|Article 1:Designing a Biodiversity Information System for India|
The Biological Diversity Act 2002 aims to promote conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits of India's biodiversity resources. With this in view it provides for the establishment of a three-tiered management structure, namely, a National Biodiversity Authority, State Biodiversity Boards and Biodiversity Management Committees at the level of Panchayats and Municipalities. It is indeed an act appropriate for the emerging age of biotechnology and information technology. The overall objectives of the Act include:
Devise strategies, plans and programmes for conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits of India's biodiversity resources (including preservation of habitats, conservation of cultivars, and breeds of animals and micro-organisms) at a whole hierarchy of levels; namely, national, state, and local bodies (Municipalities and City Corporations, Zilla, Taluk and Gram Panchayats).
For this purpose promote, at all levels, good documentation of biological diversity, its uses and associated knowledge. The implementation of this Act evidently calls for the development of a well-designed Biodiversity Information System for India to serve as the knowledge base for the three tiered management structure: a National Biodiversity Authority, State level Biodiversity Boards and local level Biodiversity Management Committees. The Biodiversity Information System itself will have to have an overall four-tiered framework: global, national, state, and local. This whole endeavor poses a number of formidable scientific and technical challenges.
Inventorying biodiversity with hundreds of thousands of entities: species, genes, ecosystems, all exhibiting tremendous variation in space and time.
Much relevant information on present status, on-going processes, historical trends with non-scientists, embodied in oral traditions.
Knowledge, largely derived through a trial and error process, commingled with beliefs, posing great difficulties for validation.
Nature of data base
Access to data
Examples of possible agencies
|Species, varieties and other taxonomic denominations (local names, farmers' varieties, scientific names, synonyms), geographical distributions, rarity, endangerment.||National, global||Scientific literature, field surveys||Species-focused data base||Public||Min of En & F (BSI, ZSI), CSIR (NBRI), ICAR (NBPGR), DBT, Universities|
|Scientific, classical and folk knowledge regarding attributes and properties of species and varieties of possible applied significance, specific molecules of possible applied significance, modern technologies, processes and end-products relevant to value addition, companies (in India and abroad) manufacturing commercial products of possible relevance, pertinent claims regarding intellectual property rights||Local, national, global||Official documents, field surveys||Commodity focused data base, linked to species focused and spatial data bases||Partly in public domain, partly confidential||CSIR (NCIRSC, CDRI), ICAR (NBPGR, NBAGR, NBFGR), Department of Biotechnology, Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Human Resource Development, Indian Systems of Medicine, National Innovations Foundation, Patents Authority|
|Landscape, on-going landscape transformations||National||Satellite imagery, maps||Spatial data base||Public||Min of En & F (FSI), ISRO (NRSA), Universities|
|Government programmes, development schemes, rewards for resource management efforts for various communities, economic strata, gender, resources; experiences of implementation||State, national||Official documents, interviews||Spatial data base focused on administrative divisions||Public||Planning Commission, Ministries of Agriculture, Environment & Forests, Rural Development, State Governments, NGOs|
|Land ownership, rights, privileges, laws and regulations, customary practices||State, national, local||Official documents, field surveys||Spatial data base||Public||Ministries of Agriculture, Environment & Forests, Rural Development, State Governments, NGOs|
|Forest harvests, fish landings, agricultural production, livestock production, aquaculture production, transport of forest, fish, agricultural, aquacultural and livestock produce, market tra and volume traded ofnsactions including imports and exports (location, price forest, fish, agricultural, aquacultural and livestock produce)||Local, state, national||Official documents, field surveys||Commodity focused data base, linked to species focused and spatial data bases||Public||Planning Commission, Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce, Environment & Forests, Rural Development, State Governments, NGOs|
|Subsistence harvests and utilization of biodiversity resources, grass-roots technologies (traditional and innovative), processes and end-products||Local, national, global||Official documents, field surveys||Commodity focused data base, linked to species focused and spatial data bases||Partly in public domain, partly confidential||Ministries of Agriculture, Environment & Forests, Khadi & Village Industries Commission, National Innovation Foundation|
|For a specific locality: status of biodiversity resources (species, varieties and other taxonomic denominations: local names, farmers' varieties, scientific names), as well as nuisance elements such as pests and diseases in relation to ownership and access regimes, trends over time, on-going harvests, cultivation , animal husbandry and aquaculture, control measures and other influences, potentially sustainable management regimes||Local||Official documents, field surveys, interviews||Species and spatially focused data base||Public||Panchayat Raj Institutions, State Governments|
|For a specific locality: performance of species and their various uses and services||Local||Official documents, field surveys, interviews||Species and spatially focused data base||Public||Panchayat Raj Institutions, State Governments|
|For a specific locality: Biodiversity resources (including traditional crop varieties and land races of domesticated animals) in relation to ownership and access regimes, perceptions of problems of management, desirability and sustainability of alternative management options||Local||Official documents, field surveys, interviews||Species and spatially focused data base||Public||Panchayat Raj Institutions, State Governments|
|For a specific locality: status of landscape and waterscape elements in relation to ownership and access regimes, trends over time, on-going transformations, perceptions of problems of management, desirability and sustainability of alternative management options||Local||Official documents, field surveys, interviews||Species and spatially focused data base||Public||Panchayat Raj Institutions, State Governments|
WGBIS is a network of Western Ghats biodiversity database and information technology tools that will enable users to navigate and put to use the totality of the inherited variation of all forms of life, from ecosystem to species up to gene level, which will give environmental, economic and social benefits.
Today there is world-wide concern at the extent to which biodiversity is being lost and at the same time a growing appreciation of the importance of this diversity on the earth. The value of research and accumulation of knowledge to support it, together with the development of new and rapid assessment techniques, needs no emphasis. The importance of Biodiversity Information system can be categorised as Economic, Social, Aesthetical, Ethical, Ecological and Moral.
The values placed on biodiversity are strongly linked to the human influences on it and their underlying social and economic driving forces. They are also dependent on some degree of knowledge of the scientific role of particular elements or processes of biodiversity in the functioning of our ecosystem and societies. It is a widely held view amongst environmentalists that environmental values transcend economic costs (Turner and Pearce1993). The importance of the gap between the market price of environmental resources and their value to individuals and societies is only gradually coming to light. The first and foremost cause is ignorance or uncertainty about the social consequences of private actions. A second cause is the structure of rights that encourages people to ignore the known social consequences of their actions. A third is the government policy, which not only fails to correct externalities, but also makes the problem worse. In a holistic view, the market and policy failures are the main causes of biodiversity loss.
Human beings depend on biological resources for food, energy, construction materials, medicine, etc. Further, biological resources have the critical character of being renewable, so with proper management they can be used sustainably. But, when the levels of human use of biological resources exceed their capacity for renewal, the diversity and productivity of the system in which they occur may be reduced. Societies vary in the extent to which they use external inputs in resource management, with some societies living at a very basic stage and others almost totally dependent on external inputs like energy. Many of the issues involving human impacts on biodiversity can be illuminated by considering energy flows—especially in the form of carbon between systems and regions. Once humans began to use sources of energy from outside their own bodies, their relationship with biodiversity underwent a fundamental transformation.
The evolving information infrastructure provides tangible direct benefits to all users. The main benefits through the network are:
· Gain access to valued data.
· Gain access to service and expertise.
· Gain access to a wider variety of marketing opportunities.
The importance of handling all aspects of information gathering and dissemination is necessary to manage the information overload. This will involve filtering and structuring to locate information and sources and to render information into knowledge, which is both relevant and appropriate, and quality assurance and documentation.
The importance of information in the empowerment of indigenous peoples to utilize their traditional resources in a sustainable manner, where external pressures and internal development of indigenous societies whose livelihoods depend on local biodiversity are resulting in the local exploitation of resources.
The involvement of layman is necessary and crucial for building up the plan programme. The user and general public need to be aware and actively involved at all stages for effective conservation to become a reality. In order to achieve this, the dilemma of finding appropriate levels of explanation, comprehensibility and scientific accuracy was critical. There is also a need to stress the key role of increasing output on existing agricultural land in an environmentally sustainable and sensitive manner and for this social or cultural expertise with effective communication is required.
Biodiversity information System in international arena
The need for effective organization, management and use of biodiversity data and information is recognized in international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES), chapter 15 of Agenda 21, The Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and Natural Heritage and the Global Biodiversity Strategy. In response to this, UNEP, in collaboration with the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), designed and submitted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF); a project proposal entitled “Biodiversity Data Management capacitation in developing countries and networking biodiversity information” (BDM). The proposal was endorsed by the participants of the meeting (Abidjan, December 1992) and included in the GEF work programme in the fourth Tranche. This BDM project commenced in June 1994, funded by GEF. The core outputs of the BDM are biodiversity data management plans for the management and application of biodiversity data. These plans include priority actions to be taken in the short term as well as medium and long-term follow-up actions. The core activities are:
The effort to mobilize information is a focus on and resolution for the existing networks. Users will require information on the context within which, and the issues on which, they need to focus. Users need to focus on the incentives that would induce data custodians to initially contribute their metadata and hopefully, primary data and more importantly, contribute to participate.
1. Heywood, V.H. (ed). 1995. Global Biodiversity Assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2. Turner, R.K. and Pearce D.W. 1993. Sustainable economic development : economic and ethical principles. In: Barbier, E.B. (ed), Economic and Ecology Chapman and Hall, London.
3. Hawksworth, D.L., Kirk, P.M. and Clarke, S.D. 1997. Biodiversity Information, Needs and options, CAB International.