Hyderabad: India has committed $50 million to strengthen the institutional mechanism for biodiversity conservation in the country and has also earmarked funds to promote similar capacity building in other developing countries, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday.
Singh called upon countries to achieve the Aichi biodiversity targets set in 2010 at Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Hyderabad.
“Despite global efforts, the 2010 biodiversity target(s) that we had set for ourselves under the Convention on Biological Diversity was not fully met. This situation needs to change. The critical issue really is how to mobilise the necessary financial, technical and human resources, particularly the incubation, sharing and transfer of technology,” he said, addressing delegates from 193 countries.
The Nagoya protocol to significantly reduce biodiversity loss, consists of 20 specific targets known as the Aichi biodiversity targets to be achieved by 2020. These include reducing the rate of loss of natural habitats by half, conserving 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas, and restoration of biodiversity by up to 15%, among others. The United Nations declared 2011-20 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity to support and promote implementation of the Aichi targets.
India’s $50 million commitment coincides with the country’s presidency of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for the next two years. Singh said the amount would be used for enhancing the technical and human capabilities of the country’s national and state-level mechanisms in order to achieve CBD objectives.
Towards this, India recently ratified the Nagoya protocol, becoming the seventh country to do so. It signed the protocol in 2011. To make the Nagoya protocol legal, CBD needs at least 50 ratifications. Only 91 countries have expressed their commitment toward ratification so far.
“I would urge all the parties to do likewise because concerted global action is imperative and cannot brook any further delay,” Singh said. “In recent years, it has become increasingly more difficult to find common ground on environmental issues. This is, indeed, unfortunate given that there is today a much higher global awareness of environmental risks and concerns. It is this consciousness that should provoke us to greater action even as we cope with the pressures of the current global economic downturn.”
“We have a tremendous implementation agenda. What we need to do is mobilize our resources,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, a database of 34 million pages of information in five international languages, is a step in the direction of complying with the Nagoya protocol, Singh said.
One of the objectives of the Nagoya protocol promotes protection of codified traditional knowledge systems such as ayurveda, yoga and unani medicine. Thanks to the database, more than 1,000 cases of so-called biopiracy have been identified and over 105 claims withdrawn or cancelled by patent offices.
“We believe that the treasure trove of traditional knowledge should be used for the benefit of all humankind rather than for private profit,” Manmohan Singh said.
India started building the database in 2001 after it learnt of a patent on the use of neem extract filed in Europe, and another on using turmeric as a healing agent. “In recent years, there has been concern that this public knowledge may become restricted in its use because of the application of the modern intellectual property system,” Singh said.
“India’s ratification of the Nagoya protocol... sends a powerful message of support for this new legal instrument and its significance to many countries, particularly biologically rich developing countries,” said Braulio Ferreira De Souza Dias, executive secretary, CBD.
Environmental activist groups dismissed PM’s statements as “doublespeak”.
“(The government) drags its feet in amending the Biological Diversity Act to empower communities in protecting their natural resources and traditional practices, and fails to implement the provision of the Act that mandates protection of such knowledge,” said Ashish Kothari of the Pune-based Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group.
“Domestically, he displayed breathtaking hypocrisy,” said Vinuta Gopal, head of climate and energy campaign Greenpeace India. “While he was lavish in his praise of forest dwellers and the role they play in managing and defending the forests and biodiversity, describing these communities as the best friends of the forests, he made no mention of the fact that his mass coal expansion policies will leave tens of thousands of forest dwellers without homes and livelihoods, a fact emphasised with 54 coal blocks being lined up for auction that will lead to state-sponsored corporate plunder of the forests,” she said.
During his 17-minute speech, Singh identified biodiversity present in the “forests and fields” as a key to solving the global challenge of food security.
Singh also said India had embarked on species recovery programmes on 16 identified endangered ones such as the snow leopard, hangul and lion. “Such country level efforts at preservation should be complemented by enhanced international collaboration to check wildlife crime,” he said. India is home to 600 protected areas covering an approximate 5% of the total geographical area.