The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being is an ambitious initiative that aims to bring biodiversity and conservation to the forefront of Indian science, policy, and society’s attention.
The Mission has been visualized to be as inclusive as possible, with components that involve scientific institutions, government agencies, and non-government organizations at the national, state, and local levels. The people who will power the Mission will include scientists, farmers, industrialists, students, policy makers, and citizens from all walks of life.
In 2018, the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in consultation with the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change and other Ministries approved an ambitious National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being (NMBHWB).
About the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being
- The Mission proposes a national effort that aims to transform biodiversity science by linking it to the peoples’ economic prosperity.
- It further aims to help India realize the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by using India’s rich biodiversity to create solutions for challenges in agriculture, health, and climate change.
- Under this Mission, research institutions, government, and non-government organizations will work together to catalogue, map, assess, monitor, and use our vast but declining natural assets sustainably.
- The Mission will also help create a cadre of biodiversity science professionals to sustain and secure Indian biodiversity.
- Finally, the Mission hopes to initiate a mass movement to engage India’s massive population to feel pride in our natural heritage, and help in restoring and conserving nature.
- The Mission is to enhance biodiversity science, which is currently very neglected and fragmented in India.
- Catalysed and supported by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being will be hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with the National Biodiversity Authority being the nodal agency.
Components of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being
- The National Biodiversity Mission proposes a two-component programme to bring biodiversity science to the forefront of scientific and public engagement. The first component, titled the ‘Cataloguing and Mapping Life of India’ programme will focus on building an inventory of India’s biodiversity, and will use digital tools to map this biodiversity with people, cultures, and management regimes.
- The second component is divided into six programmes, which will focus on biodiversity with regard to ecosystem services; climate change and disaster risk reduction; agriculture; health; bio-economy; and capacity building and outreach.
- The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services programme will focus on identifying, quantifying and mapping key ecosystem services such as pollination, food production, water availability, soil fertility, and others in different habitats such as forests, grasslands, rivers, etc.
- The Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Reduction programme will map and quantify the role of India’s forests in regulating monsoonal rains and mitigating climate change.
- The Biodiversity and Agriculture programme aims to measure the economic value of India’s biodiversity in agro-ecosystems to ensure the country’s food security.
- The Biodiversity and Health programme will look into two aspects of how biodiversity can improve healthcare – one will create an interactive citizen’s portal on medicinal plants of India to provide reliable information for managing human, livestock, and crop health. The second aspect will investigate the relationships between biodiversity loss and patterns of infectious diseases that spread to humans from animals (such as SARS, Nipah, and swine flu).
- The Biodiversity and Bio-economy programme will explore ways to reduce ecosystem stress caused by economic drivers. This programme will look for ways to reduce carbon emissions, and the effective use of bio-resources for renewable and sustainable livelihoods for people.
- The Biodiversity Capacity building and Outreach programme will work to develop educational and training programmes for biodiversity professionals, support existing and develop new citizen science initiatives, and bring biodiversity into the public consciousness.
- One of the key aspects of the Mission is its inclusivity – the Mission will involve scientific institutions, several ministries, government agencies, and non-government organisations. The people who will power the Mission will be the citizens of India.
- Furthermore, the Mission will also be linked to other national missions and initiatives such as the Green India Mission, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Swachh Bharat Mission, National Policy on AYUSH, National Wildlife Action Plan, the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission on Himalayan Studies, to name a few.
- The ongoing spread of COVID-19 places this Mission among the most significant national initiatives.
- The pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and nature, and we must urgently address the issues it has laid bare: the emergence of infectious diseases; lack of food and nutritional security; rural unemployment; and climate change, with all its stresses on nature, rural landscapes, and public health.
Significance of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being
- The Mission will strengthen the science of restoring, conserving, and sustainably utilising India’s natural heritage.
- Furthermore, the Mission will allow India (home to nearly 8% of global biodiversity on just 2.3% of global land area, and containing sections of four of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots) to emerge as a leader in demonstrating linkage between conservation of natural assets and societal well-being.
- The Mission’s comprehensive efforts will empower India to restore, and even increase, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees.
- Apart from addressing many critical national needs, this Mission will assist India in fulfilling its commitments and/or otherwise contribute to
- International treaties and agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),
- Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and
- the World Heritage Convention (WHC).
- Proposed work on environmental DNA and bar coding will facilitate India’s participation in the Earth Biogenome Project.
- Mitigation programmes will lessen the impacts of climate change and other natural disasters, such as pandemics and floods.
- Rejuvenate agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture while also creating millions of green jobs in restoration and nature tourism.
- Restoration activities across India’s degraded lands, which amount to almost a third of our land area, alone could generate several million jobs.
- The Mission will help India meet its commitments under the new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs related to pressing social issues including poverty alleviation, justice and equity, and protection of life.
- Mission programmes will offer nature-based solutions to numerous environmental challenges, including degradation of rivers, forests, and soils, and ongoing threats from climate change, with the goal of creating climate-resilient communities.
Need for a cadre
- The planned Mission recognises that we need a strong and extensive cadre of human resources required to meet the enormous and complex environmental challenges of the 21st century.
- This will require training professionals of the highest calibre in sustainability and biodiversity science, along with an investment in civil society outreach.
- Biodiversity is everywhere, and we interact with biodiversity all the time in our daily lives. Public engagement, whether it is in the policymaking arena, or in exploration, restoration and conservation of biodiversity, is a critical component of the planned Mission.
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