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International Day for Biological Diversity:

Integrating biodiversity with development

We have been witnessing the drastic effects of climate change at an increasing frequency of late. Floods, droughts, earthslips, landslides and melting of icecaps are a few of the issues that have dominated international news headlines over the last few years.

Freak weather conditions being experienced across the world including in our own country have been attributed to climate change, and have affected the lives of people and biodiversity in every country.

It’s in this backdrop of increasing natural disasters that the world celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity yesterday.

This year’s events seemed even more significant due to 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity as declared by the United Nations.

The world is changing fast and the growth in human population and developments in the industrial sector have put excessive pressures on biodiversity.

The International Day for Biodiversity is a reminder about the role biodiversity plays in life, health and sustainable development on earth and the importance of protecting it.

It is an occasion to reflect on our responsibilities to safeguard this diversity for future generations.

The theme for 2010, as declared by the Secretariat on the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) of the UN Environment Programme is ‘Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation’.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, human health, wealth and well-being depend on this planet’s species and habitats and the goods and ecosystem services they provide such as food, fibre, medicine, soil formation, air audits, climate regulation, regulation of water supply and quality and the cultural and aesthetic value of plants and species.

Biodiversity is also important to industries such as agriculture and livestock, forestry, fishing and tourism. However, this variety is declining at an alarming rate, affecting eco-balance. This will affect everyone, but mostly the poorest people and the most vulnerable countries.

Seventy percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and directly depend on biodiversity for their sustenance and income. Over 1.3 billion people depend on biodiversity and basic ecosystems and the goods and services they provide for their livelihoods. That’s why the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of substantially reducing biodiversity loss by 2010, as decided in 2002, was set.

Biodiversity, despite being specifically mentioned in one MDG, is important to all MDGs. However, as Ki-Moon says, nothing much has happened in this direction. To re-focus on this theme, 2010 was designated as the International Year of Biodiversity. The UN General Assembly will hold a special meeting along with the MDG Summit in September to give an impetus to the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit in October with the goal of promoting a new vision for biodiversity. These plans must promote conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits from its use and recognise the links between natural capital and development objectives, he said.

While the main aim of development is poverty reduction, it should take note of sustainable environment too. The inter-relatedness of these issues; biodiversity sustains development while development may have both positive and negative impacts on biodiversity, have to be taken into account.

“Action must be taken to arrest the root causes of biodiversity decline and to achieve this, mindset and policies should be adjusted,” the UN Secretary-General’s message said.

Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, the flagship publication of the CBD, was released this month. It summarises the latest data and trends of biodiversity and draws conclusions for CBD’s future strategy. It has used many sources such as national reports, biodiversity indicator information, scientific literature and studies assessing biodiversity scenarios for the future.

The Convention for Biodiversity was established on December 29, 1993 with the objectives of conserving biodiversity, sustainable use of the different components of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. Sri Lanka is also a signatory to this Convention. When the Biodiversity Day was first created by the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, December 29 (the date the Convention of Biological Diversity came into force) was designated as the Biodiversity Day. May 22 was adopted only in December 2000, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on May 22, 1992 by Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the CBD. One of the reasons for this change of date was the difficulty faced by many countries to plan the activities in December, a month with many holidays.

The CBD Secretariat established the Biodiversity for Development Initiative after a biodiversity conference in Paris in 2006. It calls for support on biodiversity mainstreaming in partner countries and the improvement of governance for poverty reduction and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The CBD works closely with the UN Development Program to ensure that biodiversity conservation and sustainable use are integral to national and regional economies and social development policies, legal frameworks, development plans and implementation systems.

Events on the Day

In Sri Lanka, the main program related to the International Day for Biodiversity was conducted on May 21 by the Biodiversity Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Wayamba University of Sri Lanka and the South Asian Environmental Cooperation program. The event took place at the Makandura premises of the Wayamba University under the patronage of Environment Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa,

Deputy Environment Minister Faizer Musthapha, Chief Minister Wayamba Province Athula Wijesinghe and Vice Chancellor, Wayamba University Prof. Nimal Perera. Presentation of material to the University by the Ministry, lectures, poster competitions and tree planting campaigns were some of the events held on the day. The mango festival held at the University premises was a novel event where the opportunity was provided for participants to view and taste a variety of both local and foreign mangoes. A workshop to create awareness of biodiversity issues was held on the same day at Pannala National School with the participation of over 450 students from over 10 schools.

International events

Some of the activities that took place around the world in connection with the event were lectures, seminars, film presentations, cultural events, exhibitions and school outreach activities.

Among the more prominent activities was the Green Wave which was introduced two years ago as an initiative of the German government. Children and youth in schools and other groups planted trees at exactly 10.00am local time, leading to a ‘green wave’ across many time zones. Many other organisations took part in this event this year which was also supported by Airbus Industrie and National Geographic Society.

 

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