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Countries chase elusive targets

K. Venkateshwarlu
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EAGER TO LEARN:Students view an exhibit in the Science Express-Biodiversity Special train in Secunderabad earlier this week. The travelling expo aimsto nurture curiosity among children about the environment.— Photo:Nagara Gopal
EAGER TO LEARN:Students view an exhibit in the Science Express-Biodiversity Special train in Secunderabad earlier this week. The travelling expo aimsto nurture curiosity among children about the environment.— Photo:Nagara Gopal

The ongoing Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad is looking at the world’s progress on saving diverse species in different ecosystems. It is hearing the depressing message that the targets are slipping away.

Although Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the executive secretary of the CBD is optimistic and positive, many of the Aichi biodiversity targets such as halving — and further reduction to near zero — of the rate of loss of natural habitats including forests remain elusive. Fulfilling the goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi targets would be “central to our actions in this decade,” he says.

The progress on various components of biodiversity conservation is not encouraging, going by CBD reports. Take the case of oceans. They have absorbed up to a third of the total carbon dioxide emissions. Although oceans comprise a diversity of habitats and some of the spectacular seascapes sheltering 32 out of 34 phyla (higher taxonomic ranks of species) of the planet, and deep seabed habitats hosting between 500,000 and 10 million species, they present a gloomy picture when it comes to conservation. Eighty per cent of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or over-exploited, the report notes.

It is no different when it comes to mountain ecosystems. Encompassing some of the most amazing landscapes, a great diversity of species and habitat and human cultures, these ecosystems are important for biodiversity as they host some of the world’s complex agro-cultural gene pools and traditional management practices. It was at CoP 7 that a programme of work on mountain biodiversity was adopted, but the progress appears sluggish.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 brought out by CBD on some of the goals set for 2010 uniformly says several aspects are still “not achieved globally.” These include conservation of biological diversity of ecosystems, habitats and biomes, protection of species and genetic diversity, promotion of sustainable use and consumption and tackling habitat loss, land use changes and threats from invasive alien species.

The CBD is unhappy at the “slow progress.” During a recent interview and in his opening remarks at the inaugural of the COP 11 Dr. Braulio said mainstreaming of biodiversity continues to be a challenge for most countries (Parties). “Adopting new approaches and mechanisms” and moving towards a “more pragmatic approach with less emphasis on negotiations and more on experience sharing in our pursuit of the Aichi biodiversity targets” needs emphasis.

CBD reports on other areas such as forests show a mixed outcome. Indicators published in ‘Aichi Targets Passport’ brought out by BIP (a global initiative on indicator development) shows that the loss of forest through conversion to other uses or natural causes declined from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 13 million hectares per year in 2010.

The Aichi Passport says the rate of deforestation — mainly the conversion of tropical forest to agricultural land — shows signs of decrease in several countries but continues at a high rate in others. Creation and natural expansion of forests in some countries and regions have reduced the net loss of forest area significantly at the global level.

Simone Lovera, executive director, Global Forest Coalition, expressed concern at COP 11 over the expansion of monoculture plantations like eucalyptus in large areas in India and other countries.

As for indigenous people, as per Aichi target 18, traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of these communities relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and their customary use of biological resources should be respected by the year 2020 within national legislation and relevant international obligations.

However the reality seems quite different at least in some parts of India, if one goes by what indigenous communities have said at COP 11.

Disruptive projects

A farmer from Madhya Pradesh and another from Orissa, both belonging to indigenous communities, complained that they lost their traditional farming and livelihoods due to mining and other disruptive projects. Activists from other organisations highlighted power, mining and other projects as threats to indigenous people, who are losing their cultural identity, freedom and livelihood.


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