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World Biodiversity Day, May 22:
India Finalising Ambitious Biodiversity Action Plan
Konthoujam Khelchandra
Press Release, 22 May, 2002

On the occasion of the World Biodiversity Day, May 22nd, humanity needs to ask itself: is life on earth being treated with the respect and care it needs. Are we doing enough to protect the plants and animals around us, and in so doing, our own health, food security, well being, and livelihood.

The ongoing National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) process, one of the world's largest environment and development planning exercises, is attempting to tackle these issues. A project of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, the NBSAP is unique in being technically coordinated by a national NGO, Kalpavriksh. Its administrative coordination is by the Biotech Consortium India Ltd. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and is a follow up to India's commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

In its last two and a half years of functioning, the NBSAP process has thrown up significant challenges for Indian society and economy. Foremost is the need to re-orient the development process to make it more sensitive to ecological issues, and to the concerns of the poorest people who depend on natural resources for survival, health, and livelihoods. People's movements in many parts of the country, such as the struggle of 7 million traditional fisherfolk against destructive commercial trawling and aquaculture, the movement to stop damage caused by mining in Orissa, Tehri Garhwal, and dozens of other places, and many others, are showing that there is a fundamental conflict between the long-term security of the country and the short-term financial gains of today's 'development' projects.

Another major challenge is to reconcile the needs for biodiversity conservation with that of the livelihood security of hundreds of millions of people. Current policies and programmes on conservation, such as protected areas, have certainly helped to conserve biodiversity against severe threats, but they need to be much more sensitive to the dependence of forest-dwellers and nomads and other communities, on such areas. The needs and role of women in this integration needs special focus.

The NBSAP process is coming up with strategies and actions to tackle these and many other challenges that India faces as it goes further into the 21st century. In a widespread participatory process in which at least 50,000 people have been involved, the process is creating 18 local (substate) action plans, 33 state and union territory plans, 10 ecoregional (interstate) plans, and 13 thematic plans. The process is now in its final phase, with the national plan being written, consolidating all these site-specific and thematic plans. But already at many sites, action has started. Some examples of this are given overleaf.

On this World Biodiversity Day, we salute the tens of thousands of women and men who have made this ambitious effort work.
For more information, please contact:

Vagish K Jha, K. Khelchandra Singh and Kanchi Kohli Kalpavriksh,
J- 20, IInd Floor, Jangpura Extension
New Delhi-14,
Ph: 431671 and visit http://sdnp.delhi.nic.in.

NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN:
EMERGING IMPLEMENTATION AND ACTION


The NBSAP process is beginning to yield considerable action on the ground and at policy level, in some states and substate sites, even before the national action plan is ready.

STATES

In Haryana, Punjab, and Chandigarh, orientation sessions on biodiversity have been initiated for other government departments, in a bid to internalise ecological sensitivity into all development programmes.

In Rajasthan, the development commissioner, while endorsing the need for a mechanism to ensure implementation, has indicated that the BSAP be included in the States 10th plan.

In MP, district level planning in Seoni has begun to formally integrate biodiversity issues. Attempts are being made to extend the idea to other districts as well.

In Sikkim, the action plan is likely to get legal backing, as the state is considering a draft state Biodiversity Bill.

In Karnataka, the state steering committee headed by the Chief Secretary has accepted the action plan and already some funding from donor agencies is being routed into implementation. A follow up meeting of the state BSAP in Tumkur triggered formation of state NGO forum for implementing KBSAP recommendations. Member NGOs would oversee and lobby for the implementation of relevant KBSAP elements in their respective areas.

LOCAL (SUB-STATE) SITES

In Simlipal, following the LIFE 2000 cycle rally and other efforts as part of the BSAP process, some funding has been procured to implement activities that are part of the action plan.

In North Coastal? Andhra, many communities are carrying forward the work through their own initiatives, e.g. annual or localised biodiversity festivals which are also places for seed and information exchange, revival of traditions etc; declarations to stop hunting or protect nesting sites; and so on.

In Deccan Andhra, the District Collector for Medak district has agreed to include components of the substate site BSAP into the district planning. As a result of the Mobile Biodiversity Festivals and other NBSAP related processes, more and more farmers are initiating biodiverse, organic farming.

In Vidarbha, as part of the BSAP process, a village has decided to protect a heronry in its midst.

In Rathong Chu Valley, the nodal agency is lobbying that the issues raised should be a part of the manifesto of the panchayat elections due in September in Sikkim. Illegal Nepali settlers, who were a source of problems including biodiversity loss in the substate site, have been persuaded to move out of the valley. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is getting more sensitive to biodiversity/cultural issues in its promotion of trekking /mountaineering in the area (both these are outcomes of the BSAP process)
In Uttara Kannada, biodiversity festivals and seed exchange workshops have led to an increased emphasis on home gardens for food/nutrition/health security by some people of the district. For the first time, the Agriculture Department has carried out surveys of crop diversity still being used in the district.

ECOREGIONS

The experience of the coastal state BSAPs as well? as West Coast and East Coast Ecoregional BSAPs is being built upon, within a a project proposal on Coastal Zone Management in India, to be sponsored by the University of Newcastle.


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