CAA’s Articulate – Fewer species, more disease


Context:

  • Scientists believe that the loss of biodiversity, and wildlife trade, have strong linkages with the emergence of epidemics.
  • The pandemic is an opportunity for the global community to explore the consequences of its unscientific actions on nature and prepare for behavioural change.

Loss of biodiversity and spread of disease

  • There is strong evidence that Coronavirus spread from a wildlife market in Wuhan, China.
    • Two hypothesis have been discussed:
      1. the virus jumped from bats directly to humans; and
      2. from bats to pangolins and then to humans.
  • Human-induced environmental changes reduce biodiversity resulting in new conditions that host vectors and/or pathogens.
  • Dangerous infectious diseases (Ebola, Bird flu, MERS, SARS, Nipah, etc.) have been transferred from wild animals to humans.

Trafficking in wild plants and animals:

By deliberately pursuing and hunting certain species or by establishing monocultures; habitats and ecosystems are being damaged, fragmented or destroyed.

  • Body parts of animals including pangolins, Asiatic black bears and rhinos are being traded illegally to countries such as China, Vietnam, and Laos. Another study has found that there was a significant increase in the poaching of wild animals in India even during the lockdown.
  • The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services shows that people extensively encroach natural habitats; hence biodiversity is declining significantly.

Way forward

  • A ‘one health’ approach
    • Which considers the health of people, wild and domesticated animals, and the environment, needs to be followed.
  • Strictly enforcing laws:
    • India should strictly enforce the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, the Biological Diversity Act of 2002; strategies and action plans including the National Biodiversity Targets; and the National Biodiversity Mission.
  • Realising the 2050 vision for biodiversity, ‘Living in Harmony with Nature’:
    • We need to strictly regulate high-risk wildlife markets, promote green jobs and work towards achieving carbon-neutral economies.
  • Post Covid-19 mainstreaming of biodiversity:
    • The over 2 lakh biodiversity management committees (local-level statutory bodies formed under the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 Act) can play a significant role in this regard.
  • Mass biodiversity literacy should be our mission.
  • Ecosystem integrity
    • Will regulate diseases and restrict the transmission of pathogens from one species to another.

Biological Diversity Act of 2002

  • In April 2004, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) notified the Biological Diversity Rules 2004 under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • The Act has a unique system of governing access and benefit sharing (ABS) through the NBA, SBBs and BMCs formed at different levels.
  • Under the Act, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has been formed and is headquartered at Chennai.
  • State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) also have been formed in all Indian states.
  • There is provision for  the constitution of the Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at local levels — in panchayats, municipalities and corporations states.
  • PBRs: The local bodies of states have to prepare the People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs), which are considered to be the basic records of a region’s biological resources such as plants, animals and the traditional knowledge of the local people.
  • The Act provides measures for safeguarding traditional knowledge, preservation of threatened species and prevention of bio-piracy.