//Call to involve tribes in biodiversity schemes

Call to involve tribes in biodiversity schemes

NBA Chairman lauds State’s response

KOZHIKODE: "The success of biodiversity conservation measures envisaged under the Biological Diversity Act would depend a great deal on the extent to which tribes and local people are allowed to participate in these programmes," S. Kannaiyan, Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), has said.

Talking to The Hindu , Dr. Kannaiyan suggested that biodiversity conservation measures in the State initially focus on places where gene erosion had taken place and where depletion of biodiversity had adversely affected the livelihood of tribal people. He was confident that the State would benefit greatly by the Biological Diversity Act, the Central legislation enacted in 2002.

Expressing appreciation for the State Government’s response to the Act, particularly the composition of the State Biodiversity Board, Dr. Kannaiyan said "it is nice to see that the State Biodiversity Board has already got down to its business. Madhya Pradesh has also done well in this area. But what the Kerala Government has done is good enough to be made a model for the other States."

He was particularly impressed by the choice of members of the Board. He remarked that the presence of people who are knowledgeable about biodiversity would make its programmes a success. Nine States have so far set up Biodiversity Board in line with the Act.

He believed that the Board and its committees would be able to play a critical role in the conservation programmes in the Western Ghats. The State’s Pokali rice varieties, with their salt-tolerant properties, and the rich aquatic biodiversity of the State should be high on the agenda of the biodiversity programmes.

Medicinal plants and tribal medical lore also should get priority. The presence of plants that could be used to treat obesity and in the treatment of tumour and plants known to possess birth control properties lent added significance to the biodiversity programmes in the State, he said.

An awareness programme on biodiversity, for which the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) will provide a grant of Rs.10 lakhs, is now under way in the State. One such programme was held in Thiruvananthapuram last week. A programme for scientists is on at the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR) on Saturday. More funds will be available later for preparation of biodiversity registers, the document that lists the flora and fauna of a locality.

Dr. Kannaiyan, who is also a former Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, and winner of several awards for his contributions in the field of agriculture science, appreciated the move of the State Biodiversity Board to arrange a training programme for presidents of panchayats since involvement of local self-governments and local people including tribes in tribe-dominated places was critical to the success of biodiversity protection.

Dr. Kannaiyan pointed out that the Kerala Forest Research Institute had already published a number of books on biodiversity, giving the State a head start in the awareness campaign.

R. Madhavan Nair, Hindu, Jan 22, 2006.