Every year a day is dedicated as the World Environment Day in an attempt to encourage and aware people around the world to protect environment and the biodiversity.
The day is being celebrated every year since 1972 after United Nations General Assembly established it at the Stockholm Conference themed on Human Environment. According to United Nations “The celebration of this day provides us with the opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment”.
This year the theme of the day is Biodiversity a concern that is both existential and urgent. Colombia and Russia collaboratively hosted the day this year.
In past few decades we humans have been over exploiting the bio diversity and natural resources and acted very irresponsibly towards the mother nature. We have logged the forests at a rate reforestation can take place, we still live in an era where we heavily depend upon forest wood for timber and fire wood but the rate of reforestation is much more slower than the rate of cutting down of forests.
Earlier this year several factors especially human activities lead to the burning down of bush forests in Australia for weeks which lead to shutting down of airports as the flames of these bushfires approached the perimeters of the capital Canberra.
These fires led to destruction of flora and fauna, killing several hundred thousand creatures. The loss is irreplaceable according to experts it will take several decades to fill what has been damaged.
The World Wildlife Fund also known as WWF which is a leading organization for conserving and protecting endangered species has an index called as Living Planet Index, this LPI is an indicator of the state of the biodiversity around the globe.
The Living Planet Indicator calculates the population of different species and if past few years the picture is really bad, several species extinct and many others are added to into the list of endangered every year.
The list of endangered animals also include Hangul-the Kashmiri stag which is found only in upper forest areas and mountains, Dachigam national park in Srinagar of Kashmir valley which is a protected habitat for the animal.
According to some sources the population of the animal in 1940s was between 30000 to 50000 but because of excessive human intervention, poaching, habitat destruction and over grazing by domestic livestock the population has declined to around 200 Hanguls.
The diversity from Hangul on the land to the coral reefs deep in the oceans, biodiversity is at stake. The marine diversity of the worlds coral reefs which contain 25 percent of marine species live but here too there is another biomass which dwarfs everything else combined and is invisible to the naked eye, it is the microbial life of the sea and is found everywhere from the surface to the 4000 mts down.
These unseen microbial organisms contain astronomical number of viruses that attack marine bacteria all part of web of life, in fact every liter of sea water contains more viruses than the total human population on the planet earth. 95 percent of life by weight in oceans is comprised not by fish but by these microbes, and it is these microbes that create 50 percent of the oxygen available on earth which means every second breath we breath is a produced by them.
The problem is from these small invisible organisms to the biggest beasts on the planet biodiversity is threatened by habitat destruction.
There are challenges of habitat degradation transformation of forest land for industries and agriculture, and of course the biggest impact and which is least talked about the increasing human population. And it is when the decreasing frontier between wild life and humans is breached disease like Corona Virus can jump from animals to humans.
Out of 7.8 million species that we have on the planet earth around one million are under threat of extinction and that is a lot because nature is a finely toned system where each specie plays an important part in the bigger puzzle.
Covid-19 is a clear message and an indicator that we need to understand and heed very fast that we human can’t continue to undermine and encroach on nature and expect nature to be stable. It is apparent we are at a turning point the era post Covid-19 must be the one where we act to protect our environmental heritage and biodiversity or continue to pay heavy prices.
Syed Abdul Mohsin Andrabi
The Author is a research scholar and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org