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Biodiversity in India

India is one of the world’s recognized mega-diverse countries and the third largest producer of fish. With over 90,000 species of animals and 45,000 species of plants in its 10 bio-geographic regions, it is recognized as one of the eight Vavilovian centres of origin and diversity of crop plants, having more than 300 wild ancestors and close relatives of cultivated plants, which are still evolving under natural conditions. The varied edaphic, climatic and topographic conditions and years of geological stability have resulted in a wide range of ecosystems and habitats such as forest, grassland, wetland, desert, and coastal and marine ecosystems that harbour more than seven percent of the world’s recorded species. India is a vast repository of traditional knowledge associated with biological resources, and home to four of the 35 global biodiversity hotspots: Eastern Himalaya, Western Ghats and Srilanka, Indo-Burman, and Sundaland.

India’s contribution to crop biodiversity has been impressive with repositories of over 50,000 varieties of rice, 5000 of sorghum, 1000 of mango, etc. The country is considered the centre of origin for some domesticated species like pigeon pea, egg plant, cucumber, and possibly cotton and sesame. India’s forests cover more than 20 percent of the total geographical area and forest products contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and to the sustenance of livelihood for local communities.

Despite efforts to conserve its biodiversity, India’s ecosystems are under threat from habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss; overexploitation of resources; invasive alien species; declining forest resource base; climate change and desertification; impact of development projects; and pollution.

Nagoya Protocol and ABS Implementation

India has been a Party to the Nagoya Protocol since its entry into force in October 2014. The country’s numerous laws and regulations on biodiversity and Access to genetic resources and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) pre-date the Nagoya Protocol and include the Biological Diversity Act 2002, the Biological Diversity Rules 2004, the State Biological Diversity Rules, etc. These laws and regulations pre-empted some provisions of the Nagoya Protocol, and following the entry into force of the Protocol, the Guidelines on Access to Biological Resources and Associated Knowledge and Benefits Sharing Regulations 2014 were notified under the Act 2002. This strengthened enforcement of the Act in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol.

Current UNDP-GEF ABS Project Activities in India

The UNDP-GEF ABS project activities in India commenced in February 2018 and it is supporting the enhancement of capacities of public and private academic and research institutions accessing biological resources to conduct research on ABS issues. Efforts are being made to increase understanding of the ABS legal provisions and procedures as well as to strengthen partnerships and coordination among stakeholders.

The project is supporting awareness-raising and sensitization to increase participation in ABS activities in the country. Training programmes are also planned for a targeted group of stakeholders all over the country to help them understand the national ABS legislation and relevant international instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol. To aid these activities, capacity building materials are being developed, including the code of ethics for researchers and the practical handbook on ABS mechanism and monitoring. These activities are expected to increase effectiveness, strengthen compliance and contribute to successful implementation of ABS in the country.

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Ruchi Pant

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