Biodiversity informatics vital for sustainable growth

Environmental protection and development need to be integrated with informatics- Prakash Javadekar
Minister addresses 21st meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility Governing Board

The Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar has said the concept of sustainability was an integral part of Indian ethos which ensured balanced approach to issues pertaining to conservation, access and growth. Environmental protection and economic development needed to be integrated with an informatics supported mechanism so as to efficiently manage and use natural resources as a natural capital asset. It was therefore critical to manage natural resources and ecosystems that harboured unique and varied bio diversity. The Minister stated this while delivering the inaugural address at the 21st meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility Governing Board in New Delhi.

The Minister said that India stood committed to developing “biodiversity informatics” as an essential element of India’s economic, environment and social well-being. Adding further, the Minister said that India was in the process of building a comprehensive and decentralized biodiversity information infrastructure to serve the national interests and to provide inter-operability with regional and global initiatives.

Elaborating further, Shri Javadekar said that while around 6500 natural history museums throughout the world housed approximately 3 billion specimens of Indian origin, access to these specimens was both time-consuming and expensive. It was therefore important to promote and facilitate an informatics mechanism to provide easy and better access. The momentum in this process had already begun. In the last two decades, many natural history museums in developed nations had digitized specimen collections that they were holding. Several ongoing global and regional biodiversity informatics initiatives for sharing data about these specimens with the countries of origin were gaining impetus. In the given situation, GBIF and its partners needed to mainstream the process of institutionalizing the digital exchange of data.

The Minister also mentioned that keeping in mind the contemporary trends it was essential for countries across the world to transform a 500 year old tradition of (slow) information transfer by lines of type on paper into a digital (rapid) interchange among thousands of distributed, heterogeneous, and multilingual databases. This transition needed to take place while dealing with complexities of the information management and tools for dissemination and integration.

The Minister further said that India was amongst the few countries in the world that had developed a “National Biodiversity Information Outlook (NBIO)”. The development of NBIO was a strategic decision taken by India to provide a national vision and a long term roadmap to facilitate free and open access to biodiversity data. The Minister also said that the implementation of NBIO would entail the establishment of Indian Biodiversity Information Facility (InBIF) on the lines of GBIF request the global experts to assist us in this endeavor.

The Minister also said that as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), India was committed to developing a national clearing-house mechanism to facilitate access to biodiversity information both nationally and globally. Highlighting several initiatives to conserve biodiversity and compliance with international obligations, the Minister said that one such step taken by India was to join the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in 2003, an inter-governmental network that aims to facilitate free and open access to the world’s biodiversity data. The GBIF had been instrumental in developing capacities in various areas and aspects of biodiversity informatics. The Minister complimented the GBIF leadership for accomplishing this in a relatively short period.

A number of eminent scientists have come from all over the world to take part in the 21st meeting of Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the associated events, particularly the Science Symposium.

These events are being organized during the period of India’s Presidency of CBD Conference of Parties (CoP11), which will be handed over to the Republic of Korea, which is hosting the CBD CoP 12 in October, 2014.