We are fastest growing economy in the world today. That places additional responsibility on us to pursue economic growth in an environment-friendly way. Our will be copied by rest of the world. It is, therefore, necessary to see the impact of growth on extinction of species.
Reasons of extinction
A number of different cow breeds were seen earlier but now mostly Jersey breed alone is seen. Similarly hill tree species like buransh and kafal are becoming extinct (see photo below). Fruits like Kafal, Nimoli and Kaseru are now not seen.
Our tradition tells us to protect all living species. The shanti mantra says:
"Om May there be Peace in Heaven, May there be Peace in the Sky,
May there be Peace in the Earth, May there be Peace in the Water, May there be peace in the Plants,
May there be peace in the Trees, May there be Pease in Gods in the various Worlds, May there be peace in Brahman,
May there be Peace in all, May there be peace Indeed within peace, Giving me that Peace which Grows Me,
Om Peace, Peace, Peace."
This mantra seeks peace for the species living in the sky, water and earth.
We have been making some efforts to conserve threatened species in keeping with this philosophy. We have established Tiger Reserves and National Parks. But there are other species where we have been lacking. In the following picture we give some species that are on the brink of extinction.
We are contributing the extinction of species. According to the report of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the six causes of species extinction are given below. (see report od IUCN here)
- Habitat destruction and degradation.
- Over-exploitation (extraction, hunting, fishing etc.).
- Invasions of alien species(e.g. cats and rats on islands).
- Global climate change(changes in migratory species, coral bleaching.
In the context of rivers, we are causing habitat destruction by making barrages and dams. The famed Hilsa fish is not able to reach its upstream reproductive area because of the Farakka Barrage and it has become extinct between farakka and Allahabad. Similarly Mahseer fish is not able to reach its reproduction area in the upper Himalayas due to the Bheemgoda Barrage at Haridwar and Srinagar Dam. Over –extraction of river water for irrigation is making the Ganga dry below Narora Barrage in the plains. The pollution load of the Ganga is well known. In this way we are endangering the aquatic species.
The survival of these species is necessary for us because species diversity can help us to survive in the face of climate change. For example, we have a species of paddy which grow with flood water very rapidly. It produces grains even in the floods. Now suppose we have prevented the floods by building dams. There will be no floods and this paddy species will be destroyed. Its seeds will become unavailable.
Now, let us say, floods occur despite the dams due to intense rains in the plains. The ‘normal’ paddy species will not be able to grow in these floods. We will then face difficulty in meeting our food requirements. If we had preserved the species of flood-friendly paddy species, then we could again cultivate it on a large scale.
Importance of future
Therefore, economists believe that keeping the endangered species alive is not only a natural responsibility of mankind, but also it is an economic resource that can help keep humans alive in the future. In the context of rivers, we have to withdraw from hydropower and over-abstraction for irrigation so that these species. Alternatively we can redesign the barrages to allow free movement of aquatic species and conserve this resource for our future.