Series No. 7
Approach in Environmental Management
ISSUES REQUIRING INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS
Sustainable development is a complex process of purposeful change in the
attitudes, behaviours, and institutions of human societies. An ecological viewpoint
is essential to any valid concept of development because the development process
itself is inherently ecological. In other words, it is a process of purposeful
change in the systematic interrelationships of living and inanimate things
as they have evolved and continue to evolve in a biosphere dominated by human
Biodiversity, biosafety, integrated water resources management, urban environmental
management, climate change, and the valuation of natural capital are global
issues of concern where phytotechnologies can play a beneficial role.
A. Biodiversity and
the Biodiversity Convention
Biological diversity can be defined as the variability among living organisms
and the ecosystems of which they are a part. There are three levels of diversity
and the interactions amongst these different levels must be considered simultaneously.
The three different levels are: genetic diversity (diversity within species,
from the molecular level to the level of populations); species diversity (the
richness of species in a given place at a given time); and ecological diversity
(the heterogeneity of ecosystems, habitats and landscapes).
The importance of biological diversity lies not merely in conservation-related
aspects. Genetic and molecular diversity focusing on the selection of plants
and animals for greater productivity is an important economic driver. Equally
important, at a higher level of ecological diversity, are issues such as land
use, landscape dynamics and sustainable tourism.
Anthropogenic activities increasingly
disturb the integrity of global biodiversity. Pollution, the introduction
of exotic species, unsustainable agricultural practices, urban sprawl and climate
change all contribute to the loss of biodiversity through ecosystem disruption
and habitat destruction. Furthermore, although some developing countries
be rich in biodiversity, their development, food sufficiency and survival
policies usually do not consider species conservation as a high priority.
Genetic diversity has a positive function in the durability of biological
systems and hence genetic erosion is a significant issue. Of particular concern
is the rate at which species are currently becoming extinct, the threat of
dysfunction in major ecosystems such as tropical rainforests, and the reduction
in genetic resources of modern agriculture resulting from the widespread distribution
of high-yield strains and varieties.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is a multilateral instrument
designed to respond to this ecological crisis. It was preceded by a number
of other international legal agreements on species and habitat protection.
The objectives of the Convention, which came into force in December of 1993,
are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of biological
resources, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resource
use. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) serves as the Secretariat
for this Convention.
An important element of the Convention is that the Parties commit to conserve
biodiversity in natural settings through the establishment, management and
maintenance of parks and protected areas. The Convention on Biological Diversity
requires that the Parties develop legislative provisions to protect endangered
species, including plants. It stipulates that the Parties agree to develop
or maintain necessary regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened
species and populations. Other aspects under the Convention include the requirement
||establish systems of protected areas, manage
biological resources, rehabilitate degraded ecosystems, regulate risks
of living modified organisms, control alien species, protect threatened
||respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations
and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional
lifestyles relevant for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable
use of biological resources
||facilitate access to genetic resources, on mutually
agreed terms and under prior informed consent of the Party providing such
Another important international instrument is the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which provides
for the protection of wild species against overexploitation through international
trade, by regulating the international movement of animal and plant species.
CITES, which came into effect in 1975, operates through an import/export permit
system that controls or prohibits trade in approximately 48,000 species and
subspecies of wildlife. Products made from endangered species of plants and
animals are also regulated.