What is Bio-Diversity?
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms, such as the plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they contain, and the eco-system they form. Usually, bio-diversity is classified into three groups:
- genetic diversity, which refers to the variation of genes within species. It explains genetic variation between distinct populations of the same species and also genetic variation within a population,
- species diversity, which refers to the variety of species. It can be measured on the basis of species richness, species abundance, and phytogenetic diversity and
- ecosystem diversity, which encompass the broad difference between ecosystem type and the diversity of habitat and ecological process of occurring within each ecosystem.
Importance of Biodiversity:
Biodiversity has direct consumptive value in food, agriculture, medicine and industry. Approximately 80,000 plants have been used at dne time and the another in the human history of which only 150 have been cultivated on a large scale. Today 10 to 20 species provide 80-90% of food requirements of the world. At one time, nearly all medicines were derived from the biological resources. Even today, 6770% of modern medicines are derived from natural products. In addition to food and medicines, biodiversity provide us with many other products without which life would be difficult. Wood, fuel. fodder, clothing and shelter, material for industries are some of the examples.
Biodiversity also has aesthetic and recreational values. Biodiversity maintains ecological balance and continues evolutionary process. The indirect ecosystem services provided through biodiversity are photosynthesis, pollination, transpiration, chemical cycling, nutrient cycling, soil maintenance, climate regulation, air, water system management, waste treatment and pest control. Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are therefore, fundamental to ecological sustainable development. In fact, the very survival of mankind is dependent on biological diversity i.e. plants, animals and microbes.
Status of Biodiversity in Himachal Pradesh:
Himachal Pradesh is bestowed with distinctive floral and faunal biodiversity having aesthetic, cultural, commercial and genetic values. It is a mountainous state and have vast repository of flora and fauna having profuse variation in intra and interspecies levels. Variable treasures of the biological resources are because of its varied topography, geological formations, altitudinal ranges and climatic conditions. The range of biodiversity elements represented in the state varies from subtropical region to that of temperate, dry temperate and alpine region. 95% of the floral and faunal species available in the state are endemic and 5% of the other species existing are of exotic nature.
Floral biodiversity in the State is described under forest vegetation, medicinal and aromatic plants, diversity in agricultural crops including unexploited and lesser known cereal crops, wild fruits and wild ornamental plants. Out of the total 47,000 plant species found in the country as many as 3256 species are reported from Himachal Pradesh. Floral wealth of the state consists of higher plants, ferns, mosses, fungi and Lichens. There are 3120 species of angiosperms, 13 species of gymnosperms and 124 pteridophytes and 38 species of orchids.
The vegetation is a blend of Ban Oak Forest, Moist Temperature Deciduous Forest, Himalayan Alpine Pastures and Rhododendron Scrub Forest. The lower ranges have the growth of blue pine while the higher altitudes have firs and spruce. Coniferous forest dominate the mid and high hills with Oaks in depressions. In the foothills, forests are dry deciduous with Sal as the predominant species. In dry localities Chirpine occur as the dominant species.
The state is rich in medicinal herbal plant wealth and people in the villages in some pockets are dependent on the medicinal herbal plant wealth for their livelihood. By the regular extraction of the plants of medicinal and aromatic utility from the forests and apline pastures nearly 60 species of medicinal plants fall under the category of endangered species presently as per IUCN status.
The state harbours a large faunal diversity. The fauna of Himachal Pradesh is very diverse and unique. Out of 89,451 species of animals in India, the state harbors 5,721 species of the Indian fauna which shows richness of biological resources of the state considering its small geographical area, which is only 1.7% of the country.
This faunal diversity includes 649 Chordates (77 Mammals, 447 Birds, 44 Amphibians and 83 Fishes), 4543 Arthropods (2 Bryozoa, 4362 Insects, 195 Arachnids, 11 Myriopods and 73 Crustaceans) and 412 others (60 Annelids, 73 Molluscs, 2 Acanthocephala, 132 Nematodes, 16 Rotifers, 90 Platyhelminthes, 2 Cnidaria, 3 Porifera and 34 Protozoans). Among the pheasants, with increasing altitude are Kalij in the foothills, Koklas and Monal in the temperate and midlevel forests, and the Snow cock in the alpine areas. The Western Tragopan, a rare and endangered specie, is confined only to the western Himalayas. Himachal Pradesh also has probably the largest population of Chir pheasants in the world. mammals include the Himalayan and long tailed marmots, Himalayan squirrels and voles. Among herbivores are the Ibex, Serow, Blue sheep, Tahr, Musk deer, Ghoral and the Barking deer. A large variety of carnivores, which are either rare or of intermediate status such as Black Bear, Brown Bear, Himalayan Weasel, Yellow Throated Martin, Stone Martin and Wolf are also found here. The Common Leopard and Snow Leopard is representative of the larger cats.
SOCIAL / CULTURAL LINKAGES WITH BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity has contributed in many ways to the development of Human culture, and, in turn, human communities have played a major role in shaping the diversity of nature at genetic, species and ecological levels. Man’s relation with biodiversity is as old as the evolution of man itself. He has been dependent upon the biodiversity for fulfillment of his entire livelihood needs. The people of Himachal Pradesh, a predominantly rural and agrarian State, have very strong linkages with biodiversity. The cereals, millets, pulses, the vegetables and the fruits are all plant based. The natural forests in the area provide wood for building of houses, furniture, bridges, agricultural implements, stakes for agricultural crops in addition to providing much needed fuel wood. Fibre is also extracted from many plants. Many wild relatives of domesticated plants find home in the State and this wild germplasm is highly sought after for development of high yielding and disease resistant domesticated crops. People are also dependent upon the native land races of livestock for agricultural purposes and their daily needs of milk, meat, wool and hide. A large proportion of this livestock feeds on the grasses and leaves of trees obtained from both wild and domesticated habitats. The leaf litter collected from the forests is used as bedding for the cattle and then applied to the agricultural fields as manure,
Many people of the state draw raw material from wild plant resources to make baskets, ropes, mats, leaf plates, artifacts, etc. to generate income. Collection and sale of medicinal plants from the wild forms another source of income to the rural people. Wild mushrooms and Guchhii (Morchella sps) are the sources of alternate income of the rural people which are collected from the local forest during the fruiting seasons of the fungal wealth of the state.
No religious ceremony in the State is complete without use of plants. Many plants including ‘dhoop and ‘juniper’ are used as incense in religious ceremonies and many others like ‘bael’, ‘tulsi’ etc. are used as offerings to the deities. Whereas ‘bargad’ forms the tree of choice in religious groves in the lower belts, it is ‘deodar’ that farms the main species in sacred groves in the higher hills. Gates bedecked with fresh leaves of local keystone species are put up to welcome guests. Such is the relevance of biodiversity to the people of the State that ‘Deodar’ has been adopted as the state tree, ‘Rhododendron as the state flower, Snow Leopard’ as the state animal and ‘Western Tragopan’ as the state bird.
NEED FOR CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity of Himachal Pradesh is becoming threatened due to biotic and abiotic factors in the absence of perspective strategic action plans for conservation of the biological resources. Many species have critically a low population which is further being affected by catastrophies or overexploitation leading to the elimination of species. Due to developmental activities many species of flora and fauna have been estimated to be threatened. The percentage of threatened species in the fragile mountainous region has been observed comparatively much higher in the state because of the dependence of the local people on biological resources for livelihood in the state. Surviral of many valuable species of animals and birds, medicinal herbs, aquatic and domesticated floral and faunal specials is at risk because of the continuous and unscientific extraction and hunting etc from their natural habitats. The situation is fast deteriorating due to continuous and indiscriminate use of chemicals as fertilizers and spray of highly toxic insecticides/ fungicides/ pesticides/ weedicides etc, in agriculture and horticulture fields, which is spoiling the soil strata as well as microbial biodiversity of the soil in the state. Introduction of exotic species are threatening the survival of local species of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the state. Incidences of forest fires are causing irreparable loss to biodiversity. Some of the floral and faunal species facing threat to their existence are listed as follows:
THREATENED/ ENDANGERED FAUNA:
Butterflies: Freak, Scarce Siren: Golden Emperor, Broad banded Sailor, Banded Apollo, Ladakh Banded Apollo, Pale Jezebel
Reptiles: Common Indian Monitor, Yellow Monitor, Indian Rock Python.
Birds: Cheer Pheasant, Monal Pheasants, Mountain Quail, Snow Cock, Tragopan, Himalayan Bearded Vulture, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Lagger Falcon
Animals: Himalayan Brown Bear, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Lynx, Kashmir stag, Himalayan Ibex, Himalayan Tahr etc.
THREATENED/ ENDANGERED FLORA:
Atis, Chora, Singli-Mingli, Somlata, Kaur, Karu, Banhaldi, Patrala, Dhoop, Bankakri, Chukhri, Kuth, Talispatra, Mushakbala, Pushkarmool, Ratanjot, Salampanja,Jeevak, Rishbhak, Mahameda, Ravandchini, Chiraita, Rasna, Rakhal.
ISSUES OF CONCERN
* There is lack of information and awareness among the stakeholders about importance of biodiversity both wild and domesticated (existing vegetation and cultivated crops including pseudo-cereals) medicinal/aromatic herbs/plants and traditional knowledge about plant uses.
* Unscientific methods of harvesting medicinal and aromatic plants and poor control on contractors for medicinal plants collection resulting into loss of biodiversity.
* Lack of knowledge about the importance of sustainable minor forest produce (NTFP) development and related research.
* Lack of adequate funds, facilities, trained manpower, long term research plans and appropriate extension facilities.
* Poor co-ordination amongst development plan executing bodies, local communities, and research and academic institutions which is adversely affecting biodiversity conservation initiatives.
* Transformation from joint families to a nuclear family system leading towards erosion of traditional knowledge base.
* Human-Wildlife conflict resolution existing. * Use of subsidized chemicals in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides etc. in agriculture landscapes is causing harm to soil strata and threat to micro-diversity.
* Inadequate efforts to biodiversity enterprise based enhancement for improvement of quality of life of local communities. Due to extreme and prolonged winter, heavy demand for fuel wood takes toll of existing vegetation, shrubs and perennial species along with their roots.
* High rate of soil erosion due to wind and water in cold deserts, flash floods in rivers in Kinnaur and Lahaul leads to biodiversity loss in the area.
* Transformation from diversified animal-crop system to a system of monocultures of Apple Pea/Potatoes & keeping just jersey cows as compared to a variety of traditional livestock assemblage leading towards unrecoverable erosion of local genetic breed and cultural diversity.
* Excessive grazing by domesticated and migratory animals during spring and summers also cause a great loss to biodiversity in the area. Hunting is still prevalent in the state inspite of ban imposed by the Govt. Traditional animal husbandry and traditional crops cultivation decreasing in the area.
* Destruction of habitat due to the construction of large hydroelectric dams, roads and buildings, industries leading to excessive landslides causing a great threat to biodiversity.
* Lack of understanding of traditional farming practices leading to erosion of agro-biodiversity in all agro-climatic zones.
Factors responsible for Bio-diversity decline in Himachal Pradesh
Bio-diversity is threatened by many factors. Hence, there is a need to analyse few of them for the purpose of the present discussion. Deforestation is a major cause behind destruction of biodiversity. It takes place in the following ways:
1. The mono-cultivation practice is one of the causes for deforestation in India. The replacement of natural forest ecosystem by mono specific tree plantation leads to the disappearance of a number of plant species; this situation leads to deforestation in India.
2. Forest fires are also one of the causes for deforestation. Forest fires are intentional caused by human beings; accidental fires also caused by tribes. They destroy forest vegetation i.e. bio-diversity.
3. Undertaking of development activities in the forest area is another cause for deforestation. It means conversion of forest for development activities.
4. The expansion of tourism in forest areas poses serious environmental degradation leading to endangering flora, fauna species and other environmental resources.
5. The rate of reduction in conservation of forest is one of the causes behind deforestation.
6. Increase in livestock population is an important cause for deforestation in India. Grazing by domestic animals in the forest has caused the adverse effects of death of natural and planted seedlings, soil erosion etc.
7. Illicit exploitation of forest wood is another cause for deforestation. It may be noted that the increasing use of wood in construction and commercial uses has led to dramatic increase in smuggling. This situation has led to deforestation.
8. Both rural and tribal populations are dependent on the forests surrounding their villages for meeting their daily needs of fuel wood and it is a major reason for deforestation.
Besides deforestation, some other causes are responsible for unsustainable features of bio-diversity. These are:
9. Bio-diversity is disturbed on the consequences of harmful fishery practices and over exploitation of fisheries. It may be noted that 16 albatross species have been threatened by long line fishing (as per the 2000 IUCN Red list)
10. Land degradation in consequence of applying chemical fertilizers affects the bio-diversity of earthworms.
11. Low biomass generation in consequence of destruction of biodiversity.
12. The practising of shifting cultivation replaces some of the traditional variety of crops cultivation. This situation leads to a disappearance of some crop varieties.
13. The destruction of mangrove vegetation affects the bio-diversity of marine life and Halophytic vegetation.
14. The indiscriminate exploitation of coral reefs leads to destruction of its biodiversity. It may be noted that coral reefs with an estimated half million species in their 400000 square kilometres are being depleted at rates that may leave little but degraded remnants by this century.
15. The practising of mono-cultivation is one of the causes that threatens the biodiversity. The replacement of forest ecosystem by mono specific tree plantation can lead to disappearance of a number of plant and animal species.
16. The practising of shrimp culture around the coastal ecosystem destroys the bio-diversity of marine living organisms due to the discharge of toxic chemicals from the shrimp ponds into the marine water.
17. The use of chemicals to control insects, pests, weeds and fungi enhances the productivity of crops. But their excessive use destroys some of the beneficial insects and also affects the health of human beings in the form of pesticide poisoning.
18. The introduction of alien species i.e., the introduction of grey squirrel in the United Kingdom has decimated the indigenous and squirrel population. The introductions of the Nile Perch into Africa’s Lake Victoria during the 70s are reportedly threatening the survival of more than 400 species of small fish.
Forest Fire Management in Himachal Pradesh
India is a vast country with geographical area of 3,287,2632, km. Himachal Pradesh is situated in the north of India. It has 22.20 percent of its geographical area under forest cover (FSI 2001) and the forests have been classified into 16 forest types. India’s forests are endowed with a variety of biomass and biological communities. Himachal Pradesh is also rich in its forest land and natural resources. It lies in the lap of Himalayas and extends from the perpetual snowy mountains separating it from Tibet town to Punjab plains. It lies between 300 22’ 44” and 330 1’ 40” north latitudes and 75° 45’ 55” and 790 04’ 20” east longitudes. For hill states like Himachal Pradesh the forests have to protect hillside against erosion, moderate the water flow and ameliorate physical and chemical factors of the locality. The National Forest Policy lays down that forest should cover two thirds of the geographical area. As per the legal definition of a ‘forest’ forest cover should be 37, 5912 km or 67.52 percent of the total geographical area of Himachal Pradesh. It consists of hilly terrain crossed by big and small rivers, rivulets, nalas, glaciers and deep gorges. Being a state saddled with the responsibility of selling a large number of irrigation and hydroelectric dams, it needs a bigger forest cover for their conservation. But these forests are degrading day by day due to many reasons and forest fire is one of the main causes behind this degradation. From 1st April 2004 to 15th May 2004 there were 939 cases of forest fires occurrences in the forests of Himachal Pradesh and there was a loss of about 107 lacs.
At least 10,000 to 12,000 hec. area of forest is burned every year largely intentional fires. Against the national average of 2.73 percent of the area under forests, Himachal Pradesh can boast of 38.00 percent. But these forests are degrading day by day, details of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh during the previous years.
ABOUT HIMACHAL PRADESH STATE BIODIVERSITY BOARD
Himachal Pradesh State Biodiveresity Board has been constituted by Govt. of Himachal Pradesh vide notification no. STE-A (3-1/2004 dated 14-2-2005 in State Council for Science Technology and Environment under section 22 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected herewith and incidental thereto in the state.
FUNCTIONS OF STATE BIODIVERSITY BOARD
Advise the State Govt, subject to any guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, GOI, New Delhi on matters relating to the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of biological resources. Regulate by granting of approvals or otherwise requests for commercial utilization of bio survey and the utilization of any biological resources by Indians. Perform such other functions as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 or as may be prescribed by the State Govt.
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT, 2002
Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, New Delhi has enacted Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Biological Diversity Rules, 2004 for the conservation and sustainable use of the biological resource on equity and gender basis and regulation and management of biodiversity in the Country. Biological Diversity Act, 2002 envisages the formulation of various bodies for the regulation and management of biodiversity at three levels namely:
- i) National Biodiversity Authority at National Level
- ii) State Biodiversity Board at the State level. i
- ii) Biodiversity Management Committees at every local body/Panchayats level in the State.
Salient Features of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 are:
- To regulate access to biological resources of the country with the purpose of securing equitable share in benefits arising out of the use of biological resources and associated knowledge relating to biological resources.
- To conserve and sustainably use biological diversity.
- To respect and protect the knowledge of local communities related to biodiversity.
- To secure sharing of benefits with local people as conservers to biological resources and holders of knowledge and information relating to the use of biological resources.
- Conservation and development of areas of importance from the stand point of biological diversity by declaring them as biological diversity heritage sites.
- Protection and rehabilitation of threatened species
- Involvement of institutions of State Governments in the broad scheme of the implementation of the Biological Diversity Act through the constitution of committees.
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 lay provisions for penalties along with imprisonment for any cognizable offense committed under the Act which is as follows:
- Whoever contravenes or attempts to contravene or abets the contravention of the provisions of section 3 or section 4 or section 6 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine which may extend to ten Lakh rupees and where the damage caused exceeds ten Lakh rupees such fine may commensurate with the damage caused, or with both.
- Whoever contravenes or attempts to contravene or abets the contravention of the provisions of section 7 or any order made under subsection (2) of section 24 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine which may extend to five Lakh rupees, or with both
- If any person contravenes any direction given or order made by the Central Government, the State Government, the National Biodiversity Authority or the State Biodiversity Board for which no punishment has been separately provided under this Act, he shall be punished with a fine which may extend to one Lakh rupees and in case of a second or subsequent offence, with fine which may extend to two Lakh rupees and in the case of continuous contravention with additional fine which may extend to two Lakh rupees everyday during which the default continues.
* Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan formulated for conservation of Biodiversity of the State and Sub-State Site (Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur Districts).
* Himachal Pradesh State Biodiversity Board has been constituted for conservation and regulation of biological resources in the State.
* Draft Rules framed for the State Biodiversity Board.
*Prepared Bibliography of Biodiversity of North-Western Himalayas with focus on Himachal Pradesh.
*Prepared literature for awareness on biodiversity for the stakeholders.
* Draft of Policy guidelines for conservation of Biodiversity in the State prepared.
*People Biodiversity Registers in five Panchayats are to be prepared on pilot basis in the State.
*Information on various facets of biodiversity being collected and collated for formulation of a database on biodiversity, Conversion of Pine needles biomass into briquettes and its use as fuel in the rural areas viz a viz income generation in the state through organization of awareness cum demonstration trainings to the farmers/farmwomen, NGOs, PRIS, Self Help Groups, Mahila Manadals and IRDP families.
* Awareness for the implementation of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 amongst the stakeholders of biodiversity is being carried out.
* Environment friendly farm practices being popularized through demonstration trainings in the State.