Allah (SWT) has created everything (living and non-living) on earth with a definite purpose and living organisms are the best examples of it. May it be a microbe, a plant or an animal, everyone has a role to play and sustain the ecosystem functioning in every possible habitat on earth in addition to its own existence? This overall life on earth in various forms is the biological diversity or biodiversity, which has always been under tremendous natural and anthropogenic pressures resulting in its destruction, elimination or even extinction from the globe. Our Roti (bread), Kapda (cloth), Maqan (house) and Sehath (health) is only possible due to biodiversity, which is variedly distributed along the length and breadth of the earth.
Around 2.4% of earth’s land surface support about half of the world’s plant species and terrestrial vertebrate species. This much of the land surface witnesses around 36 areas as qualified hotspots of biodiversity- biologically rich but are highly threatened areas. Biological diversity has enormous ecological and economicvalues, tremendous food security, cultural, historical and above all its life sustaining values- the true building blocks of every form of life on earth.
Due to these life sustaining values, the convention on biological diversity was signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, dedicated to promote sustainable use of biodiversity for human benefit. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of agenda into reality, the convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro-organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live (source: CBD website).
In this context, May 22 this year since its inception in 1993 will be the 26th year of celebration of world biodiversity day to increase the understanding and awareness about the destruction, threats, extinction and need of conservation of biological diversity on earth. The theme for this year’s day is “our biodiversity, our food, our health”. This year’s theme has assumed much of the significance, because life on earth is in trouble and we are losing biological species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate (1-5 species/year), with literally dozens going extinct every day. As per the current IUCN estimates on red list of threatened species, one in four species are at risk of extinction due to human pressures alone. This is not less than a catastrophe in presence of the already earth’s biggest crisis- the climate change, which has unavoidable economic and socio-political effects.
Everyone is quite aware that biological diversity is in continuous threat worldwide but there is an inter-country variation as far as its destruction or management and conservation is concerned. Many countries have been behind its maximum elimination or over exploitation and many have been able to slow date its destruction rate by their self-less services by laying down a network of protected areas and conservation initiatives. However, majority of the countries are struggling with it due to a range of problems from lack of personal interest to deficiency of ample resources for an effective management and sustainable use.
But above all, do we have that much of the good sense prevailing upon us that a common man understands what biodiversity means for him/her. Are we that much conscious and well aware that every living organism beyond humans matters and is quite vital to sustain complex food webs and trophic levels, which ultimately drive our life ahead? The politics within the human existence itself, and in social setup and national existence has not perhaps allowed man to take care or protect the life on earth while harvesting benefits for generations together since human inception.May it be the environmental pollution, plastic threat, chemical rampage, wild life decline, misuse of gene technology, habitat destruction, and climate change all are equally responsible for their negative role in destroying the biological diversity at multiple levels. May it be a plant or an animal in wild or domestic form, they have fell victim or prey to overexploitation or overharvesting by man due to human overpopulation and resulting materialism. This overpopulation of a single biological species alone is responsible for a decline or destruction of an innumerable variety of other life forms due to unsustainable use of biological diversity and natural resources to satisfy the human greed.
Man somehow tried to maintain a balance with focus on access to genetic resource benefits and their fair and equitable sharing arising from their utilization.However, this concept of sustainable usehas not progressed well since its emergence as a special ecological or developmental concept. We failed to utilise this concept and now it has been felt that, in view of the tremendous threats and extinction of life at its doorsteps, a convention on biological diversity will be adopted and labelled as post-2020 global biodiversity framework as a stepping stone towards the 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature” .
The biodiversity including wild life and wild genotypes are declining from Africa to Asia at an alarming and unprecedented rate. For example, according to a recent grim report (Intergovernmental Science- Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Paris) based on thousands of research publications, 85% of the world wetlands have been lost due to industrialization and urbanization alone.
Also three-quarters of the world land and two-thirds of its marine environments have been significantly altered to such an extent by the anthropogenic actions that a million species of living organisms are threatened with extinction. This is not less than a biological annihilation. Perhaps nature must be in action to revive its lost glory of biological diversity to maintain a balance between extinction and speciation, but human actions overcome the natural speciation, thereby extinction has taken a lead to wipe away the biological diversity once again-paying ways to man enforced sixth mass extinction event on earth.
To conclude, biodiversity is declining due to mounting anthropogenic pressures. Therefore, everyone irrespective of region or religion has a role to play to protect or safeguard biodiversity if we want sustainable food and secure health.
(Author is Assistant Professor, Zoology)