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 The Super -year Undermined ! 

Date of Publish - Monday, 13th July 2020


In January, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) had declared that humans have all of ten years to save the biodiversity on Earth from calamitous collapse. The ‘Zero Draft of The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’  stated that almost a third of the planet has to be protected, while pollution has to be reduced to half of current levels, to save our remaining wildlife, and all of this by the year 2030! The ‘Zero Draft’ was scheduled to be adopted at the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP15) at Kunming in October, but that is now uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The year 2020 was destined to be a watershed for biodiversity conservation, with several high-level opportunities to enhance measures to prevent further deterioration of nature over the next decade. The Covid-19 outbreak has only added to the urgency to conserve the remainder of our biological diversity. It is now universally acknowledged that anthropogenic pressures including deforestation, encroachment of wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit.

As a signatory to the CBD, India is committed to the preservation of vital habitats to stop the catastrophic loss of biodiversity in ten years, as envisaged in the ‘Zero Draft.’ This commitment will require creation and regeneration of new protected areas, to meet the target of protecting 30% of land and of the sea, prioritizing areas of abundant biodiversity.

Contrary to these expectations, the richest biodiversity abundant areas around India are now being threatened due to the precedence given to extractive industries, with a slew of projects announced since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. This unprecedented priority to industry over natural forests is regressive, increase GHG emissions and add to the climate crisis. We can do better than this for the sake of the youth already struggling to cope with an uncertain future due to the ongoing health crisis.

This year also marks the final period for the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan on Biodiversity and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Most importantly, it is a transitional phase for the start of two other pivotal biodiversity related decades. The period 2021-2030 will be observed as the United Nations (UN) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development as well as being the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Several events scheduled during the year have been postponed, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, the 11th World Wilderness Congress, the UN Oceans Conference, and the UN Climate Change Conference.

Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and below water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Changing, or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences.

“Biodiversity, and the benefits it provides, is fundamental to human well-being and a healthy planet,” proclaimed the ‘Zero Draft’. The CBD also outlined 20 targets for the next decade to stabilize biodiversity by the year 2030 and effect recovery of fragile ecosystems to by 2050, aligned to its vision of ‘living in harmony with nature.’

For India, the ‘Super-Year’ might turn out to be the most damaging, with the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 emerging as the Damocles’ Sword over India’s biological diversity.  The move to dilute the provisions of the EIA in favor industry will open up the vestiges of our timeless natural heritage to exploitation and annihilation. 

The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. It is estimated that about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from diseases caused by coronaviruses. Almost 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted to people by animals. As a species, we have long overlooked the web of life and sought to destroy the very ecosystems that sustain life on earth.

The draft EIA notification will weaken the protection measures for India’s biodiversity, instead of strengthening them. We only need to analyze the events of the past months- wildfires, locust infestations and the Covid-19 outbreak- to understand the consequences of ignoring the interdependence of humans and nature. If these warnings are ignored, our future generations will face devastating collapse of food and health systems. The decisions made this year will have severe implications for the biodiversity of the world and for human civilization. Hopefully, we will not see the ‘Super-Year’ for biodiversity undermined.

Author :
Ritutaj Phukan


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