Sabyasachi Patra

India urges Nations to put Nature at the heart of recovery plan post COVID19

India urges Nations to put Nature at the heart of recovery plan post COVID19

India’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar continues to preach what he doesn’t practice. He has urged nations to join hands at the start of the “UN Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development” to put nature at the heart of our recovery plan and realize the vision of “living in harmony with nature”. The minister represented India at the virtual Ministerial Roundtable Dialogue on Biodiversity Beyond 2020: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth.

The ministerial was hosted by China, one week ahead of the upcoming United Nation Summit on Biodiversity, to exchange views on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.   Around 15 ministerial representatives from countries with adequate regional representation, as well as the heads from relevant international organizations participated in the event.

Addressing on the occasion, Shri Prakash Javadekar stated that COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the fact that un-regulated exploitation of natural resources coupled with un-sustainable food habits and consumption patterns lead to destruction of systems that support human life.

https://twitter.com/PrakashJavdekar/status/1309133049452470274

India is a mega biodiverse country rich in biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. With just 2.4% of worlds landmass with only 4% of fresh rainwater resources and still to feed 18% of human as well as cattle population of the world. We have 8% of worlds recorded species. I am happy to inform that in the course of last decade India has enhanced the combined forest and tree cover with nearly 25% of the total geographical area of the country. We now have highest number of tigers in the wild, it has doubled in 11 years. The claims about increasing forest cover and higher tiger numbers is questionable. The Government has been mixing plantations with forest cover and declaring higher figures. Plantations are mono culture and remain for limited times. Plantations can serve a limited purpose of having certain wildlife species. However, no plantations can replace a forest as forests have a complex linkage of ecological relationships between various species. Those linkages cannot be replicated as those linkages are not yet understood.

The tiger census numbers continue to be critiqued by experts as the methodology followed is not validated by other scientists. Scientists have been demanding that the tiger census methodology be published in peer reviewed journals so that one can really be sure about it. However, the Government prefers to keep it opaque as the projected higher tiger numbers serves a political purpose. So the ruling dispensation can continue to give away to industry pristine forests which are prime tiger habitat. The logic is tiger numbers are increasing so sacrificing forests doesn’t matter. So instead of projecting purely the area under forest cover the Government gives data about forest and tree cover.



The minister also said that “India aims to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land. It is a huge target and ambitious one. I don’t think any other country has declared such ambitious targets.” India has a huge farming community. Over the years, the country has moved many people into manufacturing and services sector. However, every country needs to be self-sufficient in food production. With the Climate Change induced extreme heat waves gripping the country, India is facing desertification. According to a 2016 Isro report ( Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India https://vedas.sac.gov.in/vedas/downloads/atlas/DSM/Desertification_Atlas_2016_SAC_ISRO.pdf ) based on data from 2011-2013, 29.32% of India’s landmass or 96.40 million hectares witnessed land degradation. Erosion of the top soil due to water, wind and due to loss of vegetation leads to desertification. Unfortunately, despite the stated good intentions by the Government, not much action is happening on the ground. Forests continue to be diverted for industrial projects, dams etc which results in huge loss of vegetation that holds the top soil.

Cracked mud of the dried up fields due to famine in India

Cracked mud of the dried up fields due to famine in India

The minister also said that “India has already set aside an extensive area for meeting of conservation objectives contributing to aichi biodiversity targets 11 and HDT 15. India has a robust legal and institutional setup for biodiversity governance and an established system for access and benefit sharing provisions of the CBD. India has a network of 250,000 biodiversity management committees across the country involving local people. 170,000 peoples biodiversity registers for documentation of biodiversity Network.” India indeed has good set of laws. However, the litigation moves at a snails pace. There are enough loopholes that are exploited by both the private players as well as the Government to circumvent the forest and environment laws. Not satisfied with that, the Government has recently taken steps to further dilute the Environment Impact Assessment laws. An unprecedented 2 million responses have been received by Government against its move to dilute the EIA laws. Nevertheless, Government appears to bulldoze its way and throw open all our forests and wilderness areas for exploitation.

History is unlikely to be kind on people with this kind of blatant doublespeak.



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Sabyasachi Patra
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