[Dr Bamin Yakang]
The United Nations (UN) in the year 2000, proclaimed 22 May as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) mainly to increase the understanding and awareness on biodiversity issues (www.cbd.int/idb).
The UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern about the continuing loss of the world’s biological diversity and reaffirmed the commitment to the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources by appropriate access to genetic resources and the appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and technologies, and by appropriate funding.
When first created by the committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity) was designated as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB).
In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IDB to commemorate the adoption of the text of the convention on 22 May, 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the conference for the adoption of the agreed text of the convention on biological diversity.
Like every year as part of an effort to continue raising awareness, the secretariat of the convention on biological diversity announced the theme for the 2020 IDB on 22nd May as ‘Our solutions are in nature’. The theme for this year reminds us that the only answer to a number of sustainable development challenges we face in our daily lives, right from people, culture, traditions, food and water security, to nature based solutions to climate, health and sustainable livelihoods etc, is our biological diversity which remains the basis for a sustainable future.
Biodiversity is the term used to describe the variety of all living things. Biodiversity found on earth is the result of over 3.5 billion years of evolution. In other words, it is the foundation of life on Earth. It is crucial for the functioning of ecosystems which provide us with products and services without which we could not live. Oxygen, food, fresh water, fertile soil, medicines, shelter, protection from storms and floods, stable climate and recreation- all have their source in nature and healthy ecosystems.
The term biological diversity was coined by Thomas Lovejoy in 1980, while the shorter version of it termed as ‘biodiversity’ was coined by entomologist EO Wilson in 1986 in a report for the first American forum on biological diversity organized by the national research council (NRC). Biodiversity in true sense has no standard definition.
Arunachal Pradesh is one such state, which is highly rich in biodiversity and considered to be one of the hotspots of Himalayan biodiversity, filled with the richness of forest vegetation which ranges from lowland tropical forests to alpine vegetation forests.
It is the largest mountainous state of India and recognized as a globally important eco-region. The elevation of the region ranges from 120m on the edge of Assam to above 7090m on its northern part bordering China. It is a land of lush green forests, deep river valleys, beautiful plateaus and steep mountains. According to Forest Survey India Report (FSI) (2019), Arunachal Pradesh (67,248 km2) is ranked as second in terms of forested areas after Madhya Pradesh (77,462 km2); on the other hand, it ranks 4th in terms of percentage of forest cover (79.63%).
The biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh is marked with luxuriant forests. In fact, Arunachal Pradesh is known for housing a myriad of plants and trees within the territory. These different types of vegetation comprises of nearly 5000 species of angiosperm, 34 species of gymnosperm, 350 species of ferns and bryophytes, along with other innumerable floral species. The rich faunal biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh comprises of 216 species of mammals, 119 species of reptiles, 53 species of amphibian, 213 species of pisces, and 770 species of birds along with many other unreported species.
Zoo-geographically, the fauna of the state can be categorized under Palaearctic Indo-Chinese and Indo-Malayan elements. As many as 37 species of the mammals reported are categorized under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Arunachal Pradesh is the only state in India where three goat antelopes, namely Naemorhedus goral, N sumatraensis and Budorcas taxicolar are found. Perhaps it is the only state that harbours four major cats, namely Tiger (Panthera tigris), Leopard (P pardus), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia).
Over the years, biodiversity has seen a rapid decline with one species to the other slowly suffering extinction. These extinctions are irreversible, and looking at our dependence on food, medicines and other uses of biological resources, it is posing a threat to the well being of mankind.
Its innumerable plants, animals and microbes physically and chemically unite the atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere into one environmental system which makes it possible for millions of species, including human beings, to exist, and no other feature of the earth has been so dramatically influenced by man’s activities. Hence, changing or destroying our rich biodiversity, strongly affects human well-being and the well-being of every other living creature.
Taking into account the richness of bio-resources and diversified tribal culture, where we depend on it for our food security and health, the loss of biodiversity reduces the stability of ecosystems thereby weakening the ability to deal with natural calamities like flood, droughts and with human caused stress such as pollution and climate change.
In fact, the sole purpose of our tribal existence is the richness of our biodiversity. We really need to conserve and sustainably use our biological resources not only for us, but also for future generations to come. Today with the world fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic, and with our changing lifestyles, it gives us a purpose to ponder upon saving our nature and our biodiversity. Because, it is during such times that we should be more aware and realize the importance of our natural resources and get back to our roots.
Let us all join hands together and take an oath on this International Day for Biological Diversity-2020 to save our rich floral and faunal diversity because ‘our solutions are in nature’ and nothing else matters. (The contributor is a research officer in the Arunachal Pradesh Biodiversity Board)
[Dr Bamin Yakang]