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‘Natural Security’ Complements National Security

Text by Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar

It is not necessary to always sacrifice ecosystem services for economic growth if we really understand the true meaning of sustainable development.

Photo: Udayan Borthakur

Loktak lake in Manipur provides an unique ecosystem with phumdis floating over it and represents a complex human environment relationship.

The convention on biodiversity where in many countries, including India, put their consent to work in tandem to conserve the remaining biodiversity of the world is being felt by common people as of utmost necessity to enable human race survive on this planet. At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. As such, conservation of nature, should be part of vocal voice of local people as, we need to grow economically, importance of conservation of nature and its resources is central and can’t be ignored anymore.

Each species has a value and a right to exist irrespective of whether human beings recognise this reality or not. Healthy and natural ecosystems provide us potable water to drink, clean oxygen to inhale and maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients, provide us with food, provide raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes. These “ecosystem services” are indeed our natural as well as national capital to grow as human and also as a country. It is not necessary to always sacrifice ecosystem services for economic growth if we really understand the true meaning of sustainable development.

Photo: Udayan Borthakur

A fruit bat or flying fox, a pollinator and a free agricultural worker

Food is an important survival component of life of all species. One third of all our food—fruits and vegetables—would not exist without pollinators such as bees and bats. Conservation of bats and bees are hence vital as crucial free agricultural workers as bats and bees doesn’t charge humans with monthly invoice for payment for the task they do for sustaining biodiversity. There are over one lakh plants species, for example, for which bees are essential for pollination. Ecological roles of bats include pollinating and dispersing seeds of hundreds of plants species. It is time to recognise their values to human wellbeing before they are gone because of our ignorance and our inability to recognise their crucial role in our day to day survival. In the wake of recent COVID19 pandemic, there are lots of mis-information being aired on Bats projecting Bats as villain for spread of COVID19 which is not true. Bat does have super immunity to many viruses and as such scientists could unearth many secrets from bats on its super immunity capabilities which can be replicated in human to fight against many such viruses. For example, bats serve as major pollinators of many types of cacti that open their flowers only at night, when bats are active. Bats also eat copious quantities of mosquitos and there by protecting humans from mosquito borne diseases. But, we humans, are so busy with our self-centred agenda that we never take these services into account, whether in terms of our own development or economic development of the country.

The North East India is being regarded as a rich site with global importance because of its sheer diversity of habitat and life forms. As such developmental planning in the region need cautious approach as the region is regarded as ecologically fragile and in earth quake prone zone in the world. So far in developmental scenarios, it’s environmentalist who are open to true sense of sustainable development. However, time has come now, that developmental planners has to show a true sense of responsibility as concerned citizen of the country to ensure environmental safeguards, planning developmental projects which are least damaging to environment so that mother earth can continue to offer ecological services essential for human survivals.

Photo: Udayan Borthakur

A view of Guwahati, the largest metro in Northeast India

With temperature in North East India, including Guwahati has been found increasing in past one decade with Guwahati itself witnessed 39 degree Celsius last year, emergence of new virus at increasing temperature could pose further threats to human survival. Climate change has direct bearing on biodiversity and hence on human health. Deforestation is linked to about 30 percent of outbreaks such as Ebola, and the Zika and Nipah viruses. Deforestation drives wild animals out of their natural habitats and closer to human populations, creating a greater opportunity for zoonotic diseases that spread from animals to humans. Scientists alerted that climate change has altered and accelerated the transmission pattern of many infectious diseases and has caused human displacement.

When we have health issues, we need medicine and it is worth mentioning that the traditional medicines play an essential role in health care, especially in primary health care. Traditional medicines derived from plants are estimated to be used by 60% of the world’s population. Biomedical research relies on plants, animals and microbes to understand human physiology so as to treat human diseases ethically. Infectious diseases have relation to disturbance caused to biodiversity by human activities. It is now well known that major processes affecting infectious disease reservoirs and transmission include, deforestation, land-use change, and un-scientific water management.

The North East region of India has to address the need for conservation of forests, grassland and wetland areas for our own water security issues as water is likely to be a scare essential commodity for humans in the region. Guwahati has already faced such crisis in few areas where we may have built nice buildings, but due to fast depletion of ground water, mainly due to destruction of wetlands in Guwahati city, people have started buying water every day for their day to day consumption. As such it is time for all of us, specially those having the decision making powers to decide our common future to treat conservation of nature as vital for national security as in the 21st century, security of nations will increasingly depend on the security of natural resources as “natural security" of the country. Ball is in our court.

*Article republished from The Assam Tribune 11 June 2020

The author is the Secretary General & CEO of Aaranyak and involved with nature conservation in the region for over three decades.

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