India paying little attention to preserving bio-diversity, laments expert

It is unfortunate that in India so little attention is devoted to bio-diversity or how it can be preserved, said Peter H. Raven, president emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden.

Delivering the millennium lecture organised by The Hindu Media Resource Centre, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, on Friday, Mr. Raven highlighted the need for a biological inventory and the need to strengthen Botanical and Zoological Survey of India and assigning them with precise tasks of identifying bio-diversity.

Knowing the diversity of flora and fauna is the first prerequisite, followed by field monitoring to identify species becoming extinct.

Red books must be prepared, he emphasised.

Apart from Western Ghats and Jammu and Kashmir, bio-diversity hotspots in the world, the biology of North-East was yet to be explored.

Only the surface had been scratched as thousands of plant species were yet to be discovered in the North-East where climate change would kick in soon.

While the number of species of birds, butterflies and mammals in India were double their number in the United States, the number of plant species recorded was lesser, he said adding that lots of plants have to be recorded in India and most would be found in the North-East.

Humans would be completely dependent on bio-diversity in future as the plants were the primary source for food. While nine per cent of food came from 100 kinds of plants, there were 10,000 plants as food sources. Organisms were threatened due to deforestation and destruction of natural habitat for agriculture and raw materials, Mr. Raven said.

Stating that one sixth of the world's population was regularly consuming Genetically Modified varieties of food, he said politics should not come in the way of feeding one third of a 1.2 billion population suffering from malnutrition.

But GM crops are not the only solution, he added.