In India, several Bills and Action Plans have been passed by the Parliament for the conservation of biodiversity.
Some policy and legal frameworks recently developed to protect the biodiversity are The Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) 1999 and Biological Diversity Bill 2002.
The Bill provides for the constitution of a separate high-power National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to be set up at Chennai.
The Bill also envisages the setting up of State Biodiversity Boards, which would advise the State Governments on issues relating to conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of its components.
In India, commendable efforts have been made for in-situ conservation of biodiversity. Under Protected Area network, now we have 13 Biosphere Reserves (Tables 7.6 & 7.7) set up in different biogeography regions of the country, besides 485 wildlife Sanctuaries and 87 National Parks. Some special projects were also started for providing protection to wildlife in their natural habitats.
The Project Tiger was started with the financial assistance of WWF in 1973 with 9 Tiger Reserves. Now we have 27 tiger reserves covering a total area of 37,761 km2 (Table 7.8). Besides preserving the tiger and its varied habitats, the wild fauna and flora of these habitats have also benefited from the project.
Other wild animals which have been protected and rehabilitated through such projects are the Asiatic lion, the Blackbuck, the Rhinoceros, the Musk deer, the Hangul and the Ghariyal. India is also a party to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). In India, specific programmes for conservation of wetlands, mangroves and coral reef systems are also started. Major wetlands of India have already been listed under the Ramsar Convention (1981); six internationally significant wetlands of India have been declared as “Ramsar Sites”.
Efforts have also been made for ex-situ conservation. There are 33 Botanical Gardens, and about 275 Zoos, Deer Parks and Aquaria. The Central Zoo Authority manages all the large Zoos and provides financial assistance to all types of Zoos in the country.
In spite of these efforts during recent years, the erosion of biodiversity is continued. M.Gadgil (1998) stated ‘the ongoing erosion of India’s biological diversity is also promoted by the narrow focus of the official management as well as conservation efforts on a handful of animal and plant species’. It is expected that with the increasing awareness toward the values and importance of diversity and stringent measures we shall be able to protect our biodiversity.
We need to conserve biodiversity keeping in view the direct use values, indirect use values, and intrinsic value of biodiversity. In fact, the very existence of human species and sustainable development depend on biodiversity conservation. Both in-situ and ex-situ conservation have been part of the cultural traditions in India. By recognizing the role of community in such conservation, these traditions can be revitalized (Swaminathan, 2000). It is expected that NBSAP will help us in this regard.