As CoP-11, Conference of Parties-Convention of Biodiversity, the main event was on at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre and HITEX, a side-event — the People’s Biodiversity Festival — that was kicked off here at the Exhibition Grounds on Saturday drew attention from environmental activists.
Entry to the festival was free and it drew an appreciable number of visitors. There were 54 stalls in all, set up by different organisations working on biodiversity and environmental issues from across India and Nepal. The focus was on ‘Rice Mela’ and the initiative was primarily to improve awareness among people on the need to save rice varieties. One of the organisers Bharat Mansata recalled that from an estimate 2,00,000 rice varieties that India boasted of, barely half a decade ago, there were less than 2,000 varieties now. The traditional long, organic variety had given way to dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties that were chemical dependent.
The official inaugural of the three-day festival will be on Sunday morning with the lamp to be lit by Bhaskar Save, a 90-year-old veteran natural farmer. The launch will be marked by a unanimous declaration that ‘Mother Earth is not for sale and plunder’ and seeks to affirm to a positive collective pledge to protect nature and its severely endangered, sacred treasure of biodiversity.
Saturday, however, saw the conduct of open seminar on ‘Biodiversity and ecological agriculture’ to drive home the message of fostering organic farming. Among those who set up their stalls and marked their presence were representatives of Timbaktu Collective, Deccan Development Society, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Earth Care Books, ‘Manchi Pusthakam’ Centre for Education and Documentation, Malka, Save the Rice Campaign, Sahaja Aharam, Deccan Organics and Sahaja Organics.