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India's biodiversity report released

The National Biodiversity Action Plan says 41 per cent of India's forest cover is at different levels of degradation, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2007 21:05 IST
Chetan Chauhan

India has not done well to conserve its rich biodiversity, which is considered most diverse in the world. The National Bio-Diversity Action Plan says 41 per cent of India's forest cover is at different levels of degradation and the country is making limited use of is vast gene pool in agriculture and livestock, thereby creating a risk of food security.

The Environment ministry released a comprehensive document this week detailing the major areas of concern for India's biodiversity and the proposed action plan to check further degradation and conserving biodiversity.

India's huge gene resources for food and agriculture has got limited to about 12 varieties of food, which provide 80 per cent of food energy, because of changing lifestyles and taste and nutrition value of country's food basket. "A large number of over 300,000 samples of these cultivars, kept under long term storage in the National Gene Bank, have gone out of cultivation," the action plan said.

This is happening when local breeds are genetically better adapted to their environment, more resistant to local parasites and are most adjustable to climate change while being productive. "Conservation and greater use of local breeds will be most effective in achieving food and nutrition security objectives at the local level," the report has suggested.

In case of livestock about 30 mammalian and bird species are used extensively but only 15 account for 90 per cent account for total livestock production. Many among the well known nearly 140 native breeds of farm livestock and poultry are facing threat to their survival. "Alarm bells are ringing because narrow genetic base means more vulnerability to widespread epidemics," the report said.

Indian forests, which can provide succor to nation in advent of major climate change impact is in distress. About 41 per cent of Indian forest is degraded even through there has been increase in forest cover, 78 per cent is subjected to heavy grazing and 50 per cent if still prone to forest fires, the action plan says.

About 11.40 hectares of forestland has been lost on account of 14,997 projects sanctioned in forests since 1980. India's most of 5,000 village forests are encroached and 19,000 scared grooves are getting eroded because of agricultural pressures. The problem of Indian forest is further compounded by humans in Indian forests being in constant conflict with animals like leopards, tigers, monkeys, blue-bulls and wild boars, the report states.

But, the report applauds tribal groups like Bishnois of western Rajasthan, who had also complained against Bollywood actor Salman Khan for killing chinkara, for conserving forests and biodiversity. And, such effort is needed more from other communities.