The Next Generation of Biodiversity Governance Models across the World can Emerge from the Knowledge of Existing Approaches in India, Says a New UNDP Report
Hyderabad - A new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) calls for adopting a landscape approach to biodiversity governance which will allow a range of ecosystems to thrive and not just the smaller protected parts of it. On the basis of a detailed review of prevalent biodiversity governance models in India, the report concludes that solutions to conservation challenges require a variety of governance approaches instead of isolated conservation approaches.
Conservation Across Landscapes: India’s Approaches to Biodiversity Governance outlines five models of biodiversity governance and explores their effectiveness. Two models – protected areas and territorial forests – fall within the protected area stream of biodiversity governance. Three other models – autonomous community efforts, co-management of forests and decentralized governance of biodiversity – are more closely aligned with community based conservation.
The report explains how India’s extraordinary biological diversity and variety of resource-use patterns have given rise to a range of approaches to conserve India’s natural landscapes.
Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India stressed that “India’s approach to balancing conservation and development has immense relevance for the world. Key to this approach is using the economic potential of natural resources to reduce poverty and accelerate inclusive growth.”
The Report frames the future of biodiversity governance through several recommendations including valuation of ecosystem services, mainstreaming biodiversity considerations into commercial sectors, addressing governance gaps in coastal and marine conservation, recognizing community conserved areas, unlocking economic opportunity of the non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and promotion of ecosystem-based approaches in development planning.
The Report argues that because biodiversity governance is complex, the landscape approach that builds on the combined strengths of various governance models should be adopted. This approach transcends political and administrative boundaries and gives primacy to ecological integrity while accommodating diverse interest groups and resource-use claims.
This report was released at a Ministerial Reception hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India on October 17 by Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests and Rebeca Grynspan, UN Under Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator.
There are five governance models outlined in the publication: These are (1) protected areas enabled through a network of 668 formal protected areas covering 4.9 percent of the country’s geographical area (2) autonomous community efforts such as community conserved areas and sacred groves; (3) territorial forests that lie outside formal protected areas and are administered by the Forest department; (4) co-management through 118,000 Joint Forest Management Committees that protect 23 million hectares of forest lands; and (5) decentralized governance of biodiversity enabled through local self-government institutions.
Recommendations are to:
- Undertake comprehensive valuation of ecosystem services in the country enabling appropriate accounting of natural capital depreciation, its inclusion in planning and corporate operations and internalization of environment costs.
- Integrate biodiversity considerations into commercial sectors through a combination of incentives, constant engagement, changes to legal and policy frameworks and technical support.
- Harness the potential of the Forest Rights Act which empowers local communities to protect and sustainably manage forest biodiversity as responsible guardians of natural resources.
- Unlock the economic opportunity of the non-timber forest products (NTFPs) sector to secure access to and sustainable harvest of NTFPs through creating a national apex institution to transform markets; ensure substantial and stable incomes to local communities ; introduce transparency in markets; and invest in knowledge and technology.
- Revamp the Joint Forest Management (JFM) Programme to strengthen linkages with grassroots institutions such as biodiversity management committees and panchayati raj institutions. Empower JFMs committees to demonstrate sustainable harvest of and value addition to forest resources at local levels.
- Recognize Community Conserved Areas and revisit legal and policy frameworks to provide security of tenure over CCAs. Government and civil society need to recognize the rights of local communities and undertake comprehensive documentation of the biodiversity wealth contained in CCAs.
- Improve the productivity of India’s forests which is currently insufficient to meet domestic and commercial wood requirements. This has particular implications for India’s strategy to combat climate change. For example, if the productivity of forests could be doubled from the baseline, it would significantly exceed the carbon sequestration target envisaged in the national Green India Mission.
- Invest in the capacities of conservation institutions and community organizations that are engaged in biodiversity governance. More attention has to be paid to emerging issues such as invasive species, human-animal conflict and climate change. Changes in approach and focus also need to be reflected in the working plans and protected area management plans.
- Upscale ecosystem based adaptation (EbA) in development planning in India i.e. integrate the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy in development planning.
- Expand the frontiers of conservation by focusing more on state-controlled territorial forests and CCAs. Given the escalating demand for land, application of Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves categories may offer ways to further expand the protected area network and allow for sustainable use of natural resources.
- Usher in a new spatial planning paradigm that takes into account the aspirations of economic growth, local livelihoods and ecological health.