Celebrating biodiversity in India

Saturday, May 19, 2012
By Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati*

Diversity of life (biodiversity) underpins the very existence and survival of human beings on this Planet. Even though, United Nations proclaimed May 22nd as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), every day is critical to increase the understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The rich biodiversity is the base for good health, food security, economic growth, livelihoods security and moderating the climate conditions. The annual contribution of biodiversity to the world is estimated as US$ 33 trillion per year. However, this precious natural asset is fast diminishing.

The theme for 2012 International Day for Biological Diversity is Marine Biodiversity. Coastal and marine biodiversity form the basis of survival for billions of people around the world today. The ocean covers 71% of the surface area of the globe, and constitutes over 90% of the habitable space. Coastlines are supporting fragile ecosystems - mangroves, coral reefs, sea-grass and seaweeds. But the diversity of life in these areas is poorly understood and under-valued resulting in over-exploitation. Some of the marine species are disappearing and others are on the threat of extinction. The economic and market potential of marine biodiversity is still not properly understood while prospects of marine diversity has increased manifold. The number of patents being taken on products and processes based on marine life is increasing by leaps and bounds every year.

India has a coastline of about 7,500 km, of which about 5,400 km belong to Peninsular India and the remaining to the Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands. With less than 0.25% of the world’s coastline, India accommodates approximately 11% of the global population, who live in low elevation coastal areas. Fishing is a major livelihood options for millions of coastal communities. India’s coastal zone is endowed with coral reefs, mangroves, sea-grasses/weeds, salt marshes, sand dunes, estuaries and lagoons.

In India, all the three major reef types (atoll, fringing, and barrier) occur in most diverse, extensive and least disturbed reef areas. There are four major reef regions in India on all sides of its coastline. The Gulf of Kutch in the Northwest, Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar in the Southeast, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the East and Lakshadweep archipelago in the West. Mangroves cover 4827 square km with about 57% of it along east coast, 23% along the west coast and the remaining 20% in Andaman and Nicobar Island. Fourteen species of sea-grasses with 6 genera are known in the Indian seas. All the above mentioned ecosystems are shelter for unique marine and terrestrial wildlife.

The economic potential of coral reefs is estimated to be $1,250 million/hectare/year. These are researched figures by economists. Consider that we realize a mere 10 per cent of this potential for the local people.

Even though humanity has repeatedly benefited from the marine and coastal ecosystems, our land and ocean based activities have made critical impacts on marine ecosystem. Indiscriminate discharge of wastes by coastal cities and industries and over-extraction of fish and other marine products are the major challenges.

Hence land-based activities, which have an adverse impact on coastal and marine ecosystems, need to be controlled. Further, since marine resources are generally renewable, its extraction should be restricted within its regeneration capacity. Promotion of Marine Protected Areas/Reserves is important for conserving and managing coastal and marine biodiversity. India has many Marine Protected Areas/Reserves and it need to be extend further.

A special and high level focus on marine and costal biodiversity by the Environment Ministers from around the World during the forthcoming eleventh meeting of Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 11) is expected to identify concerted efforts to not only protect marine and coastal biodiversity but also realize the economic potential of this natural treasure trove that provides livelihoods, protects us from climate change and ensures our food and nutritional securities are intact as well as enhanced with suitable interventions. (PIB Features).

(*Dr. Balakrishna Pisupati is the Chairman of National Biodiversity Authority, India. Views expressed by the author in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of news.BDTV.in).
Next Post »