T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net
October kicks off the conference (and festival) season in India, as the days turn pleasant after the searing summer heat and monsoon downpours. And so it is that Hyderabad in southern India is the venue of the 11th Conference of Parties (COP-11) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), from 8-19 October.
The COP itself was preceded by a five-day meeting of parties (COP-MOP 6) on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the CBD, from 1-5 October.I think that India is a fitting venue for both the COP and COP-MOP 6. It is home to two global biodiversity hotspots – in the Himalayas, and in the Western Ghats. India is also one the 17 ‘megabiodiverse’ countries.
As an emerging economy, the country perennially debates on development versus environment – be it dams, hydro-power or coal mining projects in forest-rich areas; or a nuclear power plant on the shores of Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu or another in the Western Ghats; or do forests belong to tigers or tribals or both?
Then there are the innumerable indigenous tribes and local communities, and their rich traditional knowledge on conservation and sustainable use of local resources. And their struggles to ward off exploitation of their knowledge by private firms. Remember those controversies over patenting ‘neem’ (Azadiractha indica) and turmeric in the west?
Ditto about the Cartagena protocol that deals with safety issues of genetically modified (GM) organisms. Remember, India’s genetically modified (GM) brinjal (eggplant), on which former environment minister Jairam Ramesh imposed a two-year moratorium in February 2010, and which has stayed since.
Where does a GM brinjal fit in a country that is a center of origin of brinjal, and has some 2200 cultivated brinjal varieties? How do local farmers view a GM brinjal, and impact on nutrition and the other brinjal species growing since centuries here?
Many of these global concerns over biodiversity resonate deeply in India. Welcome to SciDev.Net’s blog that will update you on these debates in Cop-11 and catch up with MOP-6 in the blogs preceding the COP-11 bog. We also have for you a glossary of key phrases that are likely to pop up repeatedly during the conference; and an opinion summary of 10 years of host country India’s Biodiversity Act.
This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012.