Make biodiversity people`s movement: Natarajan

India`s environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan called for people-centred development to save India`s biodiversity at a special session at the TERI hosted Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) 2012.

Madhusmita Hazarika/ OneWorld South Asia

New Delhi: The second day of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit opened with a special session on biodiversity that brought together a panel of leading experts, including India’s environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan.

In her keynote address, Natarajan shared a quote by the Buddha, "I do not believe in a fate that falls upon men however they act, but I do believe in a fate that befalls if you do not act."

"To act should be our lodestar in whatever parameters we set for ourselves - whether in global commons or biodiversity," she stressed.

"The movement for biodiversity has to become a people`s movement," she exhorted. She also highlighted that India played a good role at the Durban deliberations, but added that the bottom line to any global deliberation is formed by equity, justice and `common but differentiated responsibilities.`

Road map to COP 11

The session at DSDS is apposite in view of the upcoming 11th Conference of the Parties of the Convention of Biological Diversity later this year in India.

Moderator Dr. Ashok Khosla, President of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) flagged existing environmental problems will increase as the climate changes. "We need to redefine our relation with nature, and understand that its regenerative capacity has reduced from overexploitation. Nature is not like a bank. First aid for nature has to be real," he said.

Linking global commons to biodiversity, M. F. Farooqui, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) said, "Biodiversity has an important role in creating local livelihoods, and commitment to protect biodiversity would stem from this recognition."

Harmonious living

Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Vice-Rector of the UN University & Director of Institute for Sustainability and Peace in Japan lauded the Nagoya Protocol as a remarkable achievement at CoP 10.

"Living in harmony with nature is an eastern concept, which is now being followed by the global community," he said. He shared about the Satoyama Initiative, which follows this philosophy to promote sustainable landscapes in Japan. "The establishment of a resilient society is possible basing on traditional knowledge and sustainable landscape. There is a need to establish new commons - to include not only foresters and farmers but also NGOs, the government, private sector and urban citizens."

Dr. Abdul Rahim Nik, Deputy Secretary General, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia shared his country`s example of forestry sector, and how Malaysia has maintained more than 50% forests, as per its Rio commitment. "There are 15,000 plant species in Malaysia."

"It is important to build an inventory of our biodiversity. But we need taxonomists for such work, and many young people are not very interested in such work," he added, sharing a challenge.

Green wealth

Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Director General TERI, admitted that in dealing with global commons, biodiversity may have been left behind. "What gets measured gets managed," he stated, stressing the need for proper measurement of biodiversity worldwide.

This was reiterated by Prof. Timothy Gregoire of Yale University, USA who shared a monograph from the US National Research Council that read in spite of science`s progress many aspects of biodiversity still remain unknown. "Measurement of biodiversity lacks standardisation at the global level. This makes it a little difficult to compare and estimate biodiversity loss," he said.

Prof. Paavo Pelkonen, from the University of Eastern Finland highlighted the origin of sustainable biodiversity as rooted in forestry. But two basic challenges of managing existing forests sustainably and afforesting new areas remain.

"We have knowledge to start afforestation but we lack knowledge on the socio–cultural aspects of bio-sustainability. A new catch word of today is bio-economy. This will open up avenues to sustainability and proper utilisation of bio-resources." he said.

The end note of the session summed that biodiversity conservation would be attractive to local people when its economic and cultural aspects are highlighted. Conservation, addressed to people`s well being and ownership of resources is an effective way forward than talking about biodiversity alone.