The world gathered in India last week, with almost 15,000 delegates from 193 nations enraptured in chalking out a plan to tackle the decline in biodiversity by 2020. The summit seemed too big to fail, especially considering the challenge of biodiversity destruction and the number of species teetering on the edge of extinction.
Welcome kits, NGO meetings, intense debates, trite acknowledgements, biodiversity haat and expensive meals set the stage for the summit. Journalists, businesses, bureaucrats, politicians and activists played their respective roles. The media frenzied, played the critic, the bureaucrats and politicians renewed and reaffirmed, and the activists made some surprising allies.
They were all correct, the 'roadmap' document till the next summit, is stuffed full of jargons, recognitions and renewals.
'Biodiversity', is now mainstream, everyone agrees it is important, and a serious attempt is being made to get an acknowledgement on sustainable development. The natural diversity of the world is getting its due recognition. There is universal acceptance on the importance of freedom, peace and human rights. "Mother earth" is the common sentiment for all participating nations, who are now working on list of set 'targets'. But does anybody know what is happening with biodiversity?
Hideous models of tigers, crabs, butterflies and paintings of tribal communities, and other kinds of flora and fauna, were splashed across this biodiversity conference center.
Hypocrisy and doublespeak became the essence of the conservation summit. Mindless forest devastation for the perennial appetite for coal doesn't seem to end. As the delegates warmed up for the congregation on biodiversity, green activists climbed up the iconic heritage site of the venue-city, calling attention to the domestic issues of biodiversity destruction, but in vain.
Manmohan Singh added some energy and earned praises by announcing a pledge of 50 million dollars with a caveat of a 'happy compromise to secure a future that provides ecological and economic space for each one of us'. A happy compromise?
The Prime Minister praised the role of his government in his dead pan monotone, calling the forest dwellers the 'best friends' of the forest, and applauding India's role in protecting its habitat and the forest dependent communities. His mass coal expansion policies, at the behest of vested interest, is leaving thousands of forest dwellers without a home and livelihood.
India's national animal, the tiger, came knocking at the doors of this international summit with an earnest request of rescuing his forests and his species. He was denied entry and thrown out, without any acknowledgement. But with stealth the government has lined 54 coal blocks for auctioning, jeopardising livelihoods of thousands.
The progress with marine biodiversity was welcomed. One of those rare expected moments when individual interests were set aside and the leaders listened. For the first time, countries agreed to describe sensitive marine areas within and beyond national jurisdiction and to send the relevant information to the UN General Assembly. This will help the global discussion on high seas marine biodiversity and provide invaluable data on how we can save the world's oceans and the species that live in them.
But what does this 'praise-worthy text', mean for the fishing communities? How will it address the issue of illegal fishing practices? Coinciding in the times of greatest economic downturns the countries will now go back and weigh their economics with the biodiversity text. And for all you know, blame their inaction and delay on the great recession.
So is there something called a 'shared goal', or it is mere a utopian fantasy? Time to address that with another convention!