Naturally Rewarding

Updated: Oct 20 2002, 05:30am hrs
It's a double honour for Lucknow. First, it was Sandeep Pandey who won the coveted Magsaysay award and more recently it was Dr Palpu Pushpangadan, a scientist, who won the Equator Initiative Award 2002 from the United Nations.

The award has been established on the call of Kofi Annan, secretary-general, United Nations, for most outstanding projects and programmes that successfully address issues on conservation and sustainable use and equitable sharing benefits from the use of bio-diversity.

On his return from Johannesburg where he was conferred the award, Dr Pushpangadan said that there are 130 countries that are located in the equator belt where the worlds greatest concentration on poverty and bio-diversity exists and the award is given for outstanding projects on conservation and use of biodiversity for eradication of poverty in the equator belt.

Dr Pushpangadans project was selected as one of the 27 most distinguished projects from the equator countries. His project relates to his work with Kani community of Kerala. Significantly, he developed and patented over 10 scientifically validated herbal drugs. While transferring the technology for production of the drug to a pharmaceutical firm, the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute, which executed the project under Dr Pushpangadans leadership as director, agreed to share the licence fee and royalty with the tribal community.

With this Dr Pushpangadan became the first scientist in the world to evolve a new model of benefit sharing of natural resources with tribals. The model is now widely appreciated the world over as Pushpangadan Model of Benefit Sharing. Dr Pushpangadan has also made a presentation on the subject at the UNEP Centre at Geneva.

Dr Pushpangadan, who is presently director of National Botanical Research Institute at Lucknow, observed that 21st century is the age of biotechnology and luckily India has the most important assets in biodiversity. It is now possible to identify, isolate, clone and synthesise genes and transfer these to other organisms to make super hybrids of crop plants, farm animals or super microbes for industrial manufacture. He observed that conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable industrial use in consort with innovative genetic engineering and biotechnology can go a long way in ensuring food security, health security and in generating wealth and prosperity.

He said that biotechnology, information technology and herbal technology were the three most emerging areas of research and development in the present century and our country is fortunate to have all basic key resources in availing this challenging opportunity and providing leadership in these powerful sectors of economy. The new high-tech chemical and genetic engineering capabilities now acquired by Indian scientists could go a long way in helping India to identify, isolate and characterise novel bioactive compounds and genes from wild flora and fauna.

For the 2002 award, the Technology Advisory Commi-ttee evaluated over 400 nominated projects from 77 countries. Of these 27 were

recommended for final consideration by the jury. The projects were judged according to their integration of partnerships, sustainability, innovation, transferability leadership, community empowerment, gender equality, social inclusion and tangible benefits to biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. The award carries US $30,000 and a citation.