Image Credits – Sagar Thukral (link: http://www.caughtmysight.com/gallery/common-myna-by-sagar-thukral/)
“Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
The variety and variability of life forms is the fascinating factor exclusive to the earth. Our earth, rightly called the hub of diversity supports an enormous web of various life forms, in which man is also a ‘strand’. It is this diversity (or, more properly, biodiversity) which is responsible for maintaining the stability of our ecosystems. However, in the present scenario, growing covetousness and greed of man is causing havocs to many species on earth, ultimately wiping them off from the planet. This loss is manifested in the form of instability of our ecosystems, today. Loss of biodiversity and unstable ecosystems threaten even our own existence to a certain extent. The fact more terrifying than this, is that, over the past few centuries, rate of biodiversity-loss has increased more than normal background extinction rates. Yes. We are on the verge of yet another mass extinction. So, there is an urgent need for societies throughout the world, to make concerted efforts for effective biodiversity conservation and management.
To conserve the diverse forms on earth, we must have a clear cut idea about the threats faced by them. Habitat loss and fragmentation, man-wildlife conflicts, invasive alien species, pollution, climate change and population explosion and overexploitation are the generally identified threats to biodiversity and these are widely discussed all over the world. Over the past few decades, it is observed that just as living forms exhibit diversity, the threats faced by them (caused by humans) are also ‘diverse’!! This can be explained based on many recent happenings (giving emphasis to Indian scenario).
The man-wildlife conflicts mostly arise from habitat destruction, fragmentation of habitats, poaching and other factors. But many experts now point out that, instances of entry of wild animals into thickly populated busy towns, can be attributed to unscientific garbage disposal there. Unscientific and careless garbage disposal invites small animals like monkeys and even wild boars. ‘Carnivores get attracted to stray dogs and other animals that our garbage dump attracts’, says an expert. This aspect is often neglected or ignored by people as well as the authorities.
Climate change and resultant drought, this year, has brought immense misery and sufferings to wildlife all over the country. Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves of Karnataka are under severe pressure during summer days, due to acute water scarcity. The miserable plight of man as well as wildlife in drought hit areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, is beyond explanations . Many states are looking for innovative mitigation strategies.
Recent news stories about Snowflake coral, an invasive species, has brought our attention once again to the issue of alien-species-invasion that deteriorates native biodiversity of our country. The snowflake corals were recently documented off the coast of Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari. In India they have been reported earlier, from Gulf of Mannar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulf of Kutch and Goa.
Growing apprehensions over the possible impacts of the proposed India-based Neutrino Observatory (in tamil nadu) on the wildlife of Mathikettan Shola National Park, is yet another issue requiring serious attention. Developmental activities at the cost of innocent lives cannot be appreciated.
Our conservation strategies, must focus their attention on recent deliberate anthropogenic intrusions into peaceful wildlife habitats. If our strategies are not up-to-date, they just will not produce desired results. Governments must ensure that our conservation strategies are not obsolete mechanisms.
Conservation : the journey so far & ways ahead
India’s conservation strategy is an exemplary model, which strives for perfection by eliminating shortcomings. In situ and ex situ strategies adopted in India, have proved themselves to be very effective in the conservation of our rich “heritage”.
Presently there are 103 national parks, 537 wildlife sanctuaries, 67 conservation reserves, and 26 community reserves in India. These 733 protected areas occupy a total 160901.77sq.km. Although this area constitutes only 4.89% of geographical area of the country, they are the richest centres of diversity. These protected areas play a pivotal role in protecting diverse flora and fauna in India. These areas are maintained through an effective legal framework.
Setting up of Species-specific sanctuaries is yet another positive step taken in this regard. Conservation programmes for species such as Project Tiger, Project Elephant etc. have also made notable achievements.
In addition to traditional ex situ practices like zoos, aquaria and botanical gardens, modern techniques like gene banks, germplasm banks and seed banks are also used.
India has a strong foundation in conservation process which is backed by many effective laws as well. Wildlife (Protection) act 1972, Forest Conservation Act 1980, Biological Diversity Act 2002 etc. are a few legal tools in this regard. Many organizations – both governmental and non-governmental – are also trying to find more and more pragmatic solutions to challenges in this field. So we can say without doubt that we are not lagging behind and that there is scope for more hope in this field in future, if our enthusiasm does not die out. The only thing that we must take care is that our strategies are up to date and scientific.
Our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has called the pious practice of conservation a “rediscovery of a truth well known to ancient sages”. Our forefathers had great respect and love towards nature and life forms. They maintained them undisturbed, and knowingly or unknowingly, ensured that natural processes of adaptation and evolution go on undisturbed. Thus they made us heir to this most beautiful abode adorned with diversity. But our callous attitude deteriorated vitality of environment as well as the rich diversity. It is high time that we realized our mistake. We must ‘rediscover’ the ethical value of biodiversity and nature. We must ‘rediscover’ the nature-centric philosophies of our ancient sages. We must ‘rediscover’ the principles and thoughts of conservation upheld our forefathers. Yes. It is OUR duty to preserve the rich diversity, so that the coming generations live in peace and harmony with nature.