Friday, March 30, 2012

India's industry leaders meet World Bank Group President Zoellick on tiger, biodiversity conservation

NEW DELHI, March 30, 2012 – The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) hosted a strategy session with World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick today at which industry leaders said they hoped to join efforts by the Government and civil society to protect natural habitats for wild tigers and conserve India’s threatened biodiversity.

“The Government of India’s experience and commitment to saving the tiger is already evident, so it is encouraging to see the country’s industry leaders willing to join forces to create an even stronger coalition to conserve the nation’s natural heritage,” Zoellick said. “Environmental sustainability is rapidly emerging as a key challenge for India and action to bring industry and others together helps illustrate that development need not be at the expense of conservation.”

The CEOs joined senior representatives of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, the World Bank and its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, IFC, the Global Tiger Initiative, and WWF India.

Mr Jamshyd Godrej, Past President , CII, said that "the current issues related to tiger conservation and protection of biodiversity actually stem from more fundamental issues related to ecological and environmental sustainability with many complex and cross cutting factors playing on each other At CII, we believe that business and industry should try and consciously follow a triple bottom-line approach i.e. the 3Ps of “people”, “profit” and “planet”. CII is actively engaged in promoting this concept amongst business and industry which is critical to our own survival, success of our businesses and long term economic growth." With regard to tiger conservation, Mr Godrej said that, "it was important to ensure not just the stability of the tiger population but to work out an institutional mechanism to increase it and this could then be a concrete goal that all stakeholders could work towards.”

According to Dr. Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, India, who was also present at the Roundtable: “This dialogue would help flagging the concerns relating to tiger for “factoring” them in industrial practices where tiger conservation is not the goal.”

The need for more sophisticated planning of infrastructure and natural resource development was raised during the talks. Keshav Varma, Program Director for the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, said: “India has experienced an accelerated loss of tiger habitat since the 1990 and as a result tigers are left in small and fragmented patches of wilderness across the country and on remote international borders. If the last patches of tiger and biodiversity-rich forest and wilderness are to be protected, we must enlist the support of industry to help keep critical habitats inviolate, adopt principles of smart green infrastructure, and use advanced spatial and zoning planning tools in tiger conservation landscapes to minimize development impacts to tiger conservation landscapes and critical wildlife corridors.”

Thomas Davenport, IFC’s Director for South Asia, said: “Private sector, the Confederation of Indian Industry, the World Bank and IFC can play a key role in identifying specific areas of collaboration, evolving a coordinated conservation agenda and helping implement it to raise awareness and protect and save the tiger.”

Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India, highlighted the negative impacts of industry on tiger habitats in India and across the tiger's range. He stressed the importance of business and industry recognizing these impacts and working with other partners to find innovative solutions to harmonize economic development and tiger conservation. “Given the imperative to conserve our remaining natural resources, businesses need to be sensitive to conservation values and take responsibility for sustainable development, natural heritage and tiger conservation seriously,” he said. "We see businesses coming together around this critical issue as a positive step.”

Among the 13 tiger range countries, India is home to by far the most tigers still living in the wild. Of the estimated 3,200 wild tigers remaining worldwide, about half are estimated to live here, according to the most recent census by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. While the population trend is encouraging, the actual land area of tiger habitat is decreasing and tiger corridors are under increasing threat.

Zoellick has taken personal interest in tiger conservation during his tenure at the World Bank Group. He launched the Global Tiger Initiative in 2008, which has convened high-level international stakeholders to spearhead policy reform in support of on-the-ground conservation efforts across tiger range countries, with the aim of doubling the overall population of wild tigers by 2022. The roundtable on tiger conservation with Indian industry and the private sector followed a similar meeting the World Bank Group President in February with regional business leaders in Singapore.

Today’s Roundtable generated strong enthusiasm among industry leaders, with agreement on: the need for coordinated strategies in planning infrastructure and natural resource development in and around environmentally-sensitive habitat, willingness to advance campaigns to raise awareness, especially among youth and young professionals, about conserving biodiversity and protecting the tiger, the desire to convene a business council that could flag areas of cooperation on wildlife and tiger conservation, as well as advise on industry’s role in raising awareness and in other initiatives.

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