Humans are among only a handful of species whose population is growing while most animals and plants are becoming rarer, Central Pollution Control Board Chairman S.P. Gautam said. He was delivering a talk on “Many Species. One Planet. One Future.” on the occasion of World Environment Day at The Institution of Engineers here on Friday.

Taking up the issue of how humans have impacted their own planet, Mr. Gautam said: “With our present approach to development, we have caused the clearing of much of the original forest, drained half of the world's wetlands, depleted three quarters of all fish stocks, and emitted enough heat-trapping gases to keep our planet warming for centuries to come. We have put our foot on the accelerator, making species extinctions occur at up to 1000 times the natural rate.”

As a result, he cautioned, the humans are increasingly risking the loss of the very foundation of their own survival. “The variety of life on our planet known as “biodiversity” gives us our food, clothes, fuel, medicine and much more. We may not think that a beetle in our backyard or grass growing by the roadside has a fundamental connection to us but it does. When even one species is taken out of the intricate web of life, the results can be catastrophic,” he warned.

A world without biodiversity is a very bleak prospect. Millions of people and millions of species all share the same planet, and only together can we enjoy a safer and more prosperous future, he said.

On this occasion, Institution of Engineers' Chairman D.S. Varma said the United Nations has declared 2010 the “International Year of Biodiversity”. It's an opportunity to stress the importance of biodiversity for human well-being, reflect on our achievements to safeguard it and encourage a redoubling of our efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

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