Biodiversity: The variety of flora and fauna in a given geographical area is called biodiversity of that area.
Flora and Fauna in India
India is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of its vast array of biological diversity, and has nearly 8 per cent of the total number of species in the world (estimated to be 1.6 million).
Flora & Fauna in India
More than 81,000 species
More than 47,000 species
Indigenous flowering plants
About 15,000 species
Endangered wild flora
Causes of Depletion of Flora and Fauna:List of Critically Endangered Species:
Cheetah, pink-headed Duck, Mountain Quail, Forest Spotted Owl, madhucha insignis (wild mahua), hubbardia heptaneuron (a grass species)
Number of Endangered Species: 79 species of mammals, 44 of birds, 15 of reptiles, and 3 of amphibians, 1,500 plant species are considered endangered.
Classification Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN):
Normal Species: If the population level of species is within normal range for their survival, it is called normal species, e.g. cattle, pine, sal, rodents, etc.
Endangered Species: Species which are in danger of extinction are called endangered species, e.g. black buck, crocodile, Indian wild ass, Indian rhino, lion tailed macaque, sangai (brow anter deer in Manipur), etc.
Vulnerable Species: If the population of a species has declined to such a level that it is likely to become endangered; it is called vulnerable species, e.g. blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphin, etc.
Rare Species: If the population of a species so small that it can become vulnerable or endangered, it is called rare species, e.g. Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert, fox, hornbill, etc.
Endemic Species: A species which found only in a particular geographical area is called an endemic species, e.g. Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig, mithun in Arunachal Pradesh, etc.
Extinct Species: A species which no longer exists is called an extinct species. A species may be extinct from a local area, region, country, continent or the entire earth. Examples: Asiatic cheetah, pink head duck, etc.
637,293 sq km (19.39% of total geographic area)
Agricultural Expansion: According to the Forest Survey of India, over 262,000 sq km of forest area was converted into agricultural land in India between 1951 and 1980. Moreover, a substantial part of the tribal belts has been deforested or degraded by shifting cultivation.
Enrichment Plantation: Enrichment plantation was done to promote a few favoured species in many parts of India. This practice involves plantation of a single commercially valuable species. This leads to elimination of other species.
Development Projects: Large scale development projects have also contributed significantly to the loss of forests. Over 5,000 sq km of forest was cleared for river valley projects since 1951.
Mining: Mining has also caused large scale depletion of flora and fauna in many areas. For example; the ongoing dolomite mining is seriously threatening the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal.
Unequal Access to Resources: Social inequality is another major factor to depletion of flora and fauna. The rich people consume much more than the poor and thus cause a higher degree of environmental damage.
Social Effect of Resource Depletion:
In many societies, it is the women who are responsible for collection of fuel, fodder, water and other basic subsistence needs. Depletion of these resources means women need to work harder to collect those resources. At some places, women may have to walk more than 10 km to collect firewood. This causes serious health problems for women.
Deforestation induced flood and draught result in economic misery for the poor.
Deforestation also leads to loss of cultural diversity. The marginalized people who had been traditionally dependent on forest for sustenance are now forced to look for other sources of livelihood. In order to do so, they are uprooted from their traditional habitat and culture.
The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972:
In the 1960s and 1970s, the conservationists demanded some rules to protect the wildlife. Conceding to their demand, the government enacted the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Under this act, an all India list of protected species was published. Hunting was banned to protect the remaining population of some endangered species. Trade in wildlife was restricted and the habitats of wildlife were given legal protection many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries were established by various state governments and the central government. Several projects were announced for protecting specific animals, e.g. Project Tiger.
Benefits of Conservation:
1.Conservation helps in preserving ecological diversity and our life support systems; water, air and soil.
2.It preserves the genetic diversity of plants and animals.
The Chipko Movement is a good example of community participation in conservation programme.Government's Categorization of Forests:
Reserved Forests: More than half of the total forest land has been declared reserved forests. These are considered as the most valuable from conservation perspective.
Protected Forests: Almost one-third of the total forest area is protected forest. The protected forests are protected from any further depletion.
Unclassed Forests: Forests which do not come under either of the above two categories are called unclassed forests.
New Trends In Conservation Policy
Increase Biodiversity: The new trend in conservation policy is the focus on biodiversity rather than on a few of its components. So, instead of just focusing on bigger mammals; like tiger and lion, even insects are finding a place in conservation planning. New notifications were issued under Wildlife Act of 1980 and 1986. As per them; several hundred butterflies, moths, beetles and one dragonfly have been added to the list of protected species. Six species of plants were added to the list in 1991.
Community and Conservation
Many local communities have recognized that conservation can secure their long-term livelihood. At many places, such communities are coordinating with government officials in conservation efforts.
At Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan), villagers have fought against mining by citing the Wildlife Protection Act.
In many villages, people are protecting habitats and are explicitly rejecting government involvement. For example; the inhabitants of five villages in Alwar district of Rajastahn have declared 1,200 hectares of forest as the Bhairodev Dakav ‘Soncuri’. They have declared their own set of rules and regulation to protect the wildlife.
Nature worship is an age old custom in the Hindu religion and in many tribes. Sacred groves in forests are the result of this tradition. Such spots in forests are untouched by human intervention.
The Mundas and the Santhals of Chhota Nagpur region worship mahua (Bassia latifolia) and kadamba (Anthocaphalus cadmba) trees. Similarly, the tribals of Orissa and Bihar worship the tamarind (Tamarinudus indica) and mango (Mangifera indica); as part of wedding rituals.
Monkeys are considered the representatives of the Hindu god Hanuman. At most of the places people do not harm monkeys or langurs because of this belief. In and around Bishnoi villages in Rajasthan, chinkara, nilgai and peacocks are protected by the community and nobody harms them.
Farmers and citizen’s groups like the Beej Bachao Andolan in Tehri and Navdanya have shown that adequate levels of diversified crop production without the use of synthetic chemicals are possible and economically viable.
The Joint Forest Management (JFM) programme is another example of involvement of local communities in forest management. This programme has been in practice in Orissa since 1988. Under this programme, the local villagers form some institutions and manage the conservation activities. In lieu of that, they get the right to take and utilize some forest resources.
Project Tiger was launched in 1973; to protect tigers from becoming extinct.
At the turn of the 20th century, the tiger population was around 55,000 which dwindled to 1,827 by 1973.
Threats for Tiger Population: Poaching for trade, shrinking habitat, depletion of base prey species, growing human population, etc.
Current Status: 27 tiger reserves covering 37,761 sq km.