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Connecting Universities To Achieve Nature Positive Solutions


Nature Positive Universities Alliance brings together various universities from around the world to “come together and prioritize nature on campuses and in their supply chains”.

By Salam Rajesh

The biodiversity Conference of Parties (COP15) at Montreal last year did have some positive vibes in the larger discussion on climate issues with the over-riding concern on limiting global temperature rise by 1.5 degree Celsius within the target years 2030 and 2050.

In the midst of the heated discussions on myriad issues plaguing planet Earth in modern times, including climate change and biodiversity loss, one positive outcome was the formation of a network of Universities globally on a noble venture. This was the decision to form the ‘Nature Positive Universities Alliance’ under the lead of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the University of Oxford.

The Nature Positive Universities Alliance brings together various universities from around the world to “come together and prioritize nature on campuses and in their supply chains”. The Alliance was founded in partnership with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and formally launched as part of the COP15 negotiations.

The Alliance is reportedly a ‘growing network of higher education institutions across the world, working together under a pledge to advance efforts to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss by addressing their impact on the environment’.

The Alliance at the moment represents members from near 522 Universities in 111 countries towards promoting Nature across University campuses, supply chains and within cities and communities.

As the UNEP emphasizes, members in the Alliance are people from all parts of a University, inclusive of students, researchers, staff and senior management who have signed up to be part of the Alliance.

Members of the Alliance make official pledge to ‘advance efforts to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss through addressing their own impacts and restoring ecosystems harmed by their activities’.

The focus is on the concern that, “By publicly addressing impacts on nature within their own supply chains and operations, Universities can add direct local action to their environmental and conservation research, to help inform government, corporate and community action”.

It, therefore, is fairly significant that the University pledges include four key elements: (a) Carrying out baseline assessments, (b) Setting specific, time limited and measurable targets for Nature, (c) Taking bold action to reduce biodiversity impacts, and (d) Protect and restore species and ecosystems, while influencing others to do the same.

The initiative builds on the University of Oxford’s target for biodiversity net gain by 2035 alongside net zero commitments. The Oxford’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy is founded on ‘a study which quantified its environmental footprint and established a framework to address them’.

The Nature Positive Universities Alliance is now calling on other Universities worldwide to join its collaborative network and to make institutional pledges in achieving Nature Positive Solutions which would largely address much of the issues on ground, with particular reference to biodiversity loss.

Quite interestingly, on a similar note, an alliance of eight colleges in Manipur was recently formed to work on similar ground that the UNEP and the University of Oxford had set the ball rolling with their Nature Positive Universities Alliance program.

The Mangolnganbi College (Ningthoukhong), Chanambam Ibomcha (C.I.) College (Bishnupur), Moirang College (Moirang), Kumbi College (Kumbi), S.Kula Women’s College (Nambol), Pravabati College (Mayang Imphal), Mayai Lambi College (Yumnam Huidrom), and Nambol L.Sanoi College (Nambol) in Manipur pledged to work together under a common agenda of biodiversity conservation.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed between the heads of these educational institutions on 28 January earlier this year pledged to extend cooperation in the field of research and engages in academic exercises with a particular focus on contributing to the general effort in the long term conservation and management of Loktak Lake, a Ramsar site in Manipur.

One of the largest inland freshwater lakes in India, Loktak is plagued with myriad issues including siltation, pollution, ecosystem degradation, encroachments, and depletion in fish population due to negative human interventions.

Loktak is significant in terms of biodiversity related discussions internationally from the point of view that besides being a Ramsar site of international importance and an Important Bird Area (IBA) site, it provides feeding ground for migratory waterbirds flying across two important flyways – the Central Asian Flyway and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

The classification of Loktak under the Monteux Record of the Ramsar Convention indicates that the wetland is in need of serious remedial measures to rejuvenate its ecological health, along with engaging activities on a scientific approach to bring it back to its near natural status. To achieve this, it becomes important for every sector to actively engage in its conservation.

The networking of educational institutions in Manipur, through the coordination of the Mumbai-based Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN), seeks to look at the concept of ‘Citizen Science’ in actual field-based engagements on the line of community-led activism in conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems.

The network seeks to conduct regular and annual waterbird counts within the Loktak wetland complex as a part of monitoring its ecological health and thereto in suggesting remedial measures for its ecosystem restoration to the relevant institutions and Government agencies. This comes in the backdrop of the specific Ramsar criteria on migratory waterbirds as biological indicators of ‘healthy’ wetlands.

Coincidence, perhaps, but the move on ground where these eight colleges in the State have come together on a common agenda of Loktak wetland restoration is definitely important in the context of the global engagement of Universities coming together to work for ecosystem restoration within their campuses and in associated areas.

Looking at the context setting of the UN’s stress on ecosystem restoration in this decade and by 2050, it becomes all the more important for inter-linking organizations and educational institutions towards a common goal of ecosystem restoration within their capacities and in areas that are managed by them traditionally.

And in between, it is also important for the State Government to come into the picture and lend whatever support it can exercise to help the growth of such grassroots initiative which definitely would help address the issue of biodiversity loss. Citizen science is all set to tackle an issue which ever since has been fairly neglected in State’s policy framing.

(The writer is a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic & Social Policy CEESP. He can be reached at [email protected])

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