Mumbai: India is confident of conserving its rich biodiversity while ensuring the country’s all-round development, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said here.
Addressing an event here on Sunday night marking the International Biodiversity Day, he said it was a myth that ecological conservation and development cannot co-exist.
“It is not correct to see environment and development as being two ends of a spectrum where one must be compromised to enhance the other. Concerns of livelihood should be addressed equally while framing policies for environmental protection,” Javadekar said.
He said the central government would formulate a policy to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats spanning Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu while ensuring livelihood of the five crore (50 million) people living there.
The minister pointed out that India is one of the recognised mega-diverse countries harbouring nearly eight percent of recorded species and representing four biodiversity hotspots.
Javadekar called for a ‘Jan Andolan’ (peoples’ movement) for environment and biodiversity like the several successful ones that the country has witnessed so far.
Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao called for a partnership between the government, business, agricultural research institutions, farmers and NGOs to meet the challenges of food security while ensuring conservation of biological resources.
The country is home to about 91,000 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants, besides rich diversity in agriculture and medicinal plants for Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha systems of medicine.
He said one species of rice collected from the wild has been diversified into 50,000 varieties and one variety of mango has been diversified into 1,000 using innovative ideas and techniques.
With biodiversity directly co-related to peoples’ livelihood, its conservation is a pre-condition for achieving sustainable development in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.
Rao noted that growing population, rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, and drastic climate changes exert tremendous pressures on our natural resources and the country needs a comprehensive policy to tackle these challenges.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – India Representative Yuri Afanasiev also spoke on the occasion.
Other speakers were B. Meenakumari, Chairperson of National Biodiversity Authority, Vilas Bardekar, Chairperson of Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board and R. Sukumar of the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore.
Rao and Javadekar gave away the “India Biodiversity Awards 2016” to Purnima Devi Burman and the Hargila Army of Assam, National Conservation Foundation of Mysore, Ghora-Abhe Society of Arunachal Pradesh, Mawkyrnot Self-Help Group in Meghalaya and other people and organisations.
The International Day of Biological Diversity is observed annually on May 22 as part of the United Nations Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.