Implementation of the NBSAP
Pursuant to the CBD, a first major step was the development of the National Policy and Macrolevel Action Strategy (1999) that called for consolidating existing biodiversity conservation programmes and initiating new steps in conformity with the spirit of the Convention. This was followed by implementation of a UNDP/GEF-sponsored NBSAP Project (2000-2004) that yielded micro-level action plans adequately integrating crosscutting issues and livelihood security concerns. Some of the major programmes that contribute to its implementation include: Protected Areas (PA) network and its steady growth over the years, consolidation of Biosphere Reserves (BRs) (15), establishment of more species-specific reserves, growth in designated Ramsar sites, augmentation of ex situ efforts through the establishment of the network of Lead Gardens and initiatives in the conservation of genetic resources, etc.
Subsequent to the approval of the National Environment Policy (NEP) in 2006, preparation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan was taken up by revising the 1999 document in consonance with the NEP, using the NBSAP project report as one of the inputs. The National Biodiversity Action Plan (2008) defines targets, activities and associated agencies for achieving the goals, drawing upon the main principle in the NEP that human beings are at the centre of concerns of sustainable development and they are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. Work is currently in progress to develop national targets within the framework of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020).
Following the ratification of CBD and after widespread consultations, India also enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 and notified the Rules in 2004, to give effect to the provisions of the CBD, including those relating to its third objective on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). India was one of the first few countries to enact such legislation. The Act is to be implemented through a three-tiered institutional structure: National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs), Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the local level, in line with the provisions for decentralized governance contained in the Constitution. The Biological Diversity Act is a path-breaking and progressive legislation which has the potential to positively impact biodiversity conservation in the country.
Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets
The protected area network in India has been used as a tool to manage natural resources for biodiversity conservation and for the well-being of resource-dependent populations. So far, India has established a network of 679 Protected Areas (PAs), extending over 1,62,365.49 km2 (4.9% of the total geographic area) and comprising 102 National Parks, 517 Wildlife Sanctuaries, four Community Reserves and 56 Conservation Reserves. These wildlife protected areas also include 39 Tiger Reserves and 28 Elephant Reserves, along with 6 World Heritage Sites within UNESCO’s framework. Scientific monitoring and traditional observations confirm that depleted natural resources are being restored and/or pristine ecological conditions have been sustained in well-managed PAs. So far, 115 wetlands have been identified under the National Wetland Conservation Program and 25 wetlands are already classified as Ramsar sites. Particular attention is also drawn to forest protection, with numbers of programs, projects and vast regulation aimed at reforestation (the National Forest Policy aims to maintain a minimum of 33% of the country’s geographical area under forest and tree cover), conservation and sustainable development, eco-development of degraded forests, development of community conservation reserves outside PAs, economic valuation of ecosystem services and climate change, and finally inculcating awareness and imparting training to a range of stakeholders, including school students, ex-servicemen, farmers, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), extension workers, community groups, etc. In parallel, recovery programs have been initiated for critically endangered species, and reintroduction of threatened species into their natural habitats has been carried out for crucial species, such as pitcher plants, rhinoceros and mangroves. As a result of improved conservation effectiveness, some positive trends have already been reported for several species. Tiger and elephant populations have been increasing in recent years, and the Indian rhino’s endangerment level has been modified from endangered to vulnerable. In terms of ex situ conservation, several national gene banks were created for plants, animals, insects, fish and agriculturally-important micro-organisms (which notably hold 366,933 unique accessions of plant genetic resources and 2,517 microorganisms). Moreover, India, being a CITES Party, actively prohibits the international trade of endangered wild species and several measures are in place to control threats from invasive alien species (e.g. certificates for exports, permits for imports, etc.).
Towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Targets 11 and 14, 106 coastal and marine sites have been identified and prioritized as Important Coastal and Marine Areas (ICMBA). Along India’s west coast, 62 ICMBAs have been identified, and an additional 44 ICMBAs identified along the east coast. These sites have also been proposed as Conservation or Communities Reserves with the participation of local communities. Efforts are currently underway to secure and strengthen community participation in the management of the marine protected area network in India.
India has six natural World Heritage Sites having ‘Outstanding Universal Values’ (e.g. Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Keoladeo National Park, Nandadevi National Park (including Valley of Flowers), Sundarbans National Park and Western Ghats serial site). More natural sites of India are tentatively listed for assessment and evaluation in regard to consideration of their inscription as World Heritage Sites. Further, India has identified 12 Transboundary Protected Areas through bilateral and/or multilateral cooperation that has been initiated with neighbouring nations.
India’s contribution to crop biodiversity has been impressive with repositories of over 50,000 varieties of rice, 5,000 of sorghum, 1,000 varieties of mango, etc. The National Genebank, primarily responsible for ex situ conservation of unique germplasm on a long-term basis, holds nearly 400,000 unique accessions of plant genetic resources. India’s National Gene Bank is considered among the most dynamic and prominent systems in the world.
Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)
The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, based on local knowledge systems and practices, are engrained in Indian ethos and enshrined in the Constitution of India (Article 48A and Article 51(g)). Key laws, strategies and policies related to biodiversity include the Biodiversity Act (2002), National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), National Environmental Policy (2006), NBAP (2008) and NAP for Climate Change (2008). In addition, India has recently strengthened implementation mechanisms in policy, legislative and administrative measures for biodiversity conservation and management. In this context, major positive initiatives include: (i) Biological Diversity Act and Rules; (ii) Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006); (iii) Wildlife Crime Control Bureau; (iv) Green India Mission; (v) Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act; (vii) setting up the National Fisheries Development Board (2006). Biodiversity has been mainstreamed in the agricultural sector (e.g. National Policy for Farmers (2007); Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act; International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), Ministry of Agriculture), in forestry policies (e.g. Forest Rights Act), in planning and development (e.g. EIA Notification 2006), in tourism (e.g. National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP)), and in the fishery sector (e.g. National River Conservation Programme, National Lake Conservation Plan, National Wetland Conservation Programme).
Preparation of an easily navigable database of codified traditional knowledge on Indian systems of medicine (Ayurveda, Sidha and Unani), in the form of a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), has been a pioneering initiative of India so as to prevent misappropriation of India’s traditional knowledge at international patent offices. Non-disclosure agreements on TKDL have been entered into with the patent offices of the USA, EU and some EU countries. Following this, citation of TKDL references as prior art has led to setting aside of decisions to grant patents, or cancellation of intent to grant patents, or withdrawing of patent applications in over 50 cases in European patent offices in recent years.
India has made remarkable progress regarding capacity-building in several areas such as: (i) forest-based enterprises; (ii) development of Self Help Groups for synergy of Joint Forest Management with other schemes of the Government; and (iii) CEPA. The involvement of diverse stakeholders is enhanced through partnerships with NGOs, community groups, government, entrepreneurs and industry while regional and international cooperation for conservation and management of biodiversity is promoted through various extant and evolving bilateral agreements and MEAs.
India hosted COP-11 in Hyderabad from 1-19 October 2012. As the first Champion under the Hyderabad Call for Biodiversity Champions launched during CoP-11, India has earmarked a sum of USD $50 million during India’s Presidency of COP to strengthen institutional mechanisms, enhance the technical and human capabilities for biodiversity conservation in India, and to promote similar capacity-building in other developing countries.
Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation
Various monitoring programs have been put in place in several ecosystems as well as for particular species (e.g. monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE); participatory natural resource monitoring in selected villages in Uttara Kannada district; monitoring of climate change and forests; monitoring of genetic variation using techniques such as DNA fingerprinting under LaCONES; pollution monitoring and control; monitoring for Success in World Natural Heritage Sites under the UNESCO-IUCN project ‘Enhancing Our Heritage: the management effectiveness evaluation of Keoladev National Park, Rajasthan and Kaziranga National Park’; and water quality monitoring stations which have been further upscaled to over 158 in 10 rivers). Finally, a crucial task is completed by the monitoring committee of the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) which periodically assesses the status of the establishment and management of Indian PAs. India has advanced a forests mapping programme. The Forest Survey of India undertakes a biennial assessment of forest and tree cover.