Hotspots of Endemic Plants of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

M. P. Nayar. Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram.

The signing of the Convention of Biodiversity (CBD) has placed a heavy responsibility on the developing countries in the tropical-subtropical-hot temperate belt of the world. This belt has not been affected by the successive glaciations. It has, therefore, remained relatively undisturbed and is very rich in biodiversity. It also harbours Vavilovian Centres of origin and evolution of crop plants.

Although the signing of the CBD was apparently a political event, most of the developing countries did not realize the full implication of what they had actually signed. As the story goes, when USA refused to sign CBD, many developing countries, who had signed CBD earlier, had second thoughts and became suspicious as to what they had actually signed. If true, this reflects on the extent and nature of ignorance at the political and administrative levels about CBD in the developing countries. Such an ignorance still prevails even though a country like India is highly respected for its scientific and technical work in biological and agricultural fields. Hardly any country (India included) followed the CBD with an implementable conservation strategy actually on the ground.

With the foregoing in mind, the book entitled Hotspots of Endemic Plants of India, Nepal and Bhutan by M. P. Nayar is most timely. We are indeed grateful to him for this study and India should use this well-researched document to conserve atleast its endemic flora. If appropriate steps are not taken in time, endangerment of such species may lead to their extinction. India has already a sound knowledge base about the hotspots and the endemic plants, but it has not translated it into action. There is need for the following by the nodal departments/ ministries:

 

 

If adequate attention is not paid to these aspects, the country will lose its floristic and faunistic distinctiveness. Being a biomass-dependent country, the biotic wealth is one of its main strengths. The fund of knowledge generated over the years now needs to be used to generate biowealth.

It may also be remembered that at one time the rice cultivation in the entire SE Asian belt was threatened on account of a very vicious viral disease. The saviour was one resistant gene for this virus found in a wild rice (Oryza nivara) collected from a godforsaken place like Gonda in Uttar Pradesh. This single gene made a colossol contribution to the wellbeing of whole of the SE Asia. It shows the importance of our wild flora. We do not know what the country will need in future. Therefore, we should try to conserve as much biodiversity as is possible.

We are grateful to Nayar for producing this book which contains a wealth of information useful to phytogeographers, ethnobiologists, biologists, evolutionists, geneticists and breeders.

T. N. KHOSHOO

Tata Energy Research Institute,
Darbari Seth Block, Habitat Place,
Lodi Road,
New Delhi 110 003, India

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