India set to host UN’s first biodiversity summit

New Delhi (IANS) India is set to host the UN biodiversity summit that will bring together more than 1,200 delegates from over 110 countries to deliberate on the alarming decline of migratory species in Gandhinagar in Gujarat from Monday.

The agenda of the talks include new proposals to mitigate effects of infrastructure on migratory mammals and joining the Gobi bear, the only bear living in the desert, the Persian leopard and the urial, a wild sheep, in the Central Asian mammal species for their protection.

Besides, Indian species like the Asian elephant, the great Indian bustard and the Ganges river dolphin are likely to get more priority in biodiversity conservation.

Roads, railway tracks and fences can create barriers to the movement of animals, many of which are hit and killed by vehicles or trains when attempting to cross, while others get entangled in barbed wire fences and die.

Barriers disrupt habitat connectivity and can lead to genetic isolation, driving populations to local extinction.

Roads, railway lines, and settlements cutting through habitats can also increase disturbance to wildlife, pollute their feeding areas, and ease access for poachers.

Delegates at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13) will consider the need for guidance and implementation tools to mitigate the impacts of linear infrastructure on migratory species.

CMS is the only United Nations treaty that addresses migratory species and their habitats.

“Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home” will be the theme of the UN wildlife conference dedicated to migratory species. It will conclude on February 22.

Globally, at least 25 million km of new roads are projected for development by 2050, marking a 60 per cent increase from 2010.

Similarly, the development of an additional 3,35,000 km of railway tracks is expected over the next 40 years to accommodate demand for passenger and freight travel.

Given the predicted scale of increase across the world, measures to conserve migratory animals are especially urgent.

To date, CMS Guidelines have advised countries on how to avert linear infrastructure threats to large mammals in Central Asia through the Convention’s Central Asian Mammals Initiative.

In the future, guidance and implementation tools will be developed for other regions and CMS-listed species not included in the initiative.

Aquatic species face other threats from different types of infrastructure, including coastal developments such as hotels, restaurants, and roads.

Turtle nesting beaches are at risk while beaches, seawalls and oil platforms also degrade turtle habitats.

Currently, CMS Guidelines deal with underwater noise, but other threats related to infrastructure development are yet to be addressed, say wildlife experts.

The Gobi bear, the only bear living in the desert, the Persian leopard and the urial, a wild sheep, are set to join other Central Asian mammal species already benefiting from international cooperation under the CMS.

The urial is being proposed for listing on Appendix II at CMS COP13, while range states are seeking to include it as well as the Gobi bear and Persian Leopard under the Central Asian Mammals Initiative (CAMI).

In many parts of the species’ range, urial populations are declining, have become fragmented and are prone to local extinction.

Currently, CAMI covers 15 species including the Saiga antelope, the snow leopard and the cheetah.

The initiative spans 14 countries from the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan in the west to China in the east.

Central Asia boasts the world’s largest intact grasslands, but the scale of this habitat is being threatened by the rapid construction of roads and railways.

Many migratory mammals rely on these large steppe ecosystems and on the region’s deserts and mountains for their survival. Linear barriers to migration, coupled with illegal hunting are putting their survival at risk.

Targeting threats from the construction of linear infrastructure is part of a comprehensive package of conservation measures that CAMI range states are expected to adopt at COP13 for the period 2021-2026.

Decisions at CMS COP13 will result in targeted action on aquatic wild meat, which is a fast-emerging threat on a scale similar to that facing terrestrial animals.

The CMS Aquatic Wild Meat Working Group, which has focused mainly on mammals and reptiles, is poised to expand its scope to cover all shark and ray species listed on CMS Appendix I.

Criteria will also be developed to consider aquatic species listed on Appendix II, while more attention will be given to the harvesting of seabirds.

Outcomes expected at CMS COP13 include negotiated decisions, political commitments and new initiatives, including proposals to add 10 new species for protection under the CMS.

These include the Asian elephant, the jaguar, the great Indian bustard, and the smooth hammerhead shark.

Parties will also discuss the adoption of dedicated concerted actions for 12 different species, including the giraffe, the Ganges river dolphin, the common guitarfish and the antipodean Albatross.

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