BENGALURU: A group of 30 scientists, with affiliations to 20 Indian and foreign institutions, have taken a step to reach out to the public for its opinion on the efficient use of natural resources and for conservation of biological diversity.
The study was led by a core group of researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru and collaborating institutes; the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru and the University of Leeds, UK. The collaborating institutes were funded by a joint grant from the UK-India Education Research Initiative.
The findings appeared in the July edition of the journal, Biological Conservation.
The study was implemented as a nation-wide survey, where participants were asked to list up to 10 important questions that they felt were needed to be addressed to better manage conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems and natural resources in the country, a press note said.
The final outcome of this large-scale assessment has been summarised into a list of 152 priority questions spread across 17 broad themes and the identification of shared concerns between themes. Within the high-ranking topics of concern were ‘Policy and Governance’, ‘Biodiversity and Endangered Species’ and ‘Conservation and Protection’. In addition, this study also contrasts areas of concern in India with those from studies conducted in other countries.
Previous surveys have involved mostly experts or conservation practitioners, whereas this survey uniquely involves the wider population. The involvement of people from various parts of the country could also assist in identifying the emergent problems at local levels and compare them to concerns at a national level.
The survey highlights the priority issues which can be used as a guiding framework for conservation practitioners, researchers, citizens, policy makers and funding agencies to direct their efforts in India’s conservation landscape.
Many issues identified as a result of this survey are relevant at a global scale as well, while some received lower emphasis than those in studies done in other countries. Varun Varma, first author of the paper, said “Our analysis reveals themes with lower than average emphasis compared to other studies, such as marine ecosystems, ecosystem function and services. The lack of emphasis is suggestive of lower awareness and / or press coverage of issues within these themes.”
The authors also point out that most of respondents of the survey were urban, English speakers with Internet access. Subsequent surveys could use more resources like the print media, and manpower in order to be more inclusive.
A format in regional languages could help reaching out to the rural population also.
Nevertheless, the present study is a huge leap in widening the representation of citizens in the discussion of environmental and ecological issues in the India. People are an integral part of the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. Their active participation helps policy makers and scientists make better decisions.