Wolong (China), Oct 5 (IANS) In an era when joint military exercises in the oceans and mountains are norm, NGOs in India and China are carrying out joint field research to fight a common enemy - the loss of biodiversity.
Interestingly the joint exercise began on October 1, on China's National Day, with the participation of the youth from the two countries. The fact that Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary fell on the following day provides a symbolic backdrop to this voluntary collaborative venture.
Two civil society organizations, India's TERRE Policy Centre and China's Operation Earth, both the members of the UN's IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature - in May 2018 had agreed to launch action-oriented activities. The field research expedition of youth to save Giant Panda, a vulnerable mammal as per IUCN red list, is part of this wider collaboration.
There are two basic drivers of the initiative. First, is top-down. The informal Wuhan summit between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi in April 2018 emphasized the need for people-to-people dialogue to better understand the history, culture and practices in India and China. TERRE and Operation Earth carved out a strategic segment of the society i.e. youth from both countries for the joint exercise. Second is bottom-up.
The five reports released in March 2018 by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) - a global science body of the United Nations stated that the Earth is losing species 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction and that mass extinctions that undermine human well-being is underway. One of the shocking findings were that Climate change is set to cause the loss of more than half of Africa's bird and mammal species by 2100, just about 80 years from now.
Ecosystem degradation is miserably trapped between political apathy and societal ignorance. The climate change is accelerating the degradation. "The Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have rightly identified the partnership as the strategic tool and crucial means to attain the targets," said Chen Liangzhong, Founder CEO of Operation Earth and Former Consultant of the World Bank.
Youth to Youth (Y2Y) collaboration and networking was thus carved out by the TERRE and Operation Earth as means to contribute to the objective.
Three Indian students from IIT-Jharkhand, NIT-West Bengal and MIT-Maharashtra were selected by TERRE through national competition.
In the world's largest panda base in Wolong, in Sichuan province of China, the youth volunteers will work with pandas in captivity. Under the guidance of conservationists and scientists, the volunteers will monitor 'trainee pandas', record their behavior to assist with their wildness training and evaluate how prepared they are to survive in the wild. They will also survey and monitor the wild panda populations in the Wolong Reserve.
Interestingly the Giant Panda is China's national animal with a population of just around 2500 and is now stable. The Tiger (Bengal Tiger) is India's national animal but 'vulnerable' as per IUCN and has similar population.
"Such joint field research expedition would be of critical help to both countries by 'learning by doing' and by sharing the lessons", said Rajendra Shende, Chairman of TERRE and former Director in UNEP.
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