Saving biodiversity, securing earth’s future
Why in News
- On this World Environment Day (June 5), with the novel coronavirus pandemic raging across our vast country, it must reflect on the ways to rebuild relationship with nature.
- India’s vast and rich biodiversity gives the nation a unique identity. The varied ecosystems across land, rivers, and oceans, feed our people, enhance public health security, and shield us from environmental disasters.
- India’s biodiversity also serves as a perpetual source of spiritual enrichment, intimately linked to our physical and mental wellbeing.
Staggering value of forests
- Globally, there are a loss of 7% intact forests since 2000, and recent assessments indicate that over a million species might be lost forever during the next several decades and India is also one of them.
- Climate change and the ongoing pandemic will put additional stresses on natural ecosystems.
- Repairing dysfunctional relationship with nature is one of the ways to mitigate climate change and curtail future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
- Preserving biodiversity is directly relevant to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of our people. We must rethink and reimagine the concept of “One Health “.
Investments in the field
- In 2018, the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in consultation with the various ministries approved National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being (NMBHWB).
- Bengaluru-based Biodiversity Collaborative is working with the National Biodiversity Authority to hold consultations and prepare road maps of the Mission.
- It will strengthen the:
- Science of restoring, conserving, and sustainably utilising India’s natural heritage;
- Embed biodiversity as a key consideration in all developmental programmes, particularly in agriculture, ecosystem services, health, bio-economy, and climate change mitigation,
- To establish a citizen and policy-oriented biodiversity information system; and
- Enhance capacity across all sectors for the realization of India’s national biodiversity targets and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
- India will emerge as a leader in demonstrating linkage between conservation of natural assets and societal well-being.
An important framework
- The pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and nature, and we must urgently address the issue. It led to:
- Emergence of infectious diseases;
- Lack of food and nutritional security;
- Rural unemployment; and
- Climate Change, with all its stresses on nature, rural landscapes, and public health.
- Mission offers a holistic framework, integrated approaches, and widespread societal participation and empower India to restore, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees.
- Mitigation programmes will lessen the impacts of climate change and other natural disasters, such as pandemics and floods.
- Rejuvenation of agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture while also creating millions of green jobs in restoration of degraded lands (1/3 of total land) and nature tourism.
- It will help India meet its commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs related to pressing social issues including poverty alleviation, justice and equity, and protection of life.
- It will generate a strong national community committed to sustaining biodiversity, promoting social cohesion and uniting the public behind an important goal.
- Mission programmes will offer nature-based solution to numerous environmental challenges, including degradation of rivers, forests and soils, and ongoing threats from climate change with the goal of creating climate resilient communities.
- “One Health” programme, integrating human health with animal, plant, soil and environmental health, has both the preventive potential to curtail future pandemics along with the interventional capability for unexpected public health challenges.
Need for a cadre
- We need a strong and extensive cadre of human resources required to meet the enormous and complex environmental challenges of the 21st century.
- This will require training professionals of the highest calibre in sustainability and biodiversity science, along with an investment in civil society outreach.
- The gains of environmental change will be held and carried forward by the cultural change from environmental education for millions of students, from kindergarten to postgraduate level.
- Biodiversity is everywhere, and we interact with biodiversity all the time in our daily lives.
- Public engagement, whether it is in the policymaking arena, or in exploration, restoration and conservation of biodiversity, is a critical component of the planned Mission.
GS PAPER II
Why in News
- Recently, a report has been published by the NITI Aayog the SDG Index in which India improved its condition.
Report on SDG Index
- India is in the right direction in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean
- energy, urban development and health.
- According to NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020 21, it improves its overall SDG score from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2021.
- Besides SDGs on eradication of poverty and hunger, measures related to the availability of affordable, clean
- energy in particular, showed improvements across several States and Union Territories.
- The campaign to improve the access of households to electricity and clean cooking fuel has been shown to be an important factor.
- While this is cause for cheer, the Index reveals that there has been a major decline in the areas of industry, innovation and infrastructure besides decent work and economic growth, again made worse by the lockdowns imposed by the governments seeking to tackle the COVID19 pandemic.
- But the stark differences between the southern and western States on the one hand and the northcentral and eastern States on the other in their performance on the SDGs, point to persisting socioeconomic and governance disparities.
- These, if left unaddressed, will exacerbate federal challenges and outcomes, as seen in the public health challenges during the second wave across some of the worse-off States.
- Notwithstanding the improvement in key indicators, the Index has curiously made some methodological changes that render comparisons on some SDGs over previous years moot.
- The SDG on inequality shows an improvement over 2019, but the indicators used to measure the score have changed.
- The 202021 Index drops several economic indicators and gives greater weightage to social equality indicators such as representation of women and people from marginalized communities in legislatures and local governance institutions, and crimes against SC/ST communities.
- By dropping the wellrecognised Gini coefficient measure and the growth rate for household expenditure per capita among 40% of rural and urban populations (instead, only the percentage of population in the lowest two wealth quintiles is used), the SDG score on inequality seems to have missed out on capturing the impact of the pandemic on wealth inequality.
- This could be a significant miss as a UN assessment of the impact of COVID19 had said that the South Asian region may see rising inequality.
- Methodological issues on measuring other SDGs have been flagged before, but the lack of adequate measurement of economic inequality seems to be a glaring miss.
- Like in the first wave, the second wave, with more fatalities, has had similar outcomes on livelihoods and jobs.
- While the better score for India in its endeavour to achieve SDGs will bring some cheer, governments must work on addressing pressing issues such as increased inequality and economic despair.