The variety of Life

The variety of Life

Biodiversity, or the variety of life that exists, is fundamental to the existence of life on Earth. The 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro defined biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”. Biodiversity is an extremely important part of life on Earth because it is not only the variety of living organisms on our planet that affect our ecosystem, but also the interdependence of all these living things, including humans. For example, some anthropological studies suggest that mosquitoes are so important to life on planet Earth that if all mosquitoes were to be destroyed, all life on Earth will become extinct in less than five years.

Biodiversity - The Variety of Life

In spite of this knowledge, humans have been the main cause of destruction of ecosystems even as animals and plants become extinct, and biodiversity is being lost due to anti-ecological activities of humans. Thankfully, there are a few among us who are conscious about the importance of maintaining and restoring the balance in biodiversity.

A big step towards creating awareness about the importance of biodiversity has been taken by the National Children’s Science Congress (CSC) by selecting “biodiversity” as its theme for the next two years. To kick off the CSC in Maharashtra, a seminar on biodiversity was organised by Jidnyasa Trust Thane on 18 and 19 March 2006 at the sports complex of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Thane. More than 125 CSC district coordinators and other resource persons from as many as 28 districts from all over Maharashtra attended the seminar. The seminar served as an orientation workshop for these individuals who would then take it forward to the next level.

Dr Madhav Gadgil, senior scientist and recipient of Padma Bhushan award, chaired the seminar. Dr Gadgil is a renowned ecologist having spent more than forty years in research. He has more than 200 research papers and six books to his credit. Jidnyasa felicitated him on the occasion. In his address, Dr Gadgil made a strong case for a systematic data collection on biodiversity at the ground level. He has developed software, which will be used to map the biodiversity of Maharashtra, which according to him is the “need of the hour”.

The seminar featured many other experts in the field of biodiversity such as Dr Vinaya Ghate, a scientist from Adharkar Institute Pune, Dr Madhukar Bachulkar renowned botanist from Kolhapur, Sandhya Edlabadkar from Chandrapur, Vivek Ponkshe from Pune, Dr Mangala Borkar from BN Bondodkar College of Science, Thane and Shraddha Shimpi from Pendharkar College, Dombivali. Principal of BN Bandodkar College Dr. Madhuri Pejawar and Dr Govind Paratkar from Vaze-Kelkar College were the conveners of the technical sessions. Seven sub-themes of biodiversity were discussed by these experts. These sub themes were terrestrial biodiversity, aquatic biodiversity, conservation of biodiversity, generating knowledge of biodiversity, manmade biodiversity, sustainable value addition, and simulations and models.

A book on “Medicinal forest Plants” and few CDs on environment made by Jidnyasa were released at the hands of the Dr PN Munde, Director Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali. Surendra Dighe, Managing Trustee of Jidnyasa Trust provided information of various science programmes that the trust conducts all over Maharashtra. As many as 50-200 species of life are lost every day – that means we lose 20,000 to 70,000 species in a year. Considering that it takes between 2,000-1,00,000 generations for higher species to evolve, we humans have an urgent responsibility towards planet Earth and towards our future generations. And for that we need to shed our lackadaisical attitude towards the variety of life on our planet.

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