per cent of the country's land area has been surveyed and around 46,000 species of plants and 89,000 species of animals have been described. Nearly 50 per cent of the aquatic plants of the world are recorded in India

Down to Earth More than 400,000 species in India needs to be recorded. Lack of experts is affecting identification

Source Draft National Biodiversity Action Plan, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, August 2007, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2007

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