Fertilizer Sector reforms – NBS, bio-fertilizers, Neem coating, etc.

[op-ed snap] Protect the little helpers


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IPBES, Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators,

Mains level: Importance of various species in agricultural processes and need for their conservation


Role of pollinators in agriculture

  1. Across India’s agrarian plains, plantations and orchards, millions of birds, bats and insects toil to pollinate crops
  2. In 2015, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found that pollinators lead to huge agricultural economic gains
  3. The report estimated pollinator contribution in India to be $0.831-1.5 billion annually for just six vegetable crops
  4. This is an underestimation considering that nearly 70% of tropical crop species are dependent on pollinators for optimal yields

Risks to the survival of pollinators

  1. Many of these thousands of species may be in dangerous decline
  2. At the turn of the millennium, many countries, particularly the U.S., observed with some anxiety the phenomenon of bees deserting their hives
  3. Large tracts of natural habitats have been cleared for monoculture cultivation, while the use of pesticides and fertilisers is pushing out nature’s little helpers
  4. In a series of studies at the University of Calcutta, researchers have shown that native Indian bees, when exposed to multiple pesticides, suffer from memory and olfactory impairment, lower response rates, and oxidative stress which damages cells

Visible effects of low pollination

  1. In Kashmir, researchers have pinned lowering yields of apple trees on the declining frequency of bee visits
  2. In north India, lowering yields of mustard cultivation may be caused by disappearing pollinators

Steps taken by the global community

  1. After the IPBES report, almost 20 countries have joined the Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators
  2. The EU Pollinators’ Initiative was adopted in June
  3. The U.S. has established a Pollinator Health Task Force and a national strategy that focussed on increasing the monarch butterfly population and planting native species and flowers
  4. The U.K. developed 23 key policy actions under its National Pollinator Strategy

Way forward for India

  1. Apart from promoting organic farming and lowering pesticide usage, landscape management is key
  2. India can adopt a policy of direct payment support to farmers to provide buffer strips for pollinators for nectar- and pollen-rich plants
  3. India has millions of hectares of reserve forests, some of which have been converted to pulpwood plantations. Much of this can be restored to become thriving homes for pollinators
  4. Fallow areas and government land can be used to plant flowering species for pollinators


Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

  1. IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012
  2. It provides policymakers with objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people, as well as the tools and methods to protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets
  3. IPBES does for biodiversity what the IPCC does for climate change
  4. IPBES currently has 128 member States. A large number of NGOs, organizations, conventions and civil society groupings also participate in the formal IPBES process as observers
  5. The work of IPBES can be broadly grouped into four complementary areas:
    – Assessments: On specific themes (e.g. “Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production”); methodological issues (e.g. “Scenarios and Modelling); and at both the regional and global levels (e.g. “Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”)
    – Policy Support: Identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies, facilitating their use, and catalyzing their further development
    – Building Capacity & Knowledge: Identifying and meeting the priority capacity, knowledge and data needs of our member States, experts and stakeholders
    – Communications & Outreach: Ensuring the widest reach and impact
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