India is one among the 17 mega diverse countries of the world. But many plants and animals are facing threat of extinction. To protect the critically endangered and other threatened animal and plant species, Government of India has adopted many steps, laws and policy initiatives.
Conservation of Biodiversity in India:
Project Tiger: Project Tiger was launched by the Government of India with the support of WWF-International in 1973 and was the first such initiative aimed at protecting this key species and all its habitats.
Crocodile Conservation: Crocodiles have been threatened as their skin is used for making leather articles. This led to the near extinction of crocodiles in the wild in the 1960s in India. A Crocodile Breeding and Conservation Program was initiated in 1975 to protect the remaining population of crocodilians in their natural habitat and by creating breeding centers. It is perhaps one of the most successful ex situ conservation breeding projects in the country.
Project Elephant: Project Elephant was launched in 1992 to ensure the long-term survival of a viable population of elephants in their natural habitats in north and northeastern India and south India. It is being implemented in 12 States
Orissa – Olive Ridley Turtles: Every year at Gahirmatha and two other sites on the Orissa coast, hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley turtles congregate on the beach, between December and April, for mass nesting. This was the largest nesting site for the Olive Ridleys in the world. In 1999 by the end of March it was estimated that around 200,000 turtles had nested at the Gahirmatha beach. Marine biologists believe that only one out of every 1000 eggs actually matures into an adult. There are severe threats to these nesting sites. Shrinking nesting sites, construction of roads and buildings close to these rookeries, and other infrastructure development projects hamper nesting. Trawler fishing is another large threat to the turtles. After its ‘discovery’ in 1974, the beach was notified as a Sanctuary (the Bhitarkanaika Sanctuary) and was closed for hunting. Recognising the threats to turtles from fishing by large trawlers, the Orissa Marine Fisheries Regulation Act was passed in 1982. This Act prohibits trawling within 10 km of the coastline throughout the state and makes it mandatory for all trawlers to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). In 2001, the State Government of Orissa declared that a five month period between January to May should constitute a no-fishing season for a distance of 20 km from the coastline. Apart form these initiatives; Operation Kachhapa is being coordinated by the Wildlife Protection Society of India, Delhi and Wildlife Society of Orissa with many local NGOs as partners. The Orissa Forest Department, WII, Dehra Dun and the Coast Guard are also involved in the Project.
Ex-Situ Conservation: There are situations in which an endangered species is so close to extinction that unless alternate methods are instituted, the species may be rapidly driven to extinction. This strategy is known as ex-situ conservation, i.e. outside its natural habitat in a carefully controlled situation such as a botanical garden for plants or a zoological park for animals, where there is expertise to multiply the species under artificially managed conditions.
There is also another form of preserving a plant by preserving its germ plasm in a gene bank so that it can be used if needed in future. This is even more expensive.
In India, successful ex situ conservation programs have been done for all our three species of crocodiles. This has been highly successful. Another recent success has been the breeding of the very rare pygmy hog in Guwahati zoo. Delhi zoo has successfully bred the rare Manipur brow antlered deer.
Important Indian Acts passed related to Environment and Bio Diversity