Time to redefine relationship with nature

Matters India, June 4, 2020

By George Cheriyan and Nimisha Sharma

Pressing times due to Covid-19 pandemic have once again reminded us the need of co-existence for a peaceful and beautiful world. As the world observes yet another World Environment Day on June 5, to remind us regarding the need to protect environment, the day will be commemorated through its first ever online-only campaign due to pandemic.

Theme and the host country

Since 1974, the day has been observed across world. Later in 1987, selection of host countries started to rotate the centre of activities. This year Colombia in South America is hosting the day in partnership with Germany and the theme is ‘Biodiversity-Time for Nature’. According to a UN Report, about one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction, may be within decades, more fast than ever before in human history. The executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Inger Andersen had called up on nations to take action to address the crisis.

Motivated by the success of awareness campaign organised in 2010 hosted by Rwanda, the UN had declared 2011-2020 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity. 2020 is the last year of the decade and its achievement needs to be evaluated for further action plan. The selection of Columbia holds significance as it is listed as one of the world’s mega diverse countries and sustaining close to 10 per cent of the plant’s biodiversity. It ranks first in bird and orchid species and second in plant, butterflies, freshwater fish and amphibians besides being a home to variety of other species.

Importance of Bio-diversity

Biodiversity is an essential part for healthy functioning of the ecosystem. According to World Wildlife Foundation’s latest Living Planet Report, the planet has lost 60 per cent of all vertebrate wildlife population since 1970. More than half of all birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have been extinct in just 50 years whereas the world’s population has increased from 3.7 billion to over 7.7 billion today.

As population is rising, cities and industrial areas are growing rapidly, pushing the need for ever more space and leaving a small space for the biodiversity to survive. The relentless consumption of natural resources, unsustainable consumption pattern and to feed a large population has destroyed natural habitats around the world.

Biodiversity loss is an existential problem, which requires and urgent attention. Recent events such as bushfires in Brazil, the USA and Australia, worst ever locust attack in parts of middle East, African and Asian countries and now the global pandemic are giving signal to the human race that they are part of this web and it is time to wake up. Nature balances itself through its own ways and means. It is sending us message that it is time to take notice and redefine relationship with the nature.

India among Mega-bio diverse countries

The situation in India is no more different as India is also one of the 17 mega-bio diverse countries in the world. With only 2.4 percent of the earth’s land area, India accounts for 7-8 percent of the world’s total recorded species. It is home to about 96,000 animals, 47,000 plant species and nearly half the world’s aquatic plants. Among plants, 33 per cent of world’s species are only found in India and nowhere else in the world. Biodiversity is the variety and differences among living sources, including marine, terrestrial and other ecosystems. Biodiversity represents all lives.

Link between biodiversity and diseases

Several scientists say that there is a biodiversity dilution effect which is leading in increased infectious disease transmission. Scientists have observed a clear link between decreases in diseases frequency with increase in host diversity.

In the situations like Covid-19 pandemic and other diseases, India with its exponentially rising population must cautiously take steps and work to preserve biodiversity on an urgent basis. Population pressure and hunger for land for profit is posing a large looming threat to biodiversity. The lockdown triggered due to Covid-19 has once again reminded the human race to rethink about the nature and this beautiful planet, which if neglected can pose worst threat to human race.

The way forward

Over exploitation of natural resources and growing human population on the planet reminds us once again that co-existence is the rule to curb biodiversity loss, which is happening at a much faster rate than ever before.

Covid-19 has given an opportunity that all nations must cooperate to protect and conserve the biodiversity to create a better world for dignified existence for one and all and take the message of World Environment Day 2020 in high spirits.

Even though the day might be subdued due to the ongoing pandemic crisis across, it should not diminish the significance of the day and an urgent need to address the environmental issues to create a better world to live

George Cheriyan is the director and Nimisha Sharma, Programme Associate at CUTS International, a global public policy research and advocacy group

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