Biological Diversity

Biological Diversity

Rishikant Singh

India along with all older civilizations had a heritage of respecting nature and the universe including the sun, the stars and the planets.  Many celestial objects and constellations were named after Gods, Goddesses and Rishis of yore. In India, the Goddess of forests is Vandevi and revered as a form of Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva the all-powerful. Lord Shiva when angered would start his dance of destruction or “Tandava”.  Correctly interpreted foretells the delicate balance of the Universe which when disturbed causes havoc till He is placated which means equilibrium or balance is restored. 

Temples of the old-world show animals adorning the entrances and holy stones (Obelisk) adorned with animal carvings.  In their own way, each recognized the importance of living forms and nature ascribing qualities.  Plant and animal products were used for medical treatment and healing, and certain sects used intoxicants to help reach higher planes of meditation and communion with God as part of rituals. 

Countries with over 33% green cover of their landmass, with pristine waterlines, wetlands and seashores are blessed.  Many countries in Europe and other continents have succeeded in preserving their wild areas and forests.  Estuaries and mangroves are the nurseries for sea life as many fish and crustacean species lay their eggs in these sheltered places where the young develop before they return to the sea.  Protection of wetlands thus assumes importance and they provide support to wildlife along with the large tracts of forests. 

With human civilization came agriculture and destruction of forests and natural grasslands for much needed land.  Lakes were created by building dams and generating hydro power before atomic energy and wind and solar add their bit.  Thermal power runs on coal and oil which are byproducts of large forests that were buried and reduced to carbon over hundreds of millions of years. 

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Large, interconnected forest tracts allowed the natural movement and migration of species.  Roads, rail and cities hampered the natural migration paths causing silent extinction of species adding to the damage by hunting, trapping, and overfishing. Monoculture forestation, agriculture and fruit plantations have proven to be harmful to bio-diversity and soil bio-organisms. Inorganic fertilizers, hormones, radiation, and pesticides have contaminated food sources and poisoned potable groundwater, as had excessive industrialization and city waste generation, which have damaged air, soil and water.  

There is a need for primary education and fieldwork on forests, nature parks, biodiversity hot-spots, clean and green efforts beyond mere sloganeering.  The positive action on personal hygiene must extend to reduced waste generation, dependency on petroleum derivatives like plastics, artificial rubber compounds, and excessive use of glass with replacement with bio-derivatives. 

Some correctives could be a 2 percent levy on corporate revenue divided between federal and state budgets.  Else, a percentage of the tax revenue be set aside for a national fund for regenerative forestry and biodiversity plan.  Recycling must be inculcated in schooling programs and teacher training.  Games and toys on themes of rebuilding forests must be planned at the earliest for which toy designers and producers must be drafted with incentivized marketing.  In keeping with digital transformation, gaming software producers must also be roped in.   School-level competitions on nature must go beyond painting and essay writing competitions.  A thinkers’ curriculum is needed. 

Governments have often provided subsidized land for manufacturing, IT parks, and industrial and commercial complexes.  This must be looked through green lenses.  To offset the need for urbanization and industrial development, corporate given government land must commit to develop twice as much land as forests, preferably in adjoining areas.  For project viability, this may be permitted in a stepped manner say starting 2-3 years of the company going operational with a defined tree density and biodiversity parameters as per geographical characteristics of the land around.  Artificial biodiversity parks can play an educative role and must be part of town planning henceforth. 

Similarly, seas and oceans are reserves of life and need the river estuaries and mangrove forests. With a rising sea level due to global warming and melting of icecaps, these areas will be inundated, and biodiversity lost unless adjoining higher lands are kept safe and available. 

The third world countries with their burgeoning populace, poverty, and illiteracy is harder hit to pursue conservation. The vision of our lawmakers is more needed today than ever before.  We must learn from our past mistakes and rectify them for the coming generations.  A tax rebate at federal/central, state, and municipal or village level for promoting green values is possibly a good way forward. 

(The author is former manager of Air India, Chicago.

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