International Day of Biodiversity 2019

N Munal Meitei *

 Keibul Lamjao cycle tour as part of Sangai festival :: 22nd to 25th November 2014
Keibul Lamjao National Park - A cycle tour on 25th November 2014 :: Pix - Pui Longjam

In the recent past, it is reported that our state is facing the challenges from invasion by army worm in some of our important crops. Such challenges to our live and property are also a part of biodiversity degradation. Many more such issues will be coming up if we continue to ignore and forget to conserveour environment. Everything comes from biodiversity-from the food we eat to the air we breathe.

But issues arise threatening this vital part of nature. Threats on endangered species, deforested catchments, depleted watersheds, denuded forests, receding wetlands and other harmful effects of human activities are just some of these many issues. To keep these risks away, we are celebrating International Day of Biodiversityon the 22nd May every year.

Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure for health of ecosystem of a particular area. It also measures the variation at genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Biodiversity is again the "totality of genes, species and ecosystems of a region".

Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth's surfacebut it support more than 90 percent of the world's species. Terrestrial biodiversity is again thought to be up to 25 times greater than ocean biodiversity.

Theme for International Day for Biodiversity 2019 is "Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health."

Whether you are in New York or Delhi or Imphal, you have more chances to access to a greater variety of food than our parents or our grandparents once did. But even as the offerings become more diverse, the global diet as a whole- what people actually eat- is becoming more homogenized, and this is more dangerous. This year's celebrations focus on biodiversity as the foundation for our food and health and a key catalyst to transform the food systems and improving human health.

The theme aims to leverage knowledge and spread awareness of the dependency of our food systems, nutrition, and health on biodiversity and ecosystems. The theme also celebrates the diversity provided by our natural systems for human existence and well-being on Earth, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, ecosystem restoration, cleaner water and zero hunger, among others.

Biodiversity is like a large tank, from which humans can draw food, water, clothes and even our housing. These are just some examples of the ecosystem functions that we can get for free from our natural environment. If we want to preserve these free services, we must protect our biodiversity; we have still got left, foster it and give it the space it needs to endure climate change and related environmental threats.

It is an "insurance" for life on this Planet, and therefore must be protected at all costs, because it is a universal heritage that can offer immediate advantages to human beings.Biodiversity is as if the natural world is an enormous bank account of capital assets capable of paying life sustaining dividends indefinitely, but only if the capital is maintained.

Biodiversity not only supplies us in all basic needs, but also helps us, in dealing with our organic waste.It is proposed that species themselves are the architects of biodiversity, by proportionally increasing the number of potentially available niches in a given ecosystem. The natural species, or biota, are the caretakers of all ecosystems. It may be mentioned that biodiversity has intrinsic aesthetic and spiritual value to mankind in and of itself.

At least 40 per cent of the world's economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, richer the diversity, the greater is the opportunity for economic development, medical discoveries and adaptive responses to fight such new challenges. Biodiversity's relevance to human health is now an international political issue. Biodiversity is the living fabric of our planet. It underpins human wellbeing in the present and future, and its rapid decline threatens nature and people alike.

CBD Graphic Timeline

The Earth's biological resources are vital to humanity's social development. Almost all cultures have their roots in our biological diversity in some way or form. Declining biodiversity is therefore a concern for many reasons. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystem has never been as great as it is today.

From the perspective of biodiversity this means, species are being lost almost not on a daily basis but on seconds, at the rate of one species per 20 minutes. Acknowledgement of these problems, however, means that we can find solutions for them, although most solutions require enormous economic aids and political will which may anchor these coherent problems.

The natural wealth of the Indian subcontinent has remained unique, mysterious and fascinating for nature lovers for ages. In Indian philosophy, life in any form is deemed sacred and it is advocated that compassion for all living creatures is essential. The worship of nature in all its different forms is an essential part of our cultural legacy.

India owns 7.8% of the recorded species of biodiversity reserved in the planet, though we share only 1.8% of the world's geographical area; over and above harboring 20.6% of world population and 18% of world cattle population. The country is in the 5 hot spots of the world.

The rich and fascinating variety of India's biodiversity populates more than 500 species of mammals, 1,220 species of birds, 1,600 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 57,000 species of insects. India harbours 60% of the world's wild tiger population, 50% of Asian elephants, 80% of the one-horned rhinoceros and the entire remaining population of the Asiatic lion.

Yet the biodiversity found within our country is in jeopardy. From pollution to poaching, invasive species to habitat loss and fragmentation, these life forms that we call our biodiversity are not enough to ensure for the future survival.

The challenges of our Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating N.P. in the world, the home of our lovely Sangai is also in agony. In the past few weeks, with the dead of many domestic animals in the surrounding villages of the National Park has threatened our Sangai.

If the disease continues to spread, there is high possibility of communicating the diseases to Sangai. For domestic animals, treatment may not be a problem but Sangai once infected, it will be a huge problem to protect them and this may lead to wipe out of our state animal for forever. Currently Sangai population is in vulnerable since it is much below the tipping point. The health and survival of our state flower, Siroy lily is also almost same.

In the last 100 years, more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared in this country from the farmers' fields. In our state, many important verities of rice such as Changlei, Phourel, Kakching phou, Moirangphou etc. are becoming extinct. Many of the important indigenous trees of the state are also found to extinct.

In the morning we do not hear the awakening songs of the crows. Half of the breeds of domestic animals have also gone. Meitei hui breed may be sited as an example. Manipur has lostalmost18 important species of fishes from its wetlands.

As commented earlier, Ithai barrage is now to focus for revival of our aqua-biodiversity in the state. Locally-varied indigenous and traditional food production methods are now under threat. Plastics in all forms- packaging in religious celebrations, serving of hot tea and subjiin hotels and using of non-graded plastic in day today life is really a challenging health hazard in Manipur. Wrapping edibles with newspaper is also equally dangerous.

In the fields, all our local vegetable products have been sprayedwith various insecticides, pesticides and weedicides.Among them, many are already banned on all over the world but are freely using in our state without a restriction. With these injections, our agro-biodiversity is declining day by day.

The loss of diverse diets and consumption of hormones and chemicalsrich vegetables is directly linked to diseases and health risk, such as blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and malnutrition, and many other dreaded diseases. While medical sciences improved, people started to ignore the traditional practices which may lead to the extinct of our invaluable indigenous knowledge of Maiba and Maibi.

Preserving biodiversity and human development must go hand-in-hand. Once there was only a choice between development and conservation. But now we realize that we cannot separate these two words any longer. To halt the biodiversity loss the best option being by understanding, appreciating, safeguarding and using biodiversity sustainably.

Future of our valued biodiversity depends on the action and values of people. Local authorities and governments are in the best position to reach out to citizens and involve, enable and inspire local stakeholders.

Cultural diversity and biodiversity exist hand in hand. By facilitating a deeper relationship with the environment and the mankind, the world's biodiversity can be conserved for the future generation. Therefore with the coming of the International Day of Biodiversity 2019, let us plant trees and let usnot harm to our biodiversity and environment and only then we can make a green, bright and beautiful biodiversity in future.

* N Munal Meitei wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Imphal Times
The writer can be reached at nmunall(AT)yahoo(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on May 22, 2019. .

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