• Biodiversity – A Time to Act | Srinivasan Iyer

    13 Aug 2012

    Biodiversity – A Time to Act | Srinivasan Iyer
    Photo: UNDP India

    Rice, pigeon pea, mango, turmeric, ginger, pepper, banana, bitter gourd, okra, coconut, cardamom, jackfruit, sugarcane, bamboo, taro, indigo, sunhemp, amaranths, goose berries. India is considered to be the place of the origin of several varieties of these plant species. India is one of the 17 mega biodiversity countries of the world. With only 2.5% of the land area, India accounts for 7.8% of the recorded species of the world.

    The country has contributed to and is party to key multilateral agreements on environmental issues, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Pursuant to the CBD, following a widespread consultative process, and programs related to biodiversity, Biological Diversity Act, 2002 has been enacted. India is one of the few countries to have enacted such a legislation. This Act primarily aims at giving effect for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and facilitate access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge so as to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of their commercialization. UNDP contributed to the formulation of the BD Act.

    Last week, along with the Madhya Pradesh State Minister of Forests, I was at a national consultation which was exploring the challenges of implementing this landmark legislation. In particular, the consultation asked how the role of State Biodiversity Boards and the Biodiversity Management Committees set up at the community level can be strengthened.

    I delivered a speech at the inaugural session emphasising the need for support to the institutional framework, particularly the Biodiversity Management Committees, to deliver on the Act’s mandate. The Act offers opportunity for increase community control over biodiversity, as well as secure access and benefit sharing of benefits arising from commercial exploitation of biological resources. Owing to the close link between the Biological Diversity Act 2002, National Environment Policy 2006, Schedule Tribes and other Traditional Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, National Biodiversity Action Plan 2008 and India’s Fourth National Report to the CBD (Part 1, Part 2), inclusion of natural resource dependent tribal and marginalized population, particularly women, in the planning and decision making process is one of the critical and vital elements of the strategy.

    I highlighted the work done by the partners in the UNDP-National Biodiversity Authority project, specifically on People’s Biodiversity Registers and benefit sharing, and on developing capacities of Biodiversity Management Committees.

    The Minister made a special request for greater attention to be paid on strategies to encourage the protection of traditional medicinal plants and healing practices. He said that this will ensure that traditional knowledge on India’s biodiversity will be preserved and serve well to balance with newer technologies.

    Later during the consultation UNDP also participated on the session on Bioresources Management in Private and Community Lands. The session highlighted the work done by individual farmers on private land and the prospects of improving and upscaling through marketing support of such work.

    Srinivasan Iyer is Assistant Country Director and Head, Environment and Energy unit, UNDP India.