Expressing concern that genetic erosion is happening to our rich biodiversity, Prof. Swaminathan reiterated that every gene and species was precious.
A strategy is needed to conserve biodiversity in Wayanad and to make it a model conservation district said Prof M S Swaminathan, Founder MSSRF at a media workshop on biodiversity here. Speaking on video from Kottakkal, Kerala, Prof Swaminathan emphasized that there was need to dialogue with media to bring greater discussion on this subject. Expressing concern that genetic erosion is happening to our mega diversity, he reiterated that every gene and species was precious. Wayanad is considered a biodiversity hotspot in the country.
The workshop is organized by MSSRF in partnership with the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). Chairperson NBA, Dr B Meenakumari, speaking from Chennai said, “While technological advancement is important, a basic need for life is food. We need to remember that only by preserving our biodiversity we ensure the continuance of our human survival.”
India’s Biological Diversity Act, 2002, has been put in place to provide a framework for sustainable usage of resources and equitable benefit sharing. “The importance of biodiversity is so high that the Parliament has considered violation of this Act as serious as a capital offence,” said T Rabikumar, IFS, Secretary, National Biodiversity Authority. He explained how this was not a standalone subject. Its connection with other aspects was so high, that as many as 27 Indian ministries were linked to biodiversity in one way or the other.
The manner in which media had been consciously and unconsciously covering biodiversity was shared by Mr Gopikrishna Warrier, Contributing Editor Mongabay. He spoke of the need to link local stories to global issues and use data effectively so that it could be related better to the international dialogues. Another brief study on media coverage on environment issues done by MSSRF also shared how the concern related to biodiversity was present, but the term was rarely used.
Prof Kunhikrishnan, noted environmentalist, shared data related to how numerous species were now being eroded, especially along the Western Ghats. Dr Anil Kumar, suggested that the media can link biodiversity to other topical themes such as climate change and link them in an emotional manner along with data so it could make an impact.
Dr Madhura Swaminathan, Economist and Chairperson of the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation who spoke on the concluding day brought the importance of economics of farming along with biodiversity discussions. “We must not romanticize the small farmer’s role in terms of being more organic or bringing in more crop diversity. Instead we must focus first on how to support them better for greater income,” she said. Dr Madhura pointed out that in agriculture, aspects of biodiversity or climate change impacts could be addressed only when income issues were sorted out. Giving details of a study on small farmers, conducted across 9 states in India, Dr Madhura said only 2% of small farmers actually got crop insurance. Small farmers are key communities who preserve agricultural biodiversity, but they first need financial support. MSSRF was supporting conservation by farmers as well as better practices and incomes.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Saleem Khan, Senior Scientist, Climate Change, MSSRF, spoke of the need for media to communicate climate change risks especially with regard to coastal biodiversity. “Sea-level rise is a major threat of changing climate. It has adverse impact on ecosystems, biodiversity and dependent human communities of the coast,” he said. He spoke of need for more research of the Kerala coast and its potential impact due to climate change since there were only limited studies on this. Dr V Balakrishnan, Head Community Agrobiodiversity Centre, MSSRF and Ms B Jayashree, Head the Media Resource Centre, MSSRF spoke of the need to create greater opportunity for dialogue and field visits for media.
The workshop included field visits to a tribal hamlet, sacred groves and exploration of biodiversity flora and fauna. It also had a guided tour of the M S Swaminathan Botanical Garden (MSSBG), which is a lead garden for Rare, Endemic and Threatened species .
A valedictory function to award certificates to journalists was held in which the MSSBG Advisory Committee and senior MSSRF staff participated. Further workshops on biodiversity will be held to keep up these discussions Thirty selected journalists from Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu were participated in the programme. Further workshops on biodiversity will be held to keep up these discussions.