The UN has earmarked May 22 as International Day for Biological Diversity. For the uninitiated Biological Diversity refers to variability of living organisms of all kinds (terrestrial, marine, aquatic) in a given ecosystem. It includes all variety of life forms on earth. The term was first coined by Walter and Rosen in 1985 and encompasses different species living in a given area. Biodiversity is the foundation for a vast habitat and is critical for well-being of human beings.
The International Day of Biodiversity was set aside to increase understanding and awareness about biodiversity issues. This year’s theme for the day is Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism. In fact the UN has declared 2011-20 as UN’s Decade on Biodiversity with the aim to serve the world in supporting and promoting the goal of significant reduction in biodiversity loss.
Biodiversity is the key that links human survival to their ecosystem, both being inextricably linked. Maintaining the natural diversity of both land and water is a complex phenomenon that has witnessed dramatic changes due to human actions. It is critical to save our unique biospheres comprising of innumerable plants, animals, and microbes.
Clearly, biodiversity affects our environmental systems supporting millions of species that survive together. Gradual loss of species is already starting to affect critical components on which we depend for our lives – breathable air, potable water, fertile soils, bountiful oceans and soil productivity. Large-scale human influences on biomes are tremendously adversely impacting us all.
Decidedly if our actions have influenced nature then we need to reinvent ourselves to remedy the situation. Already the planet has lost 52 per cent of its biodiversity! Seventy percent of world’s species are to be found in just 12 countries! And one of them is India. The International Day for Biological Diversity therefore serves as a global reminder to take action to avoid situations like unsustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation, drought, impotable water, adverse health impact, unsustainable transport, climate change, food insecurity and disasters that are all fall-outs of loss of biodiversity.
India is among the first countries to be the signatory to the Biodiversity Convention. In 2003 the National Biodiversity Authority was established to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002). NBA works on issues of conservation, sustainable use of biological resources and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources. State Biodiversity Boards follow guidelines relating to conservation of biodiversity. Similarly local level Biodiversity Management Committees take care in promoting conservation and documentation of biological diversity. This includes preservation of habitats, conservation of land races, food varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals, microorganisms and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity.
In our vicinity, May 24 would be seeing Hazra Falls, a picturesque tourist spot in Salekasa forest range of Gondia Division, about 190 kms from Nagpur to be declared as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. Sometime back “Glory of Allapalli”, five hours drive from Nagpur, in Gadchiroli District was notified as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. It is Maharashtra’s first biodiversity heritage site. Such status strengthens biodiversity conservation in traditionally managed areas and control rapid loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity Heritage Sites are a matter of pride and inspire others to join in with conservation efforts.