Reasons why India's biodiversity is at risk

India tigers The number of tigers in India has risen in recent years, official figures show

Related Stories

Home to about a tenth of the world's known plant and animal species, India is a global biodiversity hot spot.

The country also has a bank of 50,000 varieties of rice, a grain that feeds about half of the world's population. Mangoes, tea, sorghum, millets and pulses grow freely on its lands.

But with 18% of the world's population crammed into just 2.4% of the global landmass, India's biodiversity is under pressure, something which the 12,000 delegates from 190 countries attending the UN meeting on biodiversity in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad will be aware about.

Here are some indicators of how India's biodiversity is under threat:

  • A total of 929 animal species are threatened today, up from 648 in 2004, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). India's rank in the global "shame list" of nations struggling to protect its species diversity has slid to seven, next to China.
  • Just 1% of India's 8,000km- (4,970-mile)-long coastline is protected from badly planned and illegal development. Coral reefs and fish are threatened by development projects like ports and power plants.
'Wide gap'

To be sure, India has explored and mapped the flora and fauna of only around 70% of its area, documenting some 150,000 plants and animals. Even the government admits there is a "wide gap" in mapping all species.

So the jury is still out on the total number of new and dying species. But in a country which spends about $2bn (£1.25bn) on biodiversity, there are some good tidings as well:

Arunachal macaque The Arunachal macaque was a surprise to science
  • Arunachal macaque a new species of monkey, was discovered in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in 2005.
  • The number of tigers has risen to 1,706 from 1,411 in 2006.
  • Some of the species are no longer endangered - this week, the IUCN, removed the Lion-tailed macaque from its list of 25 most endangered primates as its numbers have improved.

India's Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan says India "speaks from a position of strength as we need to balance economic development, poverty alleviation and protection of biodiversity".

But India needs to do a lot more. Forest cover is shrinking - authorities are talking about raising it to 33% from the existing 23%. India continues to struggle to protect the tiger, lion, elephant and rhino. And yes, it needs to complete the mapping of its biodiversity.

Pallava Bagla is correspondent for Science magazine; Science Editor of NDTV and author of Trees of India.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More India stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Signposts showing the US and UK flagsAn ocean apart

    How British misunderstanding of the US is growing


  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?


  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back


  • A cow wearing sunglasses overlaid with the phrase 'Can't touch this'Cow row

    Thousands rally against the ban on beef in India


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • StudentsBull market

    Employers are snapping up students with this desirable degree

Programmes

  • Former al-Qaeda double agent Aimen DeanHARDtalk Watch

    Islamic State is about revenge says former al-Qaeda member turned spy Aimen Dean

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.