The low-lying island of Maldives has pledged to be the first nation where the entire country will be a biosphere reserve by 2017.
It has set a goal that ensures that more than half of the country’s atolls are implementing the new approach by the end 2017, in order to trigger the application for Maldives as a Biosphere Reserve to be submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The country comprises 1,190 islands in 20 atolls spread over 900 kilometers in the Indian Ocean.
“The whole country of Maldives will be a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve by 2017 – where public support for conservation of the country’s remarkable environment secures a vibrant green economy and a good quality of life for all Maldivians,” said Dr Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Environment and Energy, Republic of Maldives.
Maldives’s pledge is in support of the urgent call to action to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, made at the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) in Hyderabad, India, and builds on the announcement made at the Rio+20 Conference.
Aichi targets are strategic goals that aims to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss; promote sustainable use of biodiversity; safeguarding ecosystems; enhancing benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services; and enhancing implementation of these goals through planning, knowledge management and capacity building.
The implementation plan, called ‘Maldives as a Biosphere Reserve: An Implementation Plan 2013-2017’, sets a roadmap for up to 2017, after which the plan will be updated based on progress and lessons learned.
The plan will be implemented by and for different atolls in a stepwise fashion, based on their readiness to adopt the “Biosphere Approach”. The plan was endorsed by the cabinet of Ministers last month.
“This pledge from the Maldives is extraordinary in size and potential impact. We should expect that it will be an inspiration to other CBD Parties, including Small Island Developing States and donor countries, to work harder toward the achievement of all of the Aichi Targets,” said Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias.
“Global progress in the development of marine protected areas and in the sustainable management of fish stocks is lagging considerably,” he added.
Dias added that the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its 20 Aichi Targets are to be fully implemented should ambitious pledges to safeguard biodiversity are met.
The President of the Maldives said the country will focus on the protection of the marine environment which was inspired by the success achieved in designating Baa Atoll, the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the country.
The Hyderabad Call for Biodiversity Champions was launched in order to include support for strategic plan for biodiversity. It invites Parties and partner organizations to make pledges to support one or more Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The pledge can cover a particular region or subregion, include financial, technical, or other forms of support; and be time-bound. Information on how to make a pledge can be found at: www.cbd.int/champions/
So far, India and the Maldives, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, have pledged their support to the Hyderabad Call for Biodiversity Champions.