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Still a long way to go

The UN biodiversity meet ends with a deal on funding. But finance is just a small component of conservation.

india Updated: Oct 21, 2012 22:00 IST

On the face of it, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which concluded in Hyderabad last week, will be termed as successful by some stakeholders for at least one reason. Early on Saturday morning, after a night of hectic parleys, similar to the ones we have seen at the high-profile climate change summits, the developed world agreed to double funding to support the developing States towards meeting internationally-agreed biodiversity targets, and the main goals of Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. In return for financial aid, at least 75% of the developing world would have to include biodiversity among their national priorities by 2015 and allocate financial resources towards their biodiversity conservation plans.

While some extra cash in these hard times is always welcome, the truth is that resource mobilisation is just a small part of a conservation strategy. The bigger challenges: proper structuring of laws that deal with conservation and their implementation in a time-bound manner. For example, take India's Biological Diversity Act. This is now 10 years old but has managed to achieve very little. One of main reasons for its failure has been the State's inability to put people at the centre of the country's conservation plans. Instead, experts and committees have been sole decision-makers. Even legal provisions like biodiversity authorities, biodiversity registers and farmer seed protection committees are still non-functional in many cases. In fact, till December 2011, only 14 states, out of the country's 28, had managed to notify their biodiversity rules.

India has also not been able to implement one of the main clauses of the 2010 Nyogya Protocol, an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, that made it mandatory for States to obtain 'free and prior informed consent' of communities before allowing other countries access to their biodiversity. Such weak bio-safety laws have only encouraged piracy of India's diverse resources.