In a unique online campaign, George Monbiot and Guillome Chaperon invited public opinion to compile a list of 100 tasks for world governments to undertake in order to tackle the biodiversity crisis. This list was submitted to the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010, and is growing even after this event. Current Conservation is a liaison for Biodiversity 100 within India, and these are some responses compiled by us.

What is the campaign about?

Despite pledges by the G20 countries to stem the loss of biodiversity, their achievements have amounted to little. In many cases, what is lacking is the political commitment to act.

With your help, the Biodiversity 100 campaign, hosted by the Guardian, is compiling a list of actions for governments to take. Recommended actions must:

  1. Make a major contribution to safeguard a particular endangered species or area;
  2. Be politically costly to implement or strongly opposed by some interest;
  3. Be strongly and widely supported by scientific evidence.

 

Listed below are excerpts from actions suggested by several students, biologists and scientists in India. To read the complete action with accompanying material, log on to our website: http:// www.currentconservation.org
  • Nachiket Kelkar (rainmaker.nsk@gmail.com)

This is an action that will require, in some cases, flow mainten- ance by dams and barrages, and an immediate halt to upcoming link projects, irrigation canals, and dams to sustain dry-season flows and maintain regularity in flood pulses as per natural dynamics. Highly important for endangered species such as Ganges river dolphins, gharials and aquatic birds. Most important for fishes, as these destructive developments will directly affect fisheries and sustenance of millions of dependent human populations.

Dam deconstruction or downscaling, and regularizing water let-off regimes might be politically very sensitive, as well as strongly opposed by technocrats, industrial, and commercial interests, particularly power plants, hydel projects and water works authorities. Overall the dominant belief of the govern- ment has been that river interlinking will solve the nation’s water security issues, particularly in semi-arid landscapes.

Scientific evidence flies in the face of these engineering beliefs for modifying river systems. Impacts of Farakka barrage have been well-documented by SANDRP, New Delhi. The Indira Gandhi Canal meant to bring in irrigation to the arid regions  of Rajasthan was found to be a failure in terms of investment costs and actual returns as water never could reach where it was expected to, leading to dry canals and dug-up wastelands along the canals. Dams in the Pune region, lead to severe shortages in Solapur and southern districts. IWMI reported lower flows than minimum for Godavari, Krishna and other peninsular eastflowing rivers. Dams on the Brahmaputra are bound to cause severe destruction and in general be loss- making because of their incapacity against the mighty river (Kalpavriksh). Tributaries of the Ganga, namely Gandak and Chambal are under severe threat from dams and barrages, which have led to potentially isolated populations of gharials, river dolphins, etc. River dolphins might have become extinct in the upper reaches of the Gandak barrage in Nepal, due to isolation. Commercial fisheries in the lower Ganga region have been severely hit by the Farrakka and Damodar valley projects.

  • * Devcharan Jathanna (devcharan@gmail.com)Local hunting is an under-appreciated and underestimated threat to diversity, affecting mostly medium and large-sized mammals. Unlike commercial hunting, the species targeted include a diverse range (e.g. in the Western Ghats, palm civets, mongooses, giant and flying squirrels, Indian porcupine, Indian pangolin, black-naped hare, wild pig, muntjac, Indian chevrotain, etc.). One of the reasons this is unappreciated is, of course, that most of the species are low profile and some are relatively common. Another reason is that local hunting is usually low-intensity, but the fact that it is sustained, wide- spread, and practiced by many or most house-holds in forest or forest-fringe settlements adds up to an enormous offtake.Local hunting has caused some species to be absent from large areas of otherwise prime habitat, with patchy distributions elsewhere, at extremely low densities over large landscapes. This, in turn, also deeply affects the conserv-ation of charismatic large carnivore species, whose densities have been shown to be primarily determined by prey densities. However, reduction of hunting will require a sensitive and nuanced approach, given that it is a culturally acceptable practice in most areas. This should include a drive to sensitise local communities (who often don’t perceive species declines because there is no benchmark to compare) and forest depart- ment field staff, supplemented by enforcement drives (anti- poaching activities usually exclude non-charismatic species).
  • * Tarun Nair (tarunnair1982@gmail.com)
    • Secure the National Chambal Sanctuary, and prevent all extractive activities (sand and stone mining, fishing, and water extraction).
    • Decommission existing irrigation projects (in phases), discontinue further construction and reject all proposed water impoundment and extraction
    • Abandon all plans for River-linking.

    The Chambal is one of the last remaining rivers in the greater Gangetic Drainage Basin which has retained significant conservation values. The Chambal contains the largest con- tiguous and most viable breeding populations of the critically endangered gharial and red-crowned roofed turtle. However, this sanctuary suffers from hydrological modifications due to dams and from the diversion of river water for irrigation, and from activities like sand-mining; fishing, and persistent live- stock and human presence.

    The 7 major, 12 medium and 134 minor irrigation projects operating in the Chambal river basin, have greatly reduced river flow, and erratic water releases, in the past, have inundated several nesting sites. These notwithstanding, 52 irrigation pro- jects are under construction and 376 projects have been planned in the basin. This will only further impoverish the river and adversely impact the aquatic wildlife of the Chambal river.

    Plans to link India’s rivers are unreasonable, and must be abandoned. And we must remember that water, as a resource, may be renewable, but rivers as living entities are not.

    Which wild species will benefit from your action?

    Species: gharial, Gangetic dolphin, narrow-headed giant soft-shelled turtle, Indian red-crowned roofed turtle, three-striped roofed turtle, Indian skimmer, black-bellied tern, Sarus crane.

    Which interest groups or lobbies oppose this action?

    • The political and administrative class who are largely insensitive and feign ignorance towards ecological concerns, and more often than not, have big stakes in large
    • Sand / stone mining and construction
  • Manisha Tomar (manishatomar3@gmail.com) Conservation action recommended for this species are: A habitat improvement program to ensure restoration of degraded parts of the forest and reduction of disturbance through regular surveliance of forest staff. There should be provision of resources for the local community to reduce extraction from the forest, and fodder and fuel wood plots can be developed within the village environs and the common lands of the villages along the park boundary. There needs to be an increase in awareness and education on the significance of the sloth bear in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem and the benefits obtain from conserving this species and its habitat. A long term ecological study covering all season and forest types in KWLS is of high importance and necessity. Regular monitoring of the indirect and direct evidences along few permanent transects in all the forest types in different season would help in understanding the habitat use and population of sloth bear.
  • Latha Anantha (rrckerala@gmail.com)

Western Ghats is recognized as one of the eight hottest Biodiversity Hotspots in the world. The rivers in this fragile ecosystem are under severe stress due to deforestation of upper catchments, dams and diversion of water to other basins, sand mining, and pollution from agro and industrial chemicals. The fish diversity and habitats in these rivers are the first to be affected. Out of the 339 fish species found in the Western Ghats rivers, 231 are endemic. Chalakudy river with numerous waterfalls, rapids, and different altitudinal ranges and forest types, holds the maximum fish diversity with 104 fish species in a 144 km small river. The river Cauvery originating from the Western Ghats, though eight times the length of Chalakudy river holds just 146 fish species. Five species ‘new to science’ were discovered for the first time from this river. The flow in Chalakudy River is already reduced and fragmented due to six dams including diversion of 35 % water to another river basin. A seventh large dam (Athirappilly Hydro-Electric Project) is proposed in the river, and this is bound to create larger daily flow fluctuations, which will severely affect fish habitats and breeding. The Government of India and the Kerala Government have the powers to take necessary steps to declare the upper reaches of the Chalakudy river a Fish Sanctuary. This will be the first attempt of its kind in to protect the aquatic biodiversity in any river in India. The declaration of a fish sanctuary will also ensure the overall protection of the river system from further degradation and interventions.

Chalakudy river is recognized as one of the highest fish diversity rivers (fish diversity index 1.79 – 3.9) in India. Latest estimates reveal that 12 species are critically endangered and 22 species are vulnerable as per IUCN standards. Detailed studies carried out by CUSAT reveals that two species are restricted to the new dam site.

  • O. Anand (moanand@ncf-india.org)

Because of the high levels of biodiversity recorded within them, semi-natural and agricultural production landscapes are today viewed as important allies of formal protected areas in the battle against the ongoing biodiversity crisis. These land- scapes may be suitable as breeding and foraging grounds for a number of native wild species, while serving as dispersal corridors for several others. The importance of these land- scapes is only likely to increase as time progresses, given the highly limited extent of formal protected areas (around 12% of the earth’s surface, largely concentrated on mountain tops and in the higher latitudes) and the ever-increasing resource demands of a growing human population.

Across the tropics, it is not uncommon to find remnant natural habitats such as forest fragments, strips of riparian vegetation, and swampy fallows embedded within production landscapes. Scientific evidence suggests that these very natural remnants are not only the hotspots of biodiversity within production landscapes, but also serve as important source populations, and ‘stepping-stones’ responsible, to a large extent, for high biodiversity observed at the landscape level.

Consequently, these remnants are also important sources of several ecosystem services – important at scales ranging from local to global. For instance, forest fragments in a coffee-growing landscape in Costa Rica have been found to be economically very valuable by supporting populations of pollinating bees that are important for coffee production. In spite of their overall importance, these remnant habitats, most often occurring on community- or privately-owned land, face the constant threat of clearing for agricultural expansion sometimes even the expansion of so-called ‘biodiversity-friendly’ agriculture. There is, therefore, a pressing need for stronger conservation support for natural habitats occurring within production landscapes. Given that change in these landscapes are driven largely by economics, financial incentives for forest set-asides and payments for ecosystem services are likely to be important.

  • Damodaran (damodaran@iimb.ernet.in)

In the context of the Strategic Plan for 2020 on biodiversity conservation formulated and discussed by COP 10 at Aichi Nagoya, it is important to emphasize a new principle of ‘destroyer pays’. The ‘ destroyer pays’ principle should focus on corporate undertakings that have destroyed biodiversity through irreversible land use and/or have created collateral ecosystem damage through their production activities.

Extractive industries or amenity providing industries have to pay special royalties (in proportion to sales revenues) to local communities that have been affected by biodiversity loss due to their activities. These revenues should be channelized for biodiversity enhancing activities, including regeneration of endemic species in sites that are suitable for the purpose in and around the activity zones. Also no new projects involving irreversible land use should be permitted in natural areas rich in species endemicity.

  • Aarthi Sridhar (aarthi77@gmail.com)

The conservation of endangered marine species by a conven- tional protection approach has led to deepening conflicts and a deterioration of the condition of traditional fisherfolk in many parts of the globe, thanks to unrealistic fishing restrict- ions and harassment by enforcement officials. The process of the conservation of marine resources must involve the fishing community. And this cannot be effected only by the State without the central involvement of the communities in question.

Marine biodiversity conservation needs to adopt a more transparent and inclusive politics for conservation. The rights of millions of traditional fishing communities over coastal common spaces cannot be denied by governments. At all stages of coastal planning, decision-making and implementation of laws, coastal fishing communities must play a key role. Governments across the world follow a more participatory process in the declaration of Marine Protected Areas. At the same time, rampant coastal development needs to be regulated so that development is rational, environmental impacts are minimal, and benefits reach marginal coastal communities and other sections of society. The rapid establishment and expansion of ports, exploration for oil, and other coastal industries can have devastating impacts on livelihoods and biodiversity. Similarly, commercial fishing must be regulated to minimise impacts on artisanal communities and on endangered species.

Governments need to invest in a wide range of educational programmes that address the needs of urban and rural settings. The fishing communities of the world are bearers of tremendous knowledge about their ecosystems and resources. Fisheries education needs to incorporate special courses that highlight the value, role, and knowledge of fisherfolk in coastal and marine management. In summary, we call for a nationwide community-oriented campaign for the conservation of our coasts and oceans, with careful regulation of activities that have detrimental effects on marine biodiversity and livelihoods, and management actions for the conservation of endangered species and habitats.

  • Narayan Sharma (narayansharma77@yahoo.co.uk)

The upper Brahmaputra valley in northeastern India harbours one of the last remaining tropical lowland evergreen rainforests in the world. These forests contain the highly endangered western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock), critically endangered tree species (Vatica lanceaefolia), and globally endangered white-winged wood duck (Cairina scutulata). Recently, seven cat species were recorded from Jeypore-upper Dehing forest, the only site worldwide to support such diversity of sympatric cat species. These forests are important for preserving the regional biodiversity and also for supporting local communities who depend on these forests for their livelihood.

However, these forests are threatened by continuous expansion of the tea estates, human settlements, oil exploration, and other developmental activities. Many of these forests, in fact, exist as isolated patches situated in the sea of human-modified landscape and few of them were completely encroached without a trace of forest. Recently, a plan to build a four-lane highway through the upper Dehing forest was mooted. Had this project come through, it would have threatened the survival of several species besides further fragmenting an already fragmented landscape.

  • K.M. Jayahari (jayashari@winrockindia.org)

There should be initiatives to link communities and conservation oriented research activities, in Western Ghats, where empirical research outputs are used to create conservation awareness and the communities are treated as an ecosystem component with due attention paid to their livelihood and other issues. Community issues pertaining to resource sharing with other ecosystem components should be considered as the problem to be addressed through research at par with other ‘conventional’ conservation issues. Amidst the large body of commendable empirical scientific research in ecology in the southern Western Ghats, remarkable failure in bidirectional linking of these research activities with the human component of the ecosystem – information to people for awareness generation and information from the people for research prioritization can be observed. The gap exists due to the inability to translate the empirical research outputs to ecosystem management programs and identifying the community requirements for designing research projects. This would apply particularly to situations where animals are used in traditional practices (eg. Vayanattu Kulavan Theyyam in North Kerala) and human-wildlife conflict situations, where the lack of awareness and non-involement of local people has aggravated conservation problems.

  • Kalpana Das (kkalpana1988@gmail.com)

India is a country that holds rich cultural and biological diversity. When we look into the broad spectrum of biodiversity we cannot neglect the human dimension. The solution to many conservation problems is to involve the local peoples in efforts and this can be done in many ways. People can be employed as local guides. They can also contribute as patrol guards to check against poaching or illegal felling of timber. Most importantly, local knowledge of flora and fauna can be used to create management plans incorporating traditional methods and customs of protection.

If you would like to contribute to the Biodiversity 100 Campaign, follow the instructions on the Guardian Biodiversity 100 Campaign website, and submit your recommendations online. Make sure that you send us a copy of your action (editor@currentconservation.org), and we will publish them in the following issues.

For details, log on to: http://www.guardian. co.uk/environment/series/biodiversity-100 http://www.currentconservation.org/ biodiversity100

Biodiversity 100 attracted a lot of comments, many of which applied to India as well as other countries. Of these, the ones presented by the campaign to the Convention on Biological Diversity meet in Nagoya, Japan are summarised below. These were also sent in an open letter to the Environment Minister, Shri Jairam Ramesh.

  1. Stop forest destruction to protect the lion-tailed macaque
  2. Ban shark “finning” at sea

Excerpts of some of the other actions recommended for countries including India:

  • Enforcement measures to reduce trawl related mortality over the years haven’t neither been effectively implemented nor have the demands of the fisher folk involved in the process been sought in bringing out an effective An interdisciplinary approach towards turtle conservation as well as alternate solutions for the fisher folk to compensate their losses is required to effectively control the issue.
  • Ban or severely restrict international
  • Ban all whaling.Without
  • Legislate against [unsterilised] ballast water discharge and encour- age
  • Create well-policed wildlife migration corridors in areas at risk from climate disruption and/or human
  • Make organic food production compulsory; ban production of environmental toxins; declare the release of toxins into the environ- ment an international
  • Consume Legislate against product disposability and waste encouragement; find ways to promote longevity in products.These should be criminal acts of eco vandalism. Zero waste.
  • Create national laws (and subsequent treaties) that radically re- duce the size and power of multinational Mega-corps are the primary drivers of unsustainable consumption, eco-social havoc, sabotage of environmental treaties, governmental corruption, widening inequality and endless wars.
  • Support sound, scientifically-based habitat restoration
  • Global corporate social responsibility treaty agreed between major countries placing a common legal framework on how their companies may conduct operations in global South/ countries with less established or less consistently strong legal institutions, so as to give due accord to human rights, biodiversity,
  • Ban the use of all chemical cleaning
  • Introduce a carbon tax; ideally a single rate global tax, applied at source, but a coalition of the willing would be fine, as long as imports were levied, and the proceeds applied to sustainability/biodiversity measures
  •  Control movement of invasive weeds and pests between bioregions and continents, especially through humans trading and transporting species
  • Encourage companies’ boards to adopt ‘net positive impact’ policies (like that of Rio Tinto) and help governments introduce ‘no net loss/ net positive impact’ requirements into environmental impact assess- ment and planning This would mean all developers design new projects (eg mines, energy installations, roads, housing, agricul- ture) to avoid and minimise harm to biodiversity, undertake restora- tion work and then (and this is the new bit!) address the residual loss through biodiversity offsets that measurably demonstrate a net positive impact.
  • Stop the production of plastic bottles for water and other drinks or tax very high to dissuade people from
  • Actively encourage smaller families by making contraceptives available to The only real menace to endangered species is the menace of human demands on space and commodities.
  • Ban The wind turbines are naturally placed in high wind areas, which also attract high numbers of birds.
  • Research funds should go into finding natural solutions to protecting food crops rather than into genetic Surely “organic farming” needs to be developed.
  • Pass a law to create international integrated habitat
  • An immediate cessation of the logging of old-growth forests worldwide, and the creation of old-growth reserves that are permanently spared any sort of felling operations
  • Apply ecological impact tax to everything —until every human recognises and is impacted by our inherent myopic rapaciousness then the biosphere is at dire
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