Biodiversity in India: Over 90% of the area under the biodiversity hotspots in India have been lost. India has four biodiversity hotspots and 90% of this area has been lost, according to the Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) new report entitled ‘State of India’s Environment in Figures 2021’. As per the data compiled in the report, the Indo-Burma hotspot is the worst affected and has lost 95% of its vegetation area, going from 23.73 lakh sq km to 1.18 lakh sq km. Another worrying aspect is that in these four hotspots, 25 species have also become extinct.
In India, 1,212 animal species are monitored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its Red List, and over 12% of these species – 148 – are endangered. Among the endangered species are 69 mammals, 23 reptiles as well as 56 amphibians.
A key issue that has put fires at risk is the forest fires, which have been quite high since the beginning of the year, the report said. Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh are among the 16 states that have witnessed an increase in this aspect. By May 1 this year, as many as 4.33 lakh forest fires had been recorded, even though the season for forest fires still had another month remaining. To put this in perspective, 2016 was the hottest year on record and India’s annual temperature that year rose 0.71 degrees Celsius above normal. That year, the country witnessed 5.41 lakh forest fires, the maximum recorded in the decade.
What adds to the worry is that this year, the weather has been unusually warm, and last monsoon had seen 8.7% surplus rainfall leaving the weather adequately humid for forest fires to spread.
Not only that but 14 states or UTs in the country have also registered a drop in carbon retention services or carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration refers to the long term removal or capturing of carbon from the atmosphere to control or mitigate global warming, and this is done naturally using biological, physical and chemical processes. A decline in these services means a decline in the capturing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Keeping such services in place is important to minimise the impact of human activities on the environment.