India is failing to meet its conservation goals amid declining global biodiversity, even as the world celebrates the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD) on Tuesday.
IBD marks “25 Years of Action for Biodiversity" initiated by the United Nations Convention on Biological Biodiversity (CBD). A total of 196 countries, including India, are signatories of the CBD and will highlight their achievements as part of the programme.
India is a treasure trove of biodiversity, hosting 7-8% of all recorded species globally, including over 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. It is also among the few countries that have developed a biogeographic classification for conservation planning, and has mapped biodiversity-rich areas, a government report says.
“India currently spends about $2 billion per year on biodiversity conservation efforts, but the country requires between $5-15 billion more every year to meet its biodiversity conservation targets," said Yuri Afanasiev, United Nations resident coordinator for India.
All 196 signatories are part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for 2011-2020. However, with only two years left for completion, experts say there is little to celebrate when the actual figures and status are considered.
India is falling way short of fulfilling conservation goals. In the last three years, it has lost 36,500 hectares of forest land to development. Expansion of National Highways 6 and 7 in central India is destroying at least six crucial tiger corridors, including the Pench-Kanha corridor. The submergence of a part of the Panna tiger reserve by river interlinking projects, proposed denotification of tiger reserves for mining and hydropower projects are also huge setbacks for the conservation of biodiversity.
The government says there has been an increase by 1% or 8,021 sq. km in forest and tree cover in 2015-2017.
Yet there are glaring examples of how natural forest is getting fragmented by linear infrastructure. Rampant poaching of endangered species, excessive pollution, unplanned infrastructure and urban development are indicating a decline in biodiversity, experts say.
Globally, biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world. “Nature’s capacity to contribute to people is being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures – habitat loss; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; the impact of invasive alien species and climate change. This alarming trend endangers economies; livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere," said over 550 global scientists and experts in a statement at the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) held in March.