//Biological capital on the decline

Biological capital on the decline

Nearly 40 species of plants and animals in the country have already become extinct due to the lack of conservation, says  S. Kannaiyan, chairman, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). Biodiversity represents the very foundation of human existence; yet, by our heedless actions, we are eroding this biological capital at an alarming rate, he said.
He was in the city to participate in an awareness workshop on biodiversity, organised by the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute here on Wednesday.

Mr. Kannaiyan says the adverse effects of human impact on biodiversity are increasing dramatically and threatening the very foundation of sustainable development.

"The role of NBA is to offer advice to the Central Government regarding the policy and regulation of biodiversity in the country. An equitable sharing of income and assets is an important component of a strategy for conserving biodiversity," says the former Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

Mr. Kannaiyan is the first chairman of NBA, headquartered in Chennai, since its constitution in 2002.

"Our aim is to create awareness among people at the grass-root level about the rich bio-diversity available in their respective localities. We have decided to constitute district-level bio-diversity management committees for the purpose," he says.

Seven districts in the State have been identified for the purpose.

"A People’s Bio-diversity Register, which can act as a legal safeguard against bio-piracy, will be kept in each locality to chronicle the available varieties of plant and animal species common to the region," Mr. Kannaiyan says.

Medicinal properties

There are tribals who are aware of the medicinal properties of certain plant species, but are reluctant to share the information with the outside world.

They transfer the knowledge orally to their descendants. "Our focus will be on documenting such traditional knowledge."

Yet another area of concern for NBA is in preventing bio-piracy by foreign nationals and research institutions.

As per the Biodiversity Act, 2002, all foreigners and research organisations should seek prior permission from NBA for obtaining biological resources from the country. (A bio-resource encompasses all life forms on earth, including soil, which contains microbes.)

It is estimated that there are around 2,00,000 varieties of rice plants in the country. Each State has an average of 200 to 300 varieties of local rice plants.

Similarly, there are more than 1,000 varieties of mangoes available in the country— those of the size of a peanut to that of a muskmelon. Even the characteristic taste of a mango, be it sour or sweet, has innumerable variations, he said.

The NBA also aims at protecting the animal diversity endemic to a particular region.

According to him, the introduction of exotic breeds and cross-fertilisation has lead to the decline of `original’ Nilgiri sheep once common to the region.

Chairman of the National Biodiversity Authority interviewed by Sangeeth Kurian of Hindu News Paper  about the adverse effects of human impact on biodiversity.