By Prarthana Mitra
At a time when South Asia is fraught with cross-border tension, India and China recently announced a collaborative expedition—the first in history—towards ecosystem conservation.
To tackle the loss of biodiversity, with special regard to the Giant Panda, the joint exercise kicked off on Monday October 1 which coincided with China’s National Day. The inauguration further came on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, lending a symbolic backdrop to this collaborative voluntary venture.
Who is in charge of the project?
The initiative is spearheaded by India’s TERRE Policy Centre and China’s Operation Earth, and involves a team comprising youth from both nations. Both India and China are members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which recently listed the Giant Panda as a vulnerable mammal on its red list.
In May 2018, both nations agreed to launch action-oriented programmes, work for which had begun with the informal Wuhan summit between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi in April. Both leaders stressed on joint initiatives like this to start the dialogue and better understand each other’s historical and cultural practices.
Political and ecological ramifications
Following this, TERRE and Operation Earth coordinated with youth members from each country, and carved out the strategy for the exercise, based on five seminal reports by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
According to a press release by TERRE, ecosystem degradation is miserably trapped between political apathy and societal ignorance, accelerated by climate change. Adopting a Youth to Youth (Y2Y) approach is expected to serve as a bridge between the climatic and political agenda to preserve the ecosystem and foster peaceful relations between both nations. Three Indian students from IIT-Jharkhand, NIT-West Bengal and MIT-Maharashtra were chosen after by TERRE through national competition.
Who will participate in the expedition?
These youth volunteers will work with pandas in captivity, out of the world’s largest panda base in Wolong in Sichuan province of China. They will monitor ‘trainee pandas’ under the guidance of conservationists and scientists. Besides recording their behaviour to assist with their wildness training, the team will also evaluate if they are ready to survive in the wild, and survey and monitor the wild panda populations in the Wolong Reserve.
Rajendra Shende, Chairman of TERRE and former Director in UNEP, said in a press release, “Such a joint field research expedition would be of critical help to both countries by ‘learning by doing’ and by sharing the lessons.”
“The Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have rightly identified the partnership as the strategic tool and crucial means to attain the targets,” said Chen Liangzhong, Founder and CEO of Operation Earth and Former Consultant of World Bank.
Interestingly, the Giant Panda is the national animal of China, with a population of just about 2500. In due course, the programme will also introduce a similar expedition to save the Royal Bengal Tiger, India’s national animal which has been on the “vulnerable” list for some time.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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