By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
On the occasion of International Day for Biological Diversity today, international environmental experts insisted our health and well-being are directly connected and benefit from healthy ecosystems and biological diversity, so unless we stop the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, we are endangering our own future.
A statement from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres iterated that we are heavily dependent on healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity to maintain food security and well-being, as the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe all depend on the natural world.
However, the ecosystems that sustain us are undergoing unprecedented harm, he said, citing a recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which revealed that the world is losing its biological diversity at the fastest rate in the last 10 million years.
“The impact on people worldwide will be grave, as we projected that with the current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems, 80 per cent of the targets for Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] will be undermined and we simply cannot allow this to happen,” Guterres said.
According to the report, humans are primarily behind the catastrophic degradation of the environment and the mass extinction of most flora and fauna species globally. It was found that over 75 per cent of the environment on land was severely altered by human activities and led to the extinction of at least 680 animal species, while pollution and overfishing are responsible for the up to 90 per cent decline of global marine fish stock.
Meanwhile, on the regional level, Mahidol University’s biology professor Philip Round revealed in an interview that the ecosystems and biodiversity in Southeast Asia are also increasingly pressured by deforestation, construction of harmful development projects, pollution and intensive use of farm chemicals.
“Even though Thailand has an outstanding wildlife conservation performance compared to other countries in the region, we have noticed that it still has a very high rate of ecological degradation and loss of biodiversity,” Round said.
“As I am a veteran birdwatcher and have been studying birds in Thailand for more than 40 years, I have noticed a great decline in many bird species that prey on insects. I have found that the vast reduction of insects from the intensive use of pesticides in farmlands is the main reason for the vanishing of many bird species.”
He said this vividly highlighted the link of each species in the web of life and cautioned that removing some species from the equation may result in a massive impact on the entire ecosystem and will inevitably affect our species.
He said that since some 75 per cent of our food crops rely on pollination, getting rid of insects will have a profound impact on our food security.
Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers campaigns director for Thailand and Myanmar, also cited the severe environmental degradation caused by large-scale hydropower development in the Mekong River Basin, which has already affected the livelihood and well-being of local people, especially in the aspect of local economy and food security.
Pianporn said the construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong mainstream has caused fish stocks to decline greatly.
And, she said, it is estimated that with this trend, the fish population will be further reduced by up to 40 per cent by 2020.
Nevertheless, Guterres said we can still avert a planet-wide ecological breakdown by halting environmentally harmful practices, diversifying our food systems and promoting more sustainable production and consumption patterns. However, he said, we must act quickly to reverse these trends and promote transformative change.
“On this International Day for Biological Diversity, I urge all – governments, businesses and civil society – to take urgent action to protect and sustainably manage the fragile and vital web of life on our one and only planet,” he said.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is marked on May 22 every year with the intention of raising public awareness on the importance of biological conservation.
The theme this year is “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health”.