Sunday, October 21, 2012

Can biodiversity be conserved? COP 11 Hyderabad

Dhanesh Wisumperuma
The Nation, 21-10-2012, Fine, p.

A fish made out of plastics, symbolic of plastic polluting oceans and coasts.

Biodiversity is a topic which is discussed at various levels of the global environmental agenda – international, national, regional as well as at community level. Biological diversity itself and the values and uses of biodiversity have been recognized during the last few decades. However, a considerable loss of biological diversity is taking place around the world. The rate of loss of biodiversity is high, and the failure of the various conservation efforts leaves us with the question – can biodiversity be conserved?

In October 2010, the world admitted that the effort to achieve the biodiversity target of the Millennium Development Goals – a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss – was missed. Fortunately, a new target was set at the biodiversity summit held in Nagoya, Japan with renewed commitment. Although it was a postponement of targets to a future date, there was no other way to revive the effort to conserve biodiversity. The main result of that summit was the formulation of ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets’.

This is the major concern of the global meeting on biodiversity conservation that is currently taking place in Hyderabad, India. It is the eleventh Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11), which is held once in two years. This meeting could be described as the largest gathering or the key meeting related to biodiversity. It is being held with participation of about 10,000 people around the world, including state delegates, NGO representatives, observers as well as community representatives.

Result of Hyderabad?

Hyderabad summit is the first such meeting of the convention, after the Aichi Targets were agreed upon as well as the first after the Decade of Biodiversity, launched in 2011. This is an opportunity to evaluate the progress of the conservation effort as well as to rethink where the world stands. The discussions on certain issues are ongoing and it is too early to say what the outcome of the summit could be.

Meanwhile, there was a number of burning issues discussed at other forums such as side events, which are held parallel to the meeting, such as threats to biodiversity, difficulty and success stories in achieving some of the Aichi Targets. For instance, it was shown that some developing countries are able to increase the forest cover while it is not the same in other countries. For instance, Costa Rica has been able to increase their forest cover from 21 percent to 52 percent between 1987 and 2012.

A widely discussed topic during the side events was the agro-biodiversity and the threats faced by the sector. Crop diversity and the rights for seeds and commercialization of agriculture could eventually reduce the diversity of crops and thereby diversity of food. The world renowned environmentalist Vandana Shiva pointed out that the monoculture threatens crop diversity as well as food security. She also pointed out that people have to eat food made out of crop to protect the diversity of those crops, as lack of cultivation could cause the extinction.

The COP 11 is a showcase of successful initiatives of sustainable use of biodiversity, some of which are community led initiatives. These success stories included some innovative measures as well as use of traditional technology – some Indian examples were exhibited at the exhibition titled ‘Biodiversity Haat’. Meanwhile the international examples that were recognized by the award of The Equator Prize presented their achievements to a global level audience. Three organizations from Sri Lanka have won the award since 2004.

Funding for conservation

Funding needed for biodiversity conservation is an issue that has been under consideration for a long period. It is among the Aichi Targets as well as among the major causes of the failure in conservation efforts. A recently released research study pointed out that an annual amount of $ 76.1 billion is required to protect threatened species and protected areas in the world. It is also mentioned that this sum is not a huge amount as the world spends five times that amount on soft drinks in a year. However, the authors say that conservation funding needs to be increased at least enough to meet the target.

Meanwhile, addressing the high level segment of the COP 11, Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh said, “I am pleased to launch the Hyderabad Pledge and announce that our government has decided to earmark a sum of $50 million during India’s presidency of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to strengthen the institutional mechanism for biodiversity conservation in India.” He expected that other countries will follow a similar action.

What are Aichi Biodiversity Targets?
Aichi biodiversity targets are a set of 20 targets gathered to five strategic goals to be achieved in 2020. The world agreed in 2010 at the biodiversity summit held in Nagoya, in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, where the world agreed that they were unable to achieve the Millennium Development Goal targets related to biodiversity, despite the global efforts of biodiversity conservation. All countries of the world as well as the civil society are working to achieve these targets.

The themes of the Aichi targets could be summarized as follows:
1. Increase of awareness
2. Integration of biodiversity values into strategies, planning processes, etc
3. Reforming incentives including subsidies
4. Sustainable consumption and production
5. Halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats
6. Sustainable management of marine living resources
7. Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
8. Reduction of pollution
9. Prevention and control of invasive alien species
10. Reduction of the pressures on vulnerable ecosystems
11. Increase and the improvement of Protected Areas
12. Prevention of the extinction
13. Maintenance of genetic diversity
14. Safeguarding ecosystems and essential services
15. Restoration of ecosystems and enhancing resilience
16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
17. Adoption of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans as policy instrument
18. Respecting traditional knowledge
19. Improvement, sharing and application of Knowledge
20. Increase of all financial resources
(Go to for detailed targets)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hyderabad Diary – Day 5 (11 Oct 2012)

News in Indian Media

I thought of sharing some news items related to the biodiversity conference, which appeared in Times of India, Hyderabad edition. There is a good reporting for environment related issues in Indian Newspapers. Decide yourself. 

Environmentalists urge alternatives to sand

'India committed to taking biodiversity agenda forward'

Activists slam govt's golf meet for CoP delegates

7 coastal sites in AP endangered

India to get a $100mn green boost

Experts call for harmonisation of laws

'Biodiversity in food crops needs to be preserved'

Countries split over bio budget

People's right biodiversity conflict: Harmonisation of laws called for

Activists demand action on fading coastal biodiversity at (COP) 11 in Hyderabad

Biodiversity conservation: Leader India, the laggard

Hyderabad Notes

The hotel we are staying is providing us a newspaper free of charge, delivered to the room around 6.30 am. Price of this 26 page Times of India (Hyderabad edition) is Rs. 2.50 only (= LKR 6.25)!. Furthermore, the paper contains more material to read than in Sri Lankan papers. We have to believe it.  

This doesn't mean that everything in India is cheaper than in Sri Lanka.

(The diary will be updated daily, based on the time available and may not be properly edited. I am grateful for the Green Movement of Sri Lanka for providing the opportunity to attend this event.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hyderabad Diary – Day 3 & 4 (9-10 Oct 2012)

Two exhibitions worth visit

I reserved time to visit the two exhibitions hosted during the biodiversity summit. Both these are related to biodiversity, but in different scopes and thought to make a note on those.

'Biodiversity Haat'

The first exhibition titled known as ‘Biodiversity Haat’ is an exhibition of examples for sustainable natural resource usage as an alternative to non-degradable material in our day to day life. The stalls are represented by Indian organisations all over India who produce various eco-friendly products using natural resources. These include a large number of ornamental items, stationary, cloths, bags, pens, food items and medicines etc. This is a display of best practices and a common practice in Sri Lanka as well as in other countries. However, this has another good example in display – i.e. the eco-friendly stalls made of bamboo and sheltered with straw.

At a centre of the exhibition area was the statue of Mahatma Ghandi, the great India, who also promoted the simple livelihoods concept that will support the sustainability.

'Interactive fair for Biodiversity'

The other exhibition is named as ‘Interactive fair for Biodiversity’ and it houses a number of government and non-government (local and international) organisations working mostly in India. The main theme of the exhibition seems to create awareness of biodiversity of India – including wildlife as well as crop diversity. It is 'incredible India'. Some of the well known local and international organisations were present at the scene.

There is much more to write in this diary, but the time is limited.

Hyderabad notes

We found that what we know as Plain Dosai in Sri Lanka is called ‘Oothappam’ in Hyderabad. Plain Dosai in Hyderabad is a thin, paper like dosai. There is also a food item known as paper roast, which is quite large. (Hope I will be able to post pictures of these tomorrow.)

However thinking about my favourite food – red rice (ratu kekuklu bath), I am out of this for five days now!

(The diary will be updated daily, based on the time available and may not be properly edited. I am grateful for the Green Movement of Sri Lanka for providing the opportunity to attend this event)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hyderabad Diary - Day two (8 Oct 2012)

 (HICC building, main venue of the conference)

The Conference begins

The 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity commenced ceremonially at Hyderabad today. A large gathering was there, may be more than 5,000 people. (Eventually this could be the largest gathering on biodiversity, as more than 14.000 participants have been pre-registered).

The host country guests included the Minister of Environment and Forests of India and the Chief Minister of Andra Pradesh.The opening session was chaired by the Union Minister of Environment and Forests of India, Jayanti Natarajan. In her impressive speech, she stressed the need of collective responsibility by all to ensure sustainable living and also said that the expenditure on biodiversity needs to be looked at as an investment.

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Executive Secretary of CBD urged that he wants all the countries at CBD to reach the Aichi Targets. He also highlighted the need to release finances to achieve national level targets of biodiversity and it as a crucial asset of the development.

The legacy of the oriental civilisations with is related to biodiversity and its conservation was emphasized during the speeches.

I had opportunity to weak around what are the events to be held within the premises, exhibitions, side events and side events. As usual, there are a large number of side events on various themes and topics on biodiversity.

Hyderabad notes

We had the opportunity to travel by bus on 8th. The passenger transport seems to be excellent as there were ample amount of buses on roads, but not crowded much, and leading to various places. One interesting issue was the seats reserved for ladies – 5 double seats on the right side and 2 double seats on the left side were reserved for ladies. There is a label above the seats, but was in Telingu (?) language only – girls and ladies come and stand at the seat pointing the label, a silent request. Further to this, double seat each on the left side of the bus were reserved for the “Physically Handicapped Persons” (PHP) and “Senior Citizens”. This is something we can copy Andra Pradesh!

 (see the label/ notice just above the window)

(The diary will be updated daily, but may not be properly edited. I am grateful for the Green Movement of Sri Lanka for providing the opportunity to attend this event)

Monday, October 8, 2012

In Hyderabad for Conservation (Hyderabad Diary - Day 1)

Reached Hyderabad yesterday, to attend the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11-CBD), as an Observer. This is the 11th COP of the convention, which is held once in two years, last time it was held in Nagoya, Japan. The Convention was among the few conventions that received the highest global support. Although biodiversity related targets of the Millennium Development Goals were not accomplished during the last decade, the topic is a much discussed topics in environment. 

Hyderabad, the capital of Andra Pradesh, is the fifth largest city in India - the metropolitan area is about 650 square kilometres. That is about the size of the district of Colombo! The tour from airport to the conference venue and to the was a sightseeing visit, covering a large part of the city. The usual scenery included numerous multistory buildings rising all around the city, some rising on the rocky landscape bringing some urban beauty for the city. This development seems to be taken place during the recent past - with the advent of the development of the IT industry.

The climate of the city seems somewhat an arid climate (Wiki page mentions this as: "a combination of a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen Aw) that borders on a hot semi-arid climate").

Few words on the arrangements: 

Hyderabad International Confere nce Centre is the main venue of the COP 11 and is a spacious location. It is called the centre of the Cyberabad, that is the main hub of the IT industry of Hyderabad. The Conference arrangements eased us from some routine matters like registration etc. which were well coordinated using modern technology wherever appropriate.

The conference is arranged to promote some eco-friendly activities. Such a one is the reusable bottle provided - instead of providing disposable PET water bottles they have instructed to use it to reduce the use of disposable cups. Great!

(The diary will be updated daily, but may not be properly edited. I am grateful for the Green Movement of Sri Lanka for providing the opportunity to attend this event)