Western India Biodiversity Network (WIB-Net)
An Introduction and Brief Report on the Meeting of 2 and 3 Oct 2004, Pune
The network came about at the final national workshop of National Biodiversity Strategy & Action Plan (NBSAP) in Delhi. Since the focus in that period was on the NBSAP, the network came to be known as the BSAP Western Region Partners Network. Dilip Gode of the Vidarbha Nature Conservation Society, Nagpur, coordinated it. The activity of the network was consolidated subsequently at a meeting in Pune, because there are several common issues that could be addressed together by the partners in the network. To further consolidate the network a meeting was organised again in Pune with the support of the Oxfam-India and the Foundation for Ecological Security.
Participants were individuals and representatives from agencies who were involved in the BSAP process, as well as others involved in biodiversity issues. Participation had been invited from Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa. However, no one was able to come from MP, Chhattisgarh and Goa. About 35 persons participated.
The NBSAP - process and the final approach - are watersheds in shaping a national strategy and represent a truly democratic effort based on sound scientific and technical inputs. As we see it, the NBSAP epitomises a wide consensus incorporating all stakeholder views: from the Forest Departments to village communities. And this consensus was arrived at through an unprecedented participatory process where everyone had a fair chance to contribute views.
During a period of about one year since the network was initiated, there were some attempts to find larger support for the forward movement of the NBSAP, in particular to mobilize resources to implement many of the ideas that emerged from the NBSAP. It was expected that the UNDP would assist the follow up of the NBSAP with the active support of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MOEF), Govt. of India. However, this did not happen and for inexplicable reasons the MOEF began to subvert the NBSAP. Additionally, in August 2004, the MOEF brought out a Draft National Environment Policy, 2004 (NEP 2004).
Concurrently, without even waiting for the debate on the NEP to conclude, MOEF had initiated a process of watering down Environmental Clearance mechanisms as well. Thus the Pune meeting of the network (2nd & 3rd October 2004) took place against the background of these looming dangers. It was clear to the participants that each one of them – individuals or organisations – would have to work against these odds and the deliberations at the workshop were marked by the clear recognition of the difficult situation.
It was decided that since we need to go beyond the formal framework of the NBSAP, which was carried on as a project to develop the strategy and action plan, the name of the network itself could reflect that. Therefore, the name was changed to “Western India Biodiversity Network”. However, it was emphasised that the BSAP documents and the approach emerging from the NBSAP, provides the best possible framework for working for biodiversity conservation. It was, therefore, resolved that the Network would strive for the realisation of the BSAP plans. Also, considering the numerous difficulties in the national process, and the network would also apply itself to give strength to the national process. Affirming the resolve to support the NBSAP, the meeting prepared a common appeal to the Prime Minister urging him that the final draft of the NBSAP, as submitted to MoEF, be published at the earliest in public interest. Besides, the regional issues, the meeting also took note of the ill-conceived draft NEP that is seriously flawed in substance and characterised by a thoroughly opaque and undemocratic process.
Given the difficult situation, the network need to play a proactive role in trying to mobilise resources and to share experiences to protect livelihoods and biodiversity. A set of major issues in which members of the network can work together was identified and different partners assumed responsibilities on a purely voluntary basis. The tasks decided are very challenging and very ambitious. It will require sustained effort to complete these tasks. All these are listed in this note. Although we have not been able to keep to the time frames mentioned due to our other commitments, it must be noted that we still remain committed to these tasks. We need to redefine the timeframes more realistically keeping view other activities and commitments. These are important tasks and we must continue to work on these.
Nature & Functions of the Network
A six-member Steering Group was formed to develop the activities of the network. The list of the SG with contact details are given below:
The detailed report has already been circulated. We have to review the work in light of our overall work and commitments. We also need to work out a proposal for sustaining the network and how best to use some initial funding that can take us to long-term sustainability without external funds.