Whatever we do, it is very difficult or rather impossible to stop expansion of human enterprise, reckless over-exploitation of natural resources and pollution of environment within the time frame available to us. This becomes clear when we scrutinize the progress made in this direction during the past fifty years.
As a consequence a significant portion of diversity of life could be lost in the next fifty years. This will have serious negative impact on the society. The number of species currently available for our use shall be reduced. Due to loss of germ plasm or the gene pool, genetic resources which now occur in the wild unknown to us shall disappear before we discover their utility.
Essential ecological services, such as regulation of water quality and quantity, action on recycling of nutrients biological control of insects, pests, pathogens and buffering action on climatic extremes could be impaired. Mankind should face this issue and make concerted efforts to minimize the projected loss of biodiversity. Man is capable of stemming the tide. No doubt we shall lose a significant part of our biological wealth but what is important today is the part which we are able to save. The future of man-kind shall depend on what is left after the current episode of extermination passes away.
Saving a few species in our zoos and botanical gardens, freezing a fragment of the germ plasm in liquid nitrogen or maintaining a part of once extensive natural habitat in protected areas or refuge for wild life are no solutions to the problem. Even if we do it with sincerity putting in all the resources which we can spare, species shall continue to disappear. The principal cause of loss of biodiversity lies in the rapid destruction of natural habitats of species which is in turn due to:
1. Rising population pressure and requirement of land for cultivation.
2. Unjust and inequitable distribution of wealth which forces people to over exploit the natural resources.
3. Commercial agricultural operations, industries and human settlements etc. which either encroach upon or export harmful wastes to the natural systems damaging an ever increasing part of wild life habitats.
4. Commercial logging operations, extraction of fuel wood and other products for which an increasingly larger area of natural ecosystems are searched, rummaged and damaged.
The main burden of facing this challenge happens to fall on the poor and developing countries of the world. It is they, who possess the largest share of biological wealth of our planet. Possibly 50- 70% of all species have their homes in nearly 6-7% of earth’s surface possessed by the developing countries of the world. These countries are however; burdened with large populations, want poverty, malnutrition and diseases.
Natural forests, timber, fuel wood extraction and various wild life products, shifting cultivation etc. constitute an important part of their livelihood. To a person who labours all the day simply to earn enough for a squire meal for himself and his family, wild life conservation makes little sense. It is abstract poverty which forces people in the developing countries to over exploit the wild life and natural habitats. If we have to conserve natural habitats we shall have to:
1. Intensify agricultural productivity and provide the people of the area with alternatives so that further encroachments on the natural habitats are checked.
2. Intensify forest management and develop compensatory plantations which can provide an alternative to continued exploitation of natural forests.
3. Peruse a vigorous forest conservation policy so that substantial areas of remaining natural habitats are protected from all types of exploitation.
4. Developmental projects affecting wild land or natural habitats of wild life adversely should be discouraged. In cases where they are essential, they should be accompanied by compensatory management practices.