The latest edition of the Living Planet report and an index based on it, prepared by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London, have projected a very worrying picture of biodiversity, especially animal life, in the near future. It says the world is losing its biodiversity at an alarming rate and very soon there will be irreparable loss of a good part of life on earth.
According to it, the world lost about 58% of its fish, bird and animal populations between 1970 and 2012, and is heading towards a 67% decline by 2020. Other life forms like plants and micro-organisms are also disappearing at a fast pace. There have been warnings about the gradual disappearance of many species but the possibility of such large-scale extinction in the near future is scary. It will change the face of the earth and will also have serious implications for the life of human beings.
Life on earth is a continuum and all living beings are dependent on others. If the natural balance between human, animal and plant life is upset, it will endanger the survival of all three. This balance is now being changed by human beings. In the past, natural disasters and the forces of evolution have caused the extinction of some species. But now, it is the unthinking activities of human beings which are decimating animal and plant populations. Habitat destruction and degradation of forest and eco-systems, large-scale killing of animals and fish for food, recreation and commerce and over-exploitation of natural resources are among the main reasons for the loss of biodiversity. Human demands and consumption are increasing at such a pace and creating such stress on the earth’s eco-systems that they may lose 75 % of their regenerative capacity by 2020.
This scenario is as much a threat as climate change. The two are related also is some ways. But there is still no serious realisation of the gravity of the threat and no major measures are taken to deal with it. The 1992 earth summit in Rio de Janeiro and the UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010 have set aims and formulated strategies to preserve biodiversity. The provisions of the agreements signed at these conclaves have not been observed and implemented. Once the tipping point is crossed, it will be difficult to restore the lost balance, and the price to be paid will be very heavy. India has a special responsibility in the matter because it is richer than most other countries in biodiversity.
Photo above: An individual Milky Stork foraging among reeds in Singapore. Source: Wikipedia