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Q&A: P L Gautam, Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority

'We have 11 goals to protect our biodiversity'

Business Standard  |  New Delhi 

P L Gautam, National Biodiversity Authority chairman, tells Kirtika Suneja about the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. Edited excerpts:

What are the major components of biodiversity?
Biological diversity or biodiversity is the totality of genes, species and ecosystems of a region. This diversity is often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms. So far, about 1.75 million species have been identified. Biodiversity also includes genetic differences within each species — for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock. Chromosomes, genes and DNA-the building blocks of life-determine the uniqueness of each individual and each species. Yet another aspect of biodiversity is the variety of ecosystems such as those that occur in deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers and agricultural landscapes. In each ecosystem, living creatures form a community and interact with one another and with the air, water and soil around them.

What are the 2010 biodiversity goals and targets for NBA?
We have 11 major goals which include promoting conservation of biological diversity of ecosystems, habitats and biomes, species and genetic diversity along with promoting sustainable use and consumption. Moreover, we have to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources. In 2010, we also target to reduce the pressures from habitat loss and degradation and control the threats from invasive alien species. One of the important challenges pertains to protecting biodiversity from the dangers of climate change and pollution. Protecting traditional knowledge and practices is another goal for us.

Which major tasks are being undertaken by NBA at present and what challenges do you face in doing so?

The NBA is an autonomous, regulatory, advisory and monitoring body and it operates through a consultative process involving expert committees and stakeholders. We take necessary measures to oppose the grant of intellectual property rights in any country outside India on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with such biological resource derived from India. We have constituted expert committees on guidelines management and conservation of Biodiversity Heritage Sites, Access and Benefit Sharing, preparing guidelines on ameliorative measures for biodiversity-rich areas threatened by overuse, abuse or neglect, agro biodiversity, soil, sediment and microbial diversity, among others.

What measures are you taking to preserve and increase the country’s forest cover?
As envisaged in the National Forest Policy 1988, increasing the forest and tree cover to one-third of its geographical area is essential for economic and ecological security of the country, especially for the rural poor. In fact, a new Grants-in-Aid scheme for Greening India has been launched for providing assistance to voluntary agencies for tree planting. The Greening India scheme focuses on raising awareness about tree planting and enhancing the capacity for production of quality planting material. A total of 928 tree planting projects have been supported till now.

How has the progress on the National Biodiversity Fund been?
The National Biodiversity Fund has been created to support conservation of biodiversity. In order to protect the agro-biodiversity, 22 agro-biodiversity hot spots have been identified by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Authority and NBA. A total of Rs 37.35 lakh has been received for the year 2008-2010 and we are in advance stages of notifying the guidelines for its utilisation. The amount received shall be shared with the stakeholders as per the rules on the subject.

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First Published: Sat, June 05 2010. 00:06 IST