India is on track to meet most of its national biodiversity targets but the list of animal species from the country under the international ‘red list’ in the critically endangered, endangered and threatened categories has been increasing over the years, according to the sixth national report (NR6) submitted to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The increase in the ‘red list’ species indicates severe stress on biodiversity and wild habitats. In 2018 report, According to Hindustan Time’s analysis of the reports over the years, India has a total of 683 animal species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable categories, as compared to 646 species in 2014 when the fifth national report was submitted, and 413 in these categories in 2009 when the fourth national report was submitted.
The sixth national report, submitted on 29 December 2018, lists habitat fragmentation, overexploitation of resources; shrinking genetic diversity; invasive alien species; declining forest resource base; climate change and desertification; impact of development projects; and impact of pollution as threats to genetic diversity.
The bright spot though is that the Botanical Survey of India and the Zoological Survey of India have discovered new species in the past four years.
About 3,655 floral and 1,693 faunal species have been added according to the CBD report 2018 since 2014. The report also states that India’s marine ecosystems host nearly 20,444 faunal species communities.
Of these, 1,180 species are threatened and listed for immediate conservation.
According to Kailash Chandra, director, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), the reason for the rise in the number of threatened animal species could be because the number of species assessed by IUCN is increasing every year.
“We are making new discoveries and the number of species assessments made by them is increasing. Having said that the number of species threatened by habitat loss is also rising. India is among 17 mega diverse countries and large parts of our country is still unexplored,” he said.
India has more than 100,000 species, according to ZSI.
India’s 12 national biodiversity targets include creating awareness about biodiversity, enforcing policies to document, and conserving biological resources.
The report states that India is working on preventing species extinctions by developing a landscape- and seascape-based approach.
The endangered species (birds and animals) in conservation priority include Asian wild buffalo, Asiatic lion, Brow-antlered deer or Sangai, Dugong, Edible Nest swiftlet, Gangetic river dolphin, Great Indian bustard, Hangul, Indian rhino or Great one-horned rhinoceros, Jerdon’s course, Malabar civet, Marine turtles, Nicobar megapode, Niligiri tahr, snow leopard, swamp deer and vultures.
Some environmental experts are miffed that India is not implementing the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) provisions of the National Biodiversity Act on a large scale.
India has made its commitments under Nagoya Protocol operational by including ABS in the Biodiversity Act.
ABS refers to the way in which genetic resources may be accessed by companies, researchers, and how the benefits from those resources can be shared with the local communities who conserve the resource.
“Unfortunately, there is no emphasis on sharing benefits of biological resources with communities. I don’t think any community has benefitted properly from this clause,” said Priyadarsanan Dharmarajan, a senior fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE).
“Communities in India are dependent on biological resources. The government has to take this clause very seriously because extraction of biological resources will only rise,” said Dharmarajan.
The Uttarakhand High Court recently directed a company run by Yoga guru Ramdev to share a percentage of its profits with local farmers and communities under the ABS provision. The report lists only a couple of examples where benefits have been shared with communities.
In a press statement, the environment ministry on Saturday said India has been “investing a huge amount on biodiversity directly or indirectly through several development schemes of the Central and State Governments, to the tune of Rs.70,000 crore per annum as against the estimated annual requirement of nearly Rs. 1,09,000 crore.”
It added that India has two-third of wild tigers in the world. The population of lions has risen from 177 in 1968 to over 520 in 2015, and elephants from 12,000 in 1970s to 30,000 in 2015. One-horned Indian Rhino which was on the brink of extinction during the early 20th century, now number 2400. India is a party to CBD, whose signatories have to present national reports to the Conference of Parties (CoP) on a regular basis. The objective of the national reporting is to provide information on measures taken domestically to conserve biodiversity. (Hindustan Times)