Friday, January 11, 2008

Punjab Biodiversity Workshop



State Workshop on Biodiversity Conservation & People’s Concerns

19-20 January, 2008, village Talewal- Bhotna, District Barnala

In a State where both the farmers and the living world is reeling from the after effects of monoculture promotion and chemical pollution under the “Green Revolution”, working to restore the ecological balance and give biodiversity a chance is of utmost importance for sustainability of Punjab is of utmost importance.

Punjab is the state which has not only lost its 99% agriculture biodiversity in last two decades but also witnessed an unprecedented aggression on entire eco-system. In last two decades more then 90% of its wetlands, village ponds, forest area, rivers, rivulets and marsh areas criminally assaulted and destroyed. Civil society’s live contact with biodiversity was broken; society has lost its ecological heritage physically, biodiversity wiped out from memories, day to day life of Punjabi society. It would be the only state where almost 99 % of native seeds, breads of local cows were lost. More over it is the state where all of her rivers and rivulets put on death, lowest forest cover, thinnest wetland cover and above all highest rate of water exploration and adding poison in farms and fields. The 1.5% geographical area of India is consuming 18% of total pesticides consumed in India.

The issue of biodiversity has significant importance for Punjab. On one side it is ecologically most devastated region of country and on the other it has State Biodiversity Board which has received not a single paisa from the state government science its inception. This is the state of affairs in Punjab. Celebrating World Biodiversity Day as environmental ritual - will not serve any purpose till the people will feel loss of biodiversity emotionally.

The fashion environmentalism is unable to take-up the present ecological challenge; it does not have any capacity to involve, to motivate and to guide the society with biodiversity issues of the Punjab. Unfortunetly Punjab is overtaken by this kind of ritualistic and fashion environmentalism.

Moreover in absence of any state environment policy and action plan to rejuvenate ecology and biodiversity there is no much activism related to biodiversity issues in Punjab. The Community Biodiversity registers; Biodiversity act, Seed bill, Plant Variety and farmers’ right bill and biodiversity related IPRs are not seen as an issue in Punjab. The SBB remain silent to lack of infrastructure, funds and academia has different agenda.

There is urgent need to introduce the whole range of biodiversity issues in Punjab. There should be a holistic and civil society debate on biodiversity by incorporating all sections and stack holders. Then came the issue of conservation. We have to start afresh in Punjab on this aspect too.

This situation demands urgent attention on biodiversity conservation, awareness, documentation and education in Punjab.

KVM has taken up a civil society process as the part of nation wide collective initiative called CAMPAIGN FOR COMMUNITY CONTROL OVER BIODIVERSITY spearheaded by Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad; Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group, Pune and Grain India, New Delhi and several other organisations.

In this context KVM is holding first workshop on Biodiversity issues to build civil society dialogue in Punjab on 19 and 20 January 2008. The focal theme of the present workshop is community control on biological resources, resource conservation and knowledge protection in Punjab. The workshop will cover various aspects of Seed Banks, Community Biodiversity Registries and legal issues related to biodiversity.

The focus of the present dialogue is to understand the issue of documentation for the conservation of biodiversity and traditional knowledge. It also aimed at looking at the issues of community control or lack of it in the current models of documentation and database generation.

The Indian Biological Diversity Act was passed in 2002. Subsequently notification of (Central) Biodiversity Rules to commence implementation of the Act took place in 2004. The Act was not made in response to any demand by local communities, but in supposed compliance of India’s treaty obligations to the global Convention on Biological Diversity. The Biodiversity Act is a law meant to achieve three main objectives: the conservation of biodiversity; the sustainable use of biological resources; equity in sharing benefits from use of resources. But the implementation of it so far reflects the diminishing priority to conservation and the increasing focus on facilitating allowing access to biodiversity to facilitate (bio) trade. The process of institutionalising the Act is fast underway. The National Biodiversity Authority has been established at Chennai and State Biodiversity Boards have been formed in about 18 states.

In Punjab this process was started by last government by forming State Biodiversity Board in 2006. But the board has no representation from civil society it is totally State takeover of biodiversity issues and concerns. SBB Punjab has also framed certain rules but due to governmental apathy no funds are made available to SBB and therefore baring five village level workshops neither other activity nor any program was held from last two years.

Mindless aggression on ecology has made its most serious victim agriculture biodiversity.

India: Once had 30,000 varieties of rice; today 75 % of rice production comes from 10 varieties. (return to good earth, 1990)

90 % of cotton covered with hybrids with combinations of only 6 parental lines. Sold with different brand names. Worse is single gene fighting three major pests across the country

China: Had 10,000 wheat varieties in use in 1949; by the 1970s, left only with 1,000 varieties

Unites States: Approximately 97 % of food plant varieties available to United State farmers in the 1940's no longer exists (FAO, 1996)

Many states have also gone ahead with the process of formation of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the village level. These BMCs – which could have given space for grass root decision-making on local resources and knowledge, are being merely given the task to prepare government pre-prescribed biodiversity registers!

Today there is very little or no awareness about this legislation, yet it does have far reaching implications on people’s control over their resources and knowledge. The questions we propose to ask at this workshop are whether the current legal system, specifically the Biodiversity Act:

- Is adequately addressing the real threats to biodiversity on the ground?

- Is really empowering local peoples and factoring in their interests?

- Is allowing for conservation of traditional knowledge of local communities?

Eminent civil rights activist and Advocate Shri Sanjay Parikh, Internationally acclimated sustainable agriculture activist and founder of Deccan Development Society Shri P V Satheesh , Environment activist Madhu Sareen , Writer and Biodiversity activist Kanchi Kohli (Kalapvriksh) and Shri Vijay Jardhari from Beej Bachhao Andolan, Uttrakhand are likely to participate as resource persons.

Please join the first ever civil society initiative on biodiversity in Punjab.

Prof Shub Prem Brar Umendra Dutt Dr Anish Dua Dr Ernest Albert


Prof Anupreet Tiwana Kultar Singh Sandhwan Pankaj Jain Dr Gurbaksh Singh Co- Convener



State Workshop on Biodiversity Conservation & People’s Concerns

19-20 January, 2008, village Talewal- Bhotna, District Barnala

Day One – Saturday, 19 January 2008

9:30 to 10:30 AM

Tea, registration and informals

10:00 to 11:00


Workshop Introduction:

Key Note: P V Satheesh


11: 00 – 11:15

11:15 to 12:30

Status of Biodiversity in Punjab: Shub Prem Brar

SBB in Punjab (Context, Roles, responsibilities): Dr Neelima Jairath, PSCS&T


12:30 to 1:30

Biodiversity: Threats and Challenges and Biodiversity Act: Kanchi Kohli

Biodiversity: What are the legal spaces to address these concerns? Sanjay Parikh


1:30 to 2:15


2:15 to 4:15

With a tea break

Issues for Biodiversity Concerns in Punjab: Dr Anish Dua

Toxic contamination of natural resources in Punjab: Dr A S Ready

Presentation by representative of Dept of Environment, GNDU, Asr

Agro biodiversity in Punjab: Dr Gurbaksh Singh

Role of women and biodiversity in Punjab: Madhu Sarin


4:15 to 6:00

Reviving biodiversity- Success stories: P V Satheesh

Beej Bachaao Andolan : Vijay Jardhari

6:00 to 7:00

Open discussion


SUNDAY, 20 January

9:30 to 11:00 AM

Legal Issues in Punjab context: Sanjay Parikh

Dynamics of Community action: PV Satheesh

11:00 to 11:30


11:30 to 12:30

Debating Strategies for…

1. Agro biodiversity – How can Seed Banks help small farmers?

12:30 to 1:30

2, Traditional Knowledge - Does documentation in Community Biodiversity Registers (CBRs) help save people’s know-how?

1:30 to 2:15


2:15 to 4:15

3. State Rules – How should people deal with the State Biodiversity Board (SBB)?

4. Community Control – Are Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) adequate & necessary?

5. Building “Alternatives” – What are the existing customs, festivals, traditions of the peoples of Punjab that can be revived for the purpose?


4:15 to 4:30


4:30 to 5:30

Way forward for Punjab: - Shub Prem Brar

- Neelima Jairath

- Dr Gurbaksh Singh

- Madhu Sarin

- Umendra Dutt

- Open discussion


5:30 to 6:30

Concluding Session

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