The ground strategic planning by the Government of Manipur appears to be faltering as there are conflicting state decisions concerning the protected areas. In the past, and recently, the State’s forest department came up with proposals to ‘de-reserve’ portions of few wildlife sanctuaries in the State to accommodate certain government activities including installation of mobile towers within the PAs.
By Salam Rajesh
With issues on environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and impacts of global warming and climate change haunting humanity at large in the modern times, global forums are urgently seeking means and ways to mitigate the negative influences of human-induced climate change globally.
Of the many forums under the United Nations system, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently held several deliberations to chalk out strategies and as a follow-up of its Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework negotiations last year, the CBD is vigorously pursuing Target 3 of GBF to achieve results on the ground.
Target 3 of the CBD’s Global Biodiversity Framework negotiations emphasizes to “Ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 percent of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing indigenous and traditional territories, where applicable, and integrated into wider landscapes, seascapes and the ocean, while ensuring that any sustainable use, where appropriate in such areas, is fully consistent with conservation outcomes, recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories”.
The ultimate goal of the push is to reverse the steep decline of biodiversity worldwide, an outcome based on seeking a transformative change in the way humans manage the blue planet. A key for achieving the Target 3 goal of the CBD to extend area-based conservation to 30 percent of the planet by the year 2030 is the recognition of the proactive role of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in effective conservation and management of forest and wetland ecosystems.
In recent times, the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies have been quite loud in acknowledging the role of IPLCs in protecting and managing successfully vital forest and wetland ecosystems globally, far more actively than government institutions. The emerging importance of the IPLCs’ roles in their traditional ‘territories of life’ is gaining momentum at the global perspective.
Yet, there is a corresponding issue where the rights and privileges of the IPLCs have either been ignored or pushed aside by the States and their agencies, or by powerful companies, in their pursuit for ‘developmental agendas’. The question on respecting the concept of ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)’, a right enshrined in Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), is always a big issue.
There are hundreds of cases worldwide where the rights of the IPLCs have been outrightly violated by the States and their agencies, and in many times inflicting conflicting interests between local peoples and the Governments. Sometimes, the conflicts of interest become violent resulting in loss of lives and properties, and inflicting displacements.
On this very note, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been vigorously pursuing the recognition of IPLCs in meaningful conservation. For instance, resolutions recognizing the importance of IPLCs and their traditional ways of life were agreed during the World Conservation Congress at Athens (Greece) in 1958, at Kinshasa (Congo) in 1975, at Christchurch (New Zealand) in 1981 (which called for heads of governments and others to “take into account the still existing very large reservoir of traditional knowledge and experience within local cultures which must provide a significant basis for the evolution of future management policies and planning actions…”), at Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1994 (when a resolution on IUCN action on indigenous people and sustainable use of natural resources led to the permanent inclusion of an indigenous representative on the IUCN Council), and at Montreal (Canada) in 1996 and in 2021 (with resolutions on indigenous people, intellectual property rights and biodiversity).
In this context, India like many other countries around the world in recent past did an upscale exercise on drafting its National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) which are key national instruments for planning implementation of the CBD decisions, including the GBF, in integrated, multi-sectoral, and participatory ways. The NBSAPs strategize how a country will fulfill the objectives of the CBD and include action plans at the national perspective. However, for India the NBSAPs did not materialize fruitfully due to reservations by the Government.
At the same time, on the ground strategic planning by the Government of Manipur appears to be faltering as there are conflicting state decisions concerning the protected areas. In the past, and recently, the State’s forest department came up with proposals to ‘de-reserve’ portions of few wildlife sanctuaries in the State to accommodate certain government activities including installation of mobile towers within the PAs.
The move by the State in sharp contrast to its own agenda of enlarging the area coverage of the protected areas, as in line with the 30×30 agenda of the UN which India as a signatory is obliged to, backfires on the emphasis laid by the United Nations in meeting climate urgencies. The 30×30 agenda plans to maximize the area coverage of forests and other effective conservation-measure areas to counter biodiversity loss and environmental degradation leading to climate crises globally.
Conflict resolutions must come from the Government’s open-ended policy to listen and hear out suggestions from all relevant stakeholders, more importantly the wisdom and knowledge of traditional forest and wetland dwellers, in achieving what the CBD and other global forums seek to achieve urgently in dealing with the climate emergencies.
The world in contemporary times is facing increasing instances of extreme weather events that are said to be influenced by changing climatic regimes – again said to be largely influenced by human-induced factors. Cyclones are increasing in frequency and in intensity, wildfires are everywhere, unprecedented cloudbursts and glacial lake outbursts are wreaking havoc in the mountainous regions, and heat waves are becoming a norm.
It is in this context that Target 3 of the CBD’s GBF becomes relevant in strategizing ground-rooted activities involving the IPLCs, supported by the relevant government agencies, to achieve meaningful conservation of forest and wetland ecosystems to meet the current exigencies, including minimizing the occurrence and impact of extreme weather events through a robust ecosystem restoration, and halting of destructive extractive activities, campaign worldwide.