South Asia faces development challenges amplified by natural resources-dependent communities: Environment minister

NEW DELHI: India and other South Asian countries jointly face formidable developmental challenges and impediments which are amplified by the weak socio-economic status and the presence of communities dependent on natural resources, Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav said on Thursday.

Addressing the South Asian Consultation on Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, attended virtually by representatives from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Yadav said this regional consultation among countries in South Asia assumes great relevance as it will serve to maintain the momentum of global discussion and negotiations in the area of global biodiversity framework.

“As you are aware, South Asia, with its over 1.97 billion human population and high biological diversity, forms an important region in the world. Our region is held together by common historical, geographical, political and ecological threats. We as nations are all on the path of rapid economic development. We, therefore, jointly face formidable developmental challenges and impediments which are amplified by the weak socio-economic status and the presence of high natural resources dependent communities in our region”, he said.

“The two-way regional consultation among countries in South Asia assumes great relevance. I understand that the outcome of this consultation would feed into the global meeting of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) planned in March 2022 in Geneva and then in a big meeting of the 15th COP of the CBD in China in April-May 2022,” the minister said in his address.

He also said the Biological Diversity Act will be implemented to lay greater emphasis on the local community interest and to encourage research in the area of biodiversity to make necessary changes in policy to ensure more Access & Benefit Sharing (ABS).

“We need to encourage investment for sustainable use with necessary regulation to increase ABS fund, which can be used for conservation of biodiversity and betterment of the local community,” the minister added.

He said it is also necessary that tribal and other local communities which are cultivating or doing other activities for their livelihood should be exempted from the Biological Diversity Act to find balance between development of the local community and conservation of biodiversity.

The two-day virtual-cum-real meeting, held in the national capital, was also attended by the representatives from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal; the Global Environmental Facility, Washington; French Embassy in New Delhi; UNDP-India; IUCN Offices in Canada and Singapore; National Geographic, USA and Campaign for Nature, Montreal.

Yadav also said the country subscribes to the theory and practice of green infrastructure development and ‘Development with Design’ particularly “in the linear infrastructure sector that we build to promote economic development, conservation and connectivity.”

He said conservation is mainstreamed in all sectors of economic development under the philosophy of “Development without Destruction”.

The minister said India has joined over 75 countries that are part of the 30 by 30 High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People. In South Asia, Pakistan and the Maldives have already joined the HAC.

He urged other countries to join the HAC and also requested Global Environment Facility (GEF), Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and Campaign for Nature and others to ensure timely and adequate resources for developing countries. The minister said the two-day regional consultation will help in developing strategies that would feed into the global meetings of CBD planned in March, 2022 in Geneva and for the 15th Conference of Parties of the CBD in China in April-May, 2022.

In her speech, environment secretary Leena Nandan said this convention is a milestone towards developing South Asia perspective and calls for innovative financing methods from GEF.

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