Biodiversity overview Inventories of faunal diversity in India are being progressively updated and analysed with several new discoveries. So far, nearly 91,212 of faunal species, 7.43 per cent of the world’s faunal species, have been recorded in the country. India has 413 globally threatened faunal species, which is approximately 4.9 per cent of the world’s total number of threatened faunal species. It is also the third largest producer of fish in the world. A database on 2,182 fishes found in Indian waters has been developed, which includes 327 fresh water species listed in IUCN threat categories and 192 endemic fishes.
India’s National Forest Policy aims at maintaining a minimum of 33 per cent of country’s geographical area under forest and tree cover. With over 16 major forest types and 251 subtypes, the total forest and tree cover of the country constitutes 23.39 per cent of the geographical area. Of the 979 bird species recorded from the Himalayan region, 4 endemic bird areas have been delineated for priority conservation and identification of ‘key biodiversity areas’ has been initiated in the Western Ghats. Arid and semi arid regions spread over 10 states, cover 38.8 per cent of India’s total geographical area. The region is a stronghold of three cat predators – lion, leopard and tiger. Of the 140 species of birds known, the Great Indian Bustard is a globally threatened species. Flora of the Indian desert comprises 682 species with over 6 per cent of total plant species being endemic. The cold desert is the home of rare endangered fauna, such as the Asiatic ibex, Tibetan argali, wild yak, snow leopard, etc. India has a variety of wetland ecosystems ranging from high altitude cold desert wetlands to hot and humid wetlands in coastal zones. At present, 115 wetlands have been identified under the National Wetland Conservation Programme and 25 wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention. About 4,445 km2 of the country is under mangroves. India’s major strength in in-situ conservation lies in its impressive protected area (PA) network, which currently comprises 661 PAs (99 National Parks, 515 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 43 Conservation Reserves and 4 Community Reserves, established under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, (WPA) 1972), covering approximately 4.8 per cent of the total geographical area of the country.
Nbap: Mainstreaming Biodiversity Considerations In achieving the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 2010 Target and the Strategic Plan, India has put in place the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP). The actions proposed in NBAP are in tune with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) framework and include the PA network and its steady growth over the years, consolidation of biosphere reserves (15 at present), establishment of more species specific reserves, growth in designated Ramsar Sites, augmentation of ex-situ efforts through the establishment of network of lead gardens and initiatives in conservation of genetic resources, etc.
Augmentation of natural resource base, its sustainable utilisation and ensuring inter and intra generational equity is being achieved through various mechanisms that include, among others, management and rehabilitation of degraded forests, coastal areas, drylands, etc., replicating good agricultural practices, increasing production in forage, livestock and fish, enhancing mangrove cover for complementing livelihood needs and involvement of NGOs and community institutions in developing forest villages, watershed models, water harvesting, etc. The extent and magnitude of their involvement, for example, can be gauged by the fact that about 22 million hectares of forests is managed by more than 1,06,000 Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs).
Achieving 2010 Target India is making concerted efforts to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss and has taken a wide range of measures to achieve the 2010 Target. Some examples include: holistic community based sustainable forestry programmes such as Joint Forest Management (JFM); engaging National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in documenting varieties of crop plants; improving the Tiger Project that now incorporates 37 tiger reserves in 17 states; conserving and managing 38 identified mangrove areas; ensuring long term survival of elephants in 26 reserves through Project Elephant; development of Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), an easily navigable computerised database of documented information available in published texts of Indian systems of medicine; and the National Policy on Farmers (2007) which contributes to protect and improve land, water, biodiversity and genetic resources essential for sustained increase and stability of farming systems. Likewise, initiatives in PAs include an innovative strategy, as envisaged in National Environment Policy (NEP), 2006, to increase forest cover to 33 per cent of the national territory by 2012 and the goal to establish 163 National Parks (NPs) and 707 wild life sanctuaries ensuring appropriate representation across all ecosystems.
Challenges It is imperative to identify major gaps and plan future action to capitalise on the positive trends achieved so far. The areas that need urgent attention are development of an integrated database at all organisational and management levels to use as an important tool for decision support and establishment of national information system. Skill development, especially those related to new biotechnologies, benefit sharing mechanisms, contemporary tools in monitoring biodiversity biosafety protocol procedures, and sets of methodologies for evaluating ecosystem services is urgently needed. Encouraging and providing adequate incentives to scientists who are willing to take up taxonomy related research may be undertaken. Biodiversity conservation based research projects and programmes should factor in climate change parameters. Development of tools, methodologies and models to assess desertification and climate change induced processes and a national action plan on control of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) needs incorporation. Special incentives for promoting sustainable and rational utilisation of non-timber forest produces resources including medicinal plants and sustained research and development efforts to focus on underground biodiversity, genetic diversity, diversity of lower plants, functional attributes of macro and micro habitats needs to be put in place. Also development of innovative awareness approaches in biodiversity conservation focusing on the importance of mainstreaming needs integration.
Goals of the 2010 target
Goal 1: Promote the conservation of biological diversity of ecosystems, habitats and biomes.
- Setting a target of achieving 33 per cent forest and tree
cover by 2012
- Scheme on national parks and wild life sanctuaries modified to cover wildlife habitats outside PAs;
- Protection of sacred groves;
- Conservation of entities of incomparable value;
- Biodiversity heritage sites identified;
- Increase in coverage of PAs (661 covering 4.8 per cent geographical area);
- Conservation of mangroves and coral reefs; and 15 biodiversity reserves set up, 4 with international recognition and 15 more potential sites identified;
Goal 2: Promote conservation of species diversity
- Revised National Wildlife Action Plan;
- National Tiger Conservation Authority set up;
- Species specific conservation programme undertaken, and sanctuaries for orchids, banana, rhododendron, citrus set up;
- Reintroduction of threatened species into their natural habitats, e.g., mass propagation of pitcher plant, rehabilitation of mangroves, relocation of rhinoceros;
- Propagation protocols for regeneration, and promotion of cultivation for conservation of threatened species,
- Laboratory for conservation of species established at Hyderabad;
- Wildlife Crime Control Bureau set up;
- Taxonomy capacity building project;
- Assistance to botanic gardens for conservation of endemic and endangered species; and
- Sea ranching of threatened marine species.
Goal 3: Promote the conservation of genetic diversity
- National gene banks for plants, animals, fish and agriculturally important micro organisms;
- Community gene banks by NGOs and others;
- Research and on farm conservation initiatives specifically with regard to medicinal plants.
Goal 4: Promote sustainable use and consumption
- Sustainable use integrated into national decision-making through JFM, National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB), etc.;
- Projects on household, food and nutritional security;
- All India coordinated research project on underutilised and under exploited plants;
- Honey bee network to protect and encourage customary use that has over 10,000 examples of customary innovations of use of traditional knowledge in sustainable management; and
- As party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, international trade of endangered wild species is prohibited.
Goal 5: Pressures from habitat loss, degradation reduced
- Participatory and sustainable management of degraded forest areas promoted with the help of NGOs, Panchayati Raj Institutions, etc., through programmes of the NAEB;
- Hill area development programme promotes community participation to improve livelihoods through sustainable use;
- Public and private sector initiatives include reclamation and afforestation of mined-out areas by native species
Goal 6: Control threats from invasive alien species (IAS)
- Phytosanitory certificates for export, and permits for import of germplasm required under Plant Quarantine Order 2003 and Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914;
- Health certificates for livestock to be exported required under Livestock Importation Act, 1898;
- Licenses required for export of living organism by Director General of Foreign
- Quarantine certificates required for export of wild animals/articles under WPA;
- New scheme on integrated forest protection to cover IAS;
- Forest Invasive Species Cell set up; and
- Implementation of Living Modified Organisms regulations in ballast water exchanges in all major ports.
Goal 7: Address challenges to biodiversity fromclimate change
- National Action Plan on Climate Change launched in 2008 under which eight national missions set up for multi-pronged, long term and integrated strategies;
- Challenges from pollution addressed through legislative framework contained in Environmental Protection Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Water Cess Act, 1977, and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
- India has identified 5 potential trans-boundary PAs along India’s borders with Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal; and
- Signatory to Antarctica Treaty India is committed to conserve the resources of southern ocean.
Goal 8: Maintain capacity of ecosystems to deliver goods and services and support livelihoods
- Participation of communities for forest conservation through 1,06,000 JFMCs covering
22.02 mha of forest area; and,
- Substantial increase in coverage area for promoting livelihood opportunities.
Goal 9: Protect traditional knowledge, innovations and practice
- Documentation of traditional knowledge (TKDL, People Biodiversity Registers, etc.);
- Two new categories of PAs: Community and Conservation Reserves – 45 set up so far; and
- Setting up of Biodiversity Management Committees for chronicling of knowledge under Biological Diversity Act (BDA).
Goal 10: Ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources
- Enactment and implementation of BDA 2002,
- Amendments to the Patent Act, 1970;
- Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act, 2001;
- Geographical Indications Act, 1999
- Contribution to access and benefit sharing negotiations.
Goal 11: Parties have improved financial, human, scientific, technical and technological capacity to implement the Convention
- NEP, 2006;
- NBAP, 2008;
- Hosting of CBD meetings;
- Celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity;
- 12 projects on biodiversity for accessing Global Environment Facility funds; and
- Programmes and courses on specialised biodiversity research.
Extract from India’s Fourth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 2009