NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN
(Supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests- GOI and the United Nations Development Programme)
One-day brainstorming / discussion meeting for the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa
On October 12, 2000 (9.30 am to 5.00 pm)
At the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Minutes of the meeting
The meeting commenced with Prof Madhav Gadgil of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science welcoming the participants. In his welcome address, Prof. Gadgil informed the participants that the CES has been identified as the nodal agency for developing the strategy and action plan for the state of Karnataka, and expressed hope that this meeting would enable him to obtain a feedback on his ideas for the state level action and strategy plan.
Following are the main aspects of Prof.Gadgil’s presentation
Highlights of the Discussion following Prof. Gadgil’s address
In view of the fact that implementation of action plans in India is rather poor (as in the case of Biospheres), smaller models of action research and plans need to be considered / developed.
Failure of implementation largely due to narrow perspective, and can be addressed by giving space to other perspectives. For example, local communities can be asked about the changes in their landscape and means of tackling the same.
Use of local and traditional knowledge for conservation planning is low, and often documented on an informal basis.
Prof. M. Gadgil
While it is true that use of traditional knowledge has been restricted to local communities, the Biodiversity Act states that local knowledge will be considered for conservation planning.
Dr. R.J.Ranjit Daniels, Coordinator – Western Ghats Eco-region gave an overview of the NBSAP with special emphasis on the Western Ghats. Following are the main aspects of the presentation.
The goals of the NBSAP are as follows:
The scope of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action plan is as follows:
It is proposed that the action plan will cover:
However, further data / information on the following features needs to be obtained to develop the strategy and action plan.
Dr. Daniels concluded by stating that the current workshop should ideally culminate in the identification of issues in biodiversity conservation that can be effectively addressed by various experts / organisations and institutions within a set time frame.
Discussion following the presentation of Dr.R.J.R.Daniels
Dr.R.Sukumar highlighted the need to address the legal components in conservation planning
Responding to a query from Prof Gadgil on the process of interaction between the Western Ghats Ecoregion coordinator and the state level committees, Dr. Daniels said that this is being contemplated through periodic meetings, email discussions and sharing of proceedings across groups. Prof Gadgil suggested that a list of all persons/institutions involved in the NBSAP process should be developed and made available. This list could also include representatives of industries and federation of industries.
Dr.Pramod suggested that provision of alternate and additional modes of employment, as corollaries of conservation programmes would ensure effective implementation.
On the issue of land use, Fr.Saldhana said that transfer of village communes to government has proved to be catastrophic. ShriSankar Raman felt that this issue is area specific, and therefore site-specific measures need to be recommended.
Shri Yogesh Gokhale highlighted the issue of the those tribal and rural communities whose livelihood was based on collection of wild produce. He also suggested that a local level meeting be organised to obtain the perspective of such persons and their societies.
Fr. Saldhana also suggested that the NBSAP process should support capability of expertise in little-known areas such as the nematodes. Prof.Gadgil responded by stating that the NBSAP can be expected only to highlight the lacuna that exists.
Shri Darshan Shankar suggested that it would be useful to get various stakeholders involved in the use of medicinal plants to prepare an action plan for the Western Ghats.
Dr.Daniels highlighted the fact that while taxonomic expertise of certain groups are supported, most other groups are left untouched. Such expertise, especially of lower organisms needs to be mainstreamed.
Shri Madhusudhan felt that most reports highlight only ‘agreements’. He suggested that the NBSAP should also include and highlight disagreements and points of conflict.
Following the discussion, Dr.S.R.Yadav made a brief presentation on the state of Maharashtra. Dr.Yadav said that bauxite mining (especially in southern Maharashtra) and tourism are the two major problems that have to addressed for biodiversity conservation in Maharashtra. In addition, specific efforts have to be made, possibly in the form of botanical gardens, to conserve ceropegias that are restricted to certain areas of the state. Since dairying is a major enterprise in the state, studies on grasses is also important. As a generic issue, Dr.Yadav highlighted the need to support taxonomic expertise.
Supplementing Dr. Yadav’s presentation, Shri Yogesh Gokhale said that state sponsored hill resort tourism in Maharashtra has resulted in large tracts of forests (under private ownership) being converted to hill resorts by industrial houses. For instance, in Bhimshankar, substantial areas of climax evergreen forests have been reduced.
Dr.Samuel Christopher made a brief presentation on priorities for the state of Goa in biodiversity conservation. Dr. Christopher said that mining and monocultures are the two major problems that need to be addressed.
Shri V.P.Hiremath of the Forest Department said that land use as dictated by market forces is the biggest problem confronting conservation efforts in Karnataka. Shri Hiremath also mentioned that only those organisms that have least economic / market value can be conserved. He cited the case of sandalwood as an example of this. Shri Hiremath also suggested that areas in the immediate vicinity of the Western Ghats should also be addressed as part of the NBSAP.
Dr.Daniels and Prof Gadgil questioned whether declaring sandalwood as an endangered species will contribute to its continued survival. Shri Sankar Raman felt such a declaration will minimise the collateral damage that occurs during the felling of sandalwood trees.
Shri Yerdoor suggested that policies and laws relating to biodiversity conservation need to be studied in-depth, since there are number of inherent contradictions. A common forum to discuss the implementation or non-implementation of laws needs to be set up.
Shri Hiremath informed that participants that in Karnataka, old leases on mining in forest areas are being reviewed.
Dr.M.D.Subhash Chandran, Coordinator/Uttara Kannada (sub-state/NBSAP) briefed the participants on the activities being carried out in Uttara Kannada for the NBSAP. Dr.Chandran said that the process can be effective only if both the government agencies and people are involved as equal partners. He elaborated on the constitution of a district level committee for the purpose of NBSAP.
On issues that need to be prioritised, Dr.Chandran said that the coastal birds are the most threatened in the district. In this context, he made a specific mention of the data provided by Dr.Daniels to him. Dr.Chandran also said that panchayats need to empowered to support or enhance biodiversity conservation.
Dr.Samuel Christopher supplemented by stating similar issues are pertinent to the state of Goa.
The merit of involving panchayats whose leaders owe allegiance to political parties in conservation efforts was also debated. Shri Gokhale said that in many instances, such leaders support encroachments. Ms. Manju Raju said that this issue was also debated in the thematic group of livelihoods. Dr.Chandran said that the issue of encroachments has historical roots.
Fr.Saldhana felt that educating and changing the attitudes of people would be more effective than policing in biodiversity conservation.
In the post lunch session, Dr. Arun Venkatraman made a presentation on the activities of the Asian Elephant Conservation Centre (AECC). Dr.Venkatraman said that significant elephant populations in India are spread over 10 ecoregions, of which four are located in south India. These have been mapped using GIS and the report has been made available. However, there has been no feedback on the report and a number of independent estimates are being circulated. Dr.Daniels brought the group’s attention to the ENVIS report (of the Wildlife Institute of India) that has been published during recent years. Pointing to the fact that there has been lack of agreement between the two reports with regard to numbers and sex ratio of elephants in south India, Dr.Daniels asked if the two institutions ever discussed this disparity. Dr. Venkataraman responded by stating that the two institutions have been functioning independently on this.
The efforts made by the AECC to identify priority elephant corridors were highlighted. It was stated that fragmentation of habitats has been the most crucial factor for managing elephant populations. The AECC is currently involved in examining mechanisms through which land can be accessed. This would involve even acquisition of private lands wherever the land holders volunteer. This has been specifically suggested for the four narrow links identified between forests in south India. This however is complicated in view of the rigidity of the Land Reform Act (more details are available in the AECC report). Prof Gadgil suggested that paying a maintenance fee to the land holders would be a feasible option. While this suggestion was welcomed by the participants, Shri Karthikeyan of the WWF-India suggested that this maintenance fee has to be periodically reviewed and upgraded. Dr.Daniels highlighted the lack of interaction between the elephant conservation programme and initiatives that support agro-biodiversity in tribal areas. Dr. Yadav felt that only those areas which are inaccessible to humans can be conserved.
Dr.Yadav also drew attention on the dry tracts of the Western Ghats in which certain forms of biodiversity are endemic. Shri Karthikeyan highlighted the need to include urban centres in the NBSAP.
Ms.Manju Raju explained to the group the activities of the thematic group on ‘livelihoods’ which examines the community perspective on conservation and livelihoods. Ms.Raju requested the participants for suggestions. The following were the suggestions of the group.
The meeting concluded with the identification of the following points for follow-up.