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Biodiversity vital for survival of the planet: Kasturirangan

Business Line, New Delhi, 25th November, 2011 

The Planning Commission has devised an environment performance-linked mechanism for devolution of funds to States during the 12th Plan period.

This was stated here by the eminent scientist and Member, Planning Commission, Dr K. Kasturirangan here on Thursday while delivering the inaugural address at the 81st annual session of the National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI).

States would be ranked on index covering parameters like air and water purity, forest cover and sustainable livelihood. A performance monitoring system would also be introduced.

The Green India Mission to bring five million hectares including degraded land and ecologically sensitive areas under green cover was one of the important targets of the 12th Plan.

Dr Kasturirangan said India was preparing to showcase its achievements and plans at the next meeting of the committee of parties to the CBD (Convention on Biodiversity) to be held at Hyderabad in October 2012.

The country needed a three-pronged national action plan focussing on species recovery, relocation of villagers from critical habitats and management of invasive species to ensure sustainable management of biodiversity.

There was an urgent need to augment and accelerate efforts for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and for fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of bio resources.

Pointing out that biodiversity was vital for the survival of the planet, Dr Kasturirangan said the accelerated disappearance of species was a matter of concern. Policies and programmes developed over the decades had provided a robust organisational structure dealing with biodiversity in India.

With half of the total land under cultivation and another 23 per cent under forests, and combined with conflicting demands of stakeholders, biodiversity conservation faces challenges.

An estimated 40 per cent of forest cover is degraded, 78 per cent subject of forest area is subject to heavy grazing and 50 per cent prone to forest fires.

Domestic demand for timber and firewood is well above sustainable level, Dr Kasturirangan said.

A former chairman of ISRO, he said satellite systems were making routine observations to analyse forest cover and classify degraded forests.

More recent geosynchronous systems could provide a more accurate analysis and help with early detection of forest fires.

Prof A. K. Sharma, President, NASI, presided over the function. Among others who spoke were Prof M. G. K. Menon; Prof Manju Sharma; Prof A. Jayakrishnan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Kerala; and Prof J. P. Khurana and Prof Krishna Misra, General Secretaries, NASI.