Endangered Species of India

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Free flowing and biodiversity rich Rivers:

Most Endangered species in India1
Rivers, watersheds and aquatic ecosystems are the biological engines of the planet. They are the basis for life and the livelihoods of local communities. Dams transform landscapes and create risks of irreversible impacts. (WCD2 report p 234)

River Cauvery at Shivasamudram, Karnataka. Numerous Mini Hydel Projects are threatening aquatic biodiversity here, without Environment Impact Assessments. Photo: SANDRP

Indian Rivers are some of the last global frontiers of rich freshwater diversity, endangered and threatened species. According to India’s National Biodiversity Action Plan3(p 15), “Nearly 50% of the aquatic plants of the world are recorded from the Indian sub-continent but only a few have been studied in detail.” India is a very diverse country with respect to freshwater fish species (650+ species). In freshwater fish diversity, India is eighth in the world and third in Asia.4 These rivers support millions of livelihoods and indigenous people. Rivers flowing through Eastern, Western and North Eastern Himalayas and Western & Eastern Ghats have been designated as global hotspots of freshwater biodiversity. The Western Ghats hotspot is globally significant centre of diversity and endemism for freshwater species where close to 16% of the 1,146 freshwater taxa assessed are threatened with extinction, with a further 1.9% assessed as Near Threatened. While in the Eastern Himalayan Hotspot, nearly 31% Time is running out for India’s species studied are data deficient and can Rivers in absence of any strong law, be of very high conservation value.5 policy or framework for protecting Thousands of indigenous, forest dwelling its riverine biodiversity and tribes in the North East, Himalayas and dependent communities from this Western Ghats depend entirely on these onslaught. Can the CBD help in this rivers for livelihoods. Many rivers and scenario? riverine stretches are sacred and are conserved actively by local communities.6 1

Note by www.sandrp.in as part of organising side event at CBD COP 11 at Hyderabad (India) in Oct 2012 on Impacts of Dams on Biodiversity: Socio-economic dimensions in the context of changing climate, contact parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com or ht.sandrp@gmail.com for comments, questions. 2 The Report of the World Commission on Dams, 2000 3 http://nbaindia.org/uploaded/Biodiversityindia/NBAP.pdf, accessed on Oct 5, 2012 4 Biju Kumar, Exotic Fishes and Freshwater Fish Diversity, Zoos Print Journal 2000 5 http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/our_work/about_freshwater/what_we_do_freshwater/western_ghats/ 6 http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/india’s-community-fish-sanctuaries-protect-wild-fish-and-rivers-1641 www.indiawaterportal.org/post/16079

Free flowing and biodiversity rich Rivers: Most Endangered species in India

Today, India’s Rivers, riverine biodiversity and river dependent communities are facing major threats: from large dams, pollution, encroachment, sand mining, deforestation and bad management practises. These factors are impacting all aspects of rivers: ecological, social, cultural, religious, aesthetic, tourism-related and economic. More than 10.8 Million people depend on riverine fisheries alone which are degrading and collapsing at an alarming rate7. Large dams are planned and are under construction in and around and are affecting ecologically sensitive sites, protected areas, Ramsar sites, World Heritage Sites, Biosphere reserves, sacred sites, community conserved areas alike. Indigenous People are being hugely impacted by these and many have been protesting and sending representations to the MoEF to cancel these destructive projects.8 Especially, in north eastern State of Sikkim, cascade of dams are destroying rivers and sites held sacred by many tribes and religions9. Nonetheless, dams are getting permissions, disregarding community concerns, ecological concerns, expert reports...
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