The world acknowledged India’s conservation and sustainable development efforts recently with an international body recognising eight beaches of India with ‘Blue Flag’ award. It is not a one-off event. With over 101 National Parks, 553 Wildlife sanctuaries, 86 Conservations Reserves, 163 Community Reserves, India has demarcated over 5% of its total area for the protection and conservation of its immense natural heritage. An ongoing effort that has received appreciation from the world over.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proclaimed the new direction for wildlife conservation during his address from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 and as India observed the 66th Wildlife Week from October 2 to October 8, the theme too reaffirmed the country’s commitment to environmental conservation with a resounding ‘RoaR’ (Roar and Revive: Exploring Human-Animal Relationships).
India is home to numerous species of flora and fauna, scattered across a plethora of biodiversity hotspots. The UN Decade for Ecosystem restoration will begin in 2021 and with its dynamic spectrum of sensitive ecosystems, the focus will shift towards India’s efforts in this direction. Even with a special message to mark the Wildlife Week, PM Modi had highlighted the integration of ecological connectivity into the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The human element and its participation in conservation efforts had also become paramount since India aims to build a sustainable, environmental and ecological mindset, he further added. The message, sent out in writing, has also been actively appreciated by international organisations for animal welfare like World Animal Protection.
The Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change; Information & Broadcasting; and Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Prakash Javadekar had also highlighted the need for more favourable Human-Environment interactions while launching the 2020 Wildlife Week. With a study, said to be the first of its kind, the minister has lauded the new Public-Private Partnership model as a means to boost development of India’s wildlife preservation infrastructure.
In February this year, when PM Modi inaugurated the 13th Conference of Parties on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, he had stressed upon the massive efforts for environmental conservation and the equally remarkable achievements. One of the key areas that has attracted global attention is India’s management of a working Human-Animal relationship shared between the millions who occupy the peripheries of Indian forests. An extensive plan for integrating this population in Eco Development Committees is also being prepared.
With only 2.4% of total area, India is home to 17% of the global population, coupled with the country’s wildlife (8% of the known biodiversity of the world), a working plan for environmental protection is an administrative marvel. Over the years, India has captured global attention on several occasions as it accomplished some of the most massive targets for ecological preservation.
Notably, just over two years ago, PM Modi was conferred with the Champions of the Earth Award 2018 for Policy Leadership. With massive feats now accomplished, like the International Solar Alliance, 750 MW Rewa Solar Power Plant and India’s aim to constantly increase its forested land, the award comes as no surprise. Moreover, in the same year, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was also conferred the Asia Environment Enforcement Awards by the UN, for combating transboundary environmental crime. It was the second occasion where the multinational body had honoured India with the accolade.
In 2019, the India Cooling Action Plan, aimed at reducing the need cooling requirements across households and industries and directly reducing the damage done to the Ozone layer, had been appreciated by the UN on World Ozone Day. Amongst many such feats, the ICAP has emerged as an example with several nations following suit.
Another aspect of the India’s conservation and protection has been highlighted through the rising Tiger numbers in the country. The Indian initiative to double tiger number was achieved 4 years ahead of schedule. Furthermore, India’s innovative approach, utilising futuristic technology with a traditional approach for contemporary solutions was reaffirmed with a new Guinness Record for the world’s largest camera-trap wildlife survey. The motion-enabled cameras covered almost 121,337 km.sq across 26,838 locations and were able to provide a closely estimated number of 2697 tigers through a staggering 34,858,623 photographs!
This synergy towards preserving our climate and wildlife was again noted with the recent Indian entry into the league of 50 ‘Blue Flagged’ countries of the world. A ‘Blue Flag’ is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) awarded to a beach, marina, or sustainable marine tourism operator meeting and maintaining the stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria. No other nation in the history of the award has been awarded the accreditation for eight locations simultaneously, a target India managed to achieve in just about two years. India has also been awarded the third position in “International Best Practices” for pollution control in coastal regions.
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) October 11, 2020
A long road ahead
PM Modi’s speech on the Independence Day clearly underlines his government’s commitment towards nature. The success achieved through numerous wildlife protection schemes, notably Project Tiger and Project Elephant, has boosted the conservatory sentiment across the nation. With a sharp increase of community involvement in preservation efforts, PM Modi’s induction of Project Lion and Project Dolphin, are set to become the next pivotal points of ecological revival. Moreover, with new technologies like the LION ID software, these projects might as well be earmarked to achieve their targets even sooner than their predecessors!