New Delhi: Soon, when you go to watch a movie, you will get to watch messages and videos on the need to protect and conserve India’s biodiversity—similar to the anti-smoking campaigns that cinemas currently run.

India’s National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is set to write to all state authorities and other stakeholders to include messages and videos aimed at promoting biodiversity conservation before the start of movie shows or during intervals.

Established in 2003, NBA is an autonomous body which performs facilitative, regulatory and advisory function for the Indian government on the issue of conservation, sustainable use of biological resource and fair and equitable sharing of benefits of use.

India is among the world’s most bio-diverse countries. It has only 2.5% of the world’s land area but accounts for 7.8% of the recorded species of the world, including 45,500 species of plants and 91,000 of animals.

“Thus it is important to do something about biodiversity conservation. We are going to write to authorities to have some slides (pictures) or a message to conserve biodiversity just like we have anti-smoking campaigns (videos) during the interval. If we hit the audience with a message again and again, it would work," said NBA chairperson B. Meenakumari.

In the late 1980s, when Meenakumari was posted in the fisheries department in Tamil Nadu, she used movie intervals to spread the message on conservation of lobsters among farmers in one region of the state.

“The campaign showed great potential as it increased the awareness by a huge level. That is why we want to scale up the experiment across India, including in regional languages," she added.

The NBA chairperson explained that it would customise the message depending upon the biodiversity concerns of a particular area and in regional languages to maximize the reach.

“We will have messages in languages like Hindi, Oriya, Bengali, Telegu, Tamil and others. Because the biodiversity concerns of different areas may be different, we can capture different themes," Meenakumari added.

To push ahead with the message of biodiversity conservation, NBA is also planning to write to schools and colleges to make students aware of the importance and value of biodiversity in India.

“We don’t want a change in curriculum but just that the importance that the issue of biodiversity should get is not given at present. Thus, we will write to education institutions to include biodiversity as a subject," she added.

Environmentalists welcome NBA’s approach to popularizing biodiversity conservation using innovative methods.

“As an idea, if it will be customized, it is definitely a good idea. There is so little information around biodiversity that anything that is done is a good idea. It can be done state-specific. It should be welcomed," said Parineeta Dandekar, environmental researcher at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, an environmental NGO.

Dandekar, however, slammed NBA for failing to take hard and tough decisions.

“NBA has been shying away from taking hard decisions. NBA sits on many expert committees of the Union environment ministry but rarely raises concerns around biodiversity. We have also written to NBA several times to conduct biodiversity assessment across the country which is their mandate as per India’s Biological diversity Act (2002) but are yet to receive even a reply from them," she added.

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