ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Words Not Deeds

The government's commitment to conserving biodiversity remains hollow.

The recently concluded 11th Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad reminded us that not everyone is convinced that economic growth and biodiversity conservation are compatible. Although all governments, including ours, make the right noises at such conferences, reiterating their commitment to the environment and biological diversity, their policies suggest otherwise. The CBD has been around for two decades. It came into force on 29 December 1993, 90 days after the 30th country had ratified it. Yet over this period, it is evident that the sense of urgency that resulted in this important convention being formulated has not translated into the kind of actions that could have slowed down the rapid decline in biodiversity worldwide and in particular in biodiversity-rich nations like India. In the last two decades, one-third of all species of plant and animal life have become extinct in the world. Many more are on the endangered list as the juggernaut of environmentally unsustainable developmental policies proceeds to destroy precious ecosystem resources.

In poorer countries, and even those like India that are on a rapid growth path, the people most dependent on a natural resource base are also the poorest and most likely to be in the path of projects that destroy biodiversity. Mining is only one of the dozens of examples. In the last decade in India, close to one lakh hectares of forestland have been excavated for mines and more such land is being surveyed for mining. There is not a hint in official policy that the need to conserve ecosystems is as important as extracting minerals. The importance of the former has been recognised only when people dependent on these natural resources have fought to save them. A similar example is the fate of India’s coastline that is progressively being destroyed by scores of power stations, ports, jetties, tourist facilities, etc, that have been sanctioned. The consequent destruction of breeding grounds of the vast varieties of aquatic resources, taking place at an alarming pace according to recent surveys, is putting the livelihoods of fishing communities across the country at risk while at the same time destroying aquatic biodiversity.

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