Saturday, February 2, 2008

Farmers to decide Agenda on Biodiversity

State Workshop on Biodiversity Conservation & People’s Concerns

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

Seed Sovereignty under threat: Farmers to decide Agenda on Biodiversity

A State Workshop on Biodiversity Conservation and Peoples’ Concerns was held by Kheti Virasat Mission at Akal Academy Talewal (Barnala). About eighty persons who were KVM activists, scientists, agriculture experts, leaders of farmers’ organizations and researchers from Punjab, participated in the intense discussions. The workshop was held as part of a national campaign called the Campaign for Community Control over Biodiversity. Dr. Neelima Jerath, Additional Director, Environment, Punjab ; Vijay Jardhari from Beej Bachao Andolan, Uttarakhand; PV Satheesh from Deccan Development Society; Kalpavriskh Environmental Action Group, Delhi, addressed the workshop as key resource persons from outside Punjab.

The Mission along with researchers and medical professionals has been undertaking studies of the Punjab’s depleting biodiversity and it s impact of human, animal and plant health. This information was placed before the house by the activists of KVM. It was the unanimous view that Punjab has already lost and is fast losing its rich heritage of not only the plant and animal biodiversity but also the other natural resources and the value system associated with this biodiversity. This has happened because of the green revolution and chemical based agriculture advocated by the greedy multinational companies of western countries. These companies which have only one motive that is to extract maximum profits have ignored all other aspects of life. The result is the high degree of poisoning of the environment, total food chain and all living beings including human beings. This poisoning and the mode of agriculture advocated by the protagonists of green revolution have led to disappearance of rich biodiversity of Punjab. This has also created a severe socio-politico-cultural and environment health crisis under which the whole of Punjab particularly the villages are living a miserable life. They are living life full of all types of tensions.

It was unanimously felt by the participants that Punjab needs immediate and emergency measures to deal with this crisis and save/ revive its rich biodiversity, which is the base of any civilization. They were of the unanimous view that

The Biodiversity Act is not enough for conserving biodiversity in Punjab. They strongly felt that the provisions of the Biodiversity Act 2002 and Biodiversity Rules 2004 were not enough for the conservation of Punjab’s biological resources. The provisions of the Act dealing with biodiversity and traditional knowledge did not seem adequate. The Biodiversity Management Committees to be constituted under the Act at the Panchayat and Municipal levels do not still have clear roles and responsibilities under the Biological Diversity Rules though the Act itself describes the local communities as “conservers and preservers” of biodiversity. The only function delegated to the local communities through the BMCs is documentation of their local biological resources and knowledge with no legal control over them. There is no mechanism within the Act by which a BMC can seek redressal for any approval for access of biological resource or related knowledge by a State Biodiversity Board or the National Biodiversity Authority, for which the NBA or SBB is only supposed to only “consult” the BMC. It was strongly felt that BMCs will be only used to collect the knowledge of biological resources and this knowledge will be used by the big companies to exploit it for their commercial purposes. The local people will not be benefited at all; rather they may be harmed in many ways.

It was unanimously decided that Kheti Virasat Mission will launch a campaign in collaboration with other like minded organizations, religious bodies and political parties to revive the biodiversity and natural resources of Punjab. Kheti Virasat Mission will make all out efforts to bring back the lost biodiversity of the State, revive its other natural resources like soil and water and to reverse all other adverse effects of the Green Revolution.

In the words of Dr. PV Satish “Biodiversity is not cultivated but it is cultivated automatically. So we should just be careful to provide a suitable environment for it. It is also must to conserve our ancient knowledge to save biodiversity. He also added that it is only possible with the blessings of nature and natural farming is the only way to have those blessings. So natural farming should necessarily be promoted to save biodiversity on this planet earth.

Sh vijay jardhari from Beej Bachao Andolan Utrakhand said that Jal, Jangle and Jameen (water, forest and land) are the base of life. So it is compulsory to save them with their diversity.

Dr.Neelima Jayrath also said that it is very much needed to conserve our ancient knowledge to conserve our biodiversity. It conceders that biodiversity is always given an indication towards the healthy or ill environment.

Dr AK Thukral from GNDU Amritsar said that in our country a large no. of deaths take place due to polluted drinking water. On other hand nations’ 90% industry does not obey the defined rules for it.

  • As farmers of Punjab has lost their native seed verities and agro-germ plasm it was resolved to initiate a participatory civil society process to reclaim the traditional agro-biodiversity from PAU, HAU and National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. KVM will facilitate this process through Vatavaran Panchayats.
  • Kheti Virasat Mission will organise a “Identify Biodiversity” yatra in Shivalik belt of Punjab.

  • Community SEED BANKS will be established at various regions of Punjab.

  • KVM shall take-up awareness campaign and organize peoples’ dialogue on lacunae and contradictions of Biodiversity act.

  • A mass signature campaign will be started to pressurize the Punjab government and State Biodiversity Board to initiate a democratic process before finalizing state rules on biodiversity act.

  • It is also resolved that State Biodiversity Board should clarify its stand on the rights of Biodiversity Management Committees - BMCs under the Biodiversity Act. The Punjab State Biodiversity Board should take inputs from the real stack holders and owners of this biological heritage before taking any decision in this regard.

  • KVM will form an alliance with like minded organisations and farmers groups to take up the issue of biological diversity and threats to Seed Sovereignty and self-reliant agriculture.

More the 70 participant from representing 14 districts of Punjab present in workshop and prominent among KVM activists are Dr Amar Singh Azad, Working Chairman, KVM, Prof Gurbax Singh Chinna, Secratery, KVM, Amritsar, Rajbir Singh , Pimgalwara Society, Amritsar, Dr A S Maan, Sangrur, Hartej Singh, Vice Chairman , KVM.

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