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A Proposed Network for India’s Botanic Gardens

Volume 3 - June 2003
M. Richardson

From 2-5 June 2003, a National Conference was held at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, India to discuss botanic gardens in India as a part of the newly launched Investing in Nature – India programme. Investing in Nature – India is an HSBC funded collaboration between Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), the NBRI, formed to assist in the work being done by botanic gardens in India. The meeting was attended by delegates from a range of botanic gardens around the country representing government, university and NGO gardens.

The principle aims of the Conference were to:

• discuss the status of botanic gardens in India;
• finalize a framework for a network of botanic gardens of India;
• discuss the need for and elements of a National Action Plan for the botanic gardens of India which would incorporate their contributions to the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation;

• review the status in India of various botanic garden programmes such as, biodiversity conservation, databasing, networking and websites, eco-education, empowering women in conservation and associated community activities.

An important outcome of the National Conference was the “Lucknow Statement on Botanic Gardens in India” (see Box).

As an important part of the Investing in Nature – India (IiN-India) programme, the development of a network of Indian botanic gardens was discussed and a proposal is being prepared for distribution to all known botanic gardens and related organisations in India. It was agreed that the network must effectively represent the breadth of India’s gardens, both geographically and administratively, and that a greater collaboration and sharing of resources among the botanic gardens in India must be encouraged.

The primary outcomes expected from the creation of the Network would be an:

• increased awareness within the Indian botanic garden community of their colleagues;
• improved standard throughout the botanic gardens of India;
• increased level of conservation for India’s flora; and
• improved standing for India’s botanic gardens in the international community.

It is proposed that the work of the Network would encompass all aspects of the activities of botanic gardens but give special attention and concern to the conservation of indigenous plant diversity. Throughout India it would seek to enhance the effectiveness of botanic garden education, as well as other areas including, inter alia, research, sustainable development, sustainability, communication, capacity building and the identification, documentation and dissemination of knowledge (including traditional knowledge) about biodiversity in India.

The development of the Network will be supported by the preparation of an Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in India, another aspect of the IiN-India programme, to assist in highlighting priority tasks for individual institutions and for the Network itself. This Action Plan will include measurable targets to provide a focus for the work and achievements of botanic gardens over the coming years. The Network will be assisted by another aspect of IiN-India, which is the establishment of a national programme on the conservation of indigenous plants. Such a programme will use all appropriate methodologies including the integration of in situ and ex situ techniques and the recovery of threatened plants.

While BGCI is working with NBRI as a part of the Investing in Nature – India programme, the Network’s national office will be based at the NBRI in Lucknow. This office will be responsible for management of the Network, the maintenance of the databases, the editing of the website and the production of the Newsletter. The first Newsletter was published in January, 2003. Regional offices of the Network were proposed to assist in disseminating information to regional gardens and will provide regional focal points for meetings. As there will be a need for all members to meet regularly and drive the medium to long-term direction and strategy of the Network, national conferences were proposed to be held in different regions every two years.

Further information regarding the Investing in Nature – India programme can be seen on the web at www.ibgn.org or contact Dr. Sundershan Kumar, Scientist & Group Leader, Head of Bioinformatics, National Botanical Research Institute, Rana Pratap Marg, Lucknow 226001, U.P., India. Tel: +91 2205831 35 Ext 208/209, +91 2205673/2204026, E-mail: s.kumar@nbri.res.in, sudershank@hotmail.com

The Lucknow Statement on Botanic Gardens of India

An important outcome of the National Conference was the “Lucknow Statement on Botanic Gardens in India”. The statement provides a brief manifesto for the development of a botanic garden network and to establish its priority activities in support of plant conservation, environmental education and sustainable development.

Recognising the current and unacceptable environmental crisis worldwide that is threatening such a high proportion of the world’s biodiversity;

Emphasizing the floristic richness of India, with more than 18,000 native vascular plant species recognized of which as much as 10% are regarded as threatened.

Concerned about the potential loss of thousands of plant species in India and throughout the world over the coming century;

Stressing the fundamental importance of plants as the basis for all life on Earth and as an essential resource for human wellbeing.

Noting the important and diverse roles of botanic gardens in India in conservation, environmental education, the sustainable use of plant diversity and recreation;

Acknowledging the recent establishment of a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the importance of the targets for 2010 that it has adopted;

Noting that the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation has been recognised as providing a global framework for botanic garden contributions to the achievement of the Strategy;

Cognisant of the relevant clauses and rules pertaining to conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit-sharing of India’s Biological Diversity Act 2002 (5th February, 2003) and also of the important roles that botanic gardens play under the proposed National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The participants:

Pointed out that botanic gardens in India need to be recognised, supported and enhanced at all levels and regions of India to ensure that they achieve their potential as essential guardians of the biodiversity and environmental heritage of India.

Welcomed the establishment of a National Network of Botanic Gardens in India called the “Indian Botanic Gardens Network (IBGN)”.

Noted that the National Network must be broadly based to include a wide range of governmental, university, municipal, community/village, NGO, private and other relevant institutions and organisations.

Agreed that the work of the National Network should encompass all aspects of the activities of botanic gardens but giving special attention and concern to conservation of indigenous plant diversity, as well as other areas including, inter alia, environmental education, research, identification, documentation and dissemination of knowledge (including traditional knowledge) about biodiversity in India.

Agreed to support the development of an Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in India, to guide and support the work of a newly established network and to assist in highlighting priority tasks for individual institutions and for the network itself.

Acknowledged that this Action Plan should include measurable targets to provide a focus for the work and achievements of botanic gardens over the coming years.

Proposed that the National Network should play roles in promoting and representing the interests of botanic gardens in India to the broader environmental community.

Proposed that the National Network will develop the means to ensure that data and information in support of the implementation of the Action Plan should be widely accessible in electronic and other published forms (website, database, newsletters, technical manuals and other publications) while at the same time safeguarding the intellectual property rights of data providers.

Highlighted the important role that botanic gardens play in the conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants, which are such an important resource for primary healthcare as well as being a vital part of India’s cultural heritage.

Supported the establishment of a national programme on the conservation of indigenous plants using all appropriate methodologies including the integration of in situ and ex situ techniques and the recovery of threatened plants.

Reaffirmed the commitment of botanic gardens in India to supporting sustainable livelihoods in their local regions by implementing appropriate community-based programmes.

Noted the importance of botanic gardens in the provision of high quality environmental education programmes that contribute to formal (curriculum based) education and informal learning both within botanic gardens and their outreach activities, and agreed that the National Network should seek to enhance the effectiveness of botanic garden education throughout India.

Agreed that the participants of the 1st National Conference of Botanic Gardens will form an interim Council to steer the development of the Network until a further Council is formally elected at the next National Conference. Such a Council would include representatives from each region of India as well as from important relevant stakeholders.

Suggested that there is a need for wider stakeholder consultations of the structure and activities of the new National Network and agreed to prepare a comprehensive proposal to inform such consultations.

Congratulated the conference hosts, NBRI, on their organisation and fine hospitality for the 1st National Conference.

Thanked HSBC for its support for the Investing in Nature programme and welcomed the initiative of NBRI and BGCI in supporting Indian botanic garden activities.

Committed themselves to work to develop, elaborate and support this important new programme by botanic gardens in India.

5th June, 2003, Lucknow, India



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