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India's purple frog grabs attention ahead of Rio summit

June 18, 2012 12:36 IST

The rare purple frog is one of the iconic species that highlights the most crucial issue being discussed at Rio+20, reports Darryl D'Monte.

A rare purple frog, discovered in 2003 and found only in the western ghats, is one of the most endangered species in the world. It has been focused upon in the run-up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, two decades after the historic event in the same city. The summit is from June 20-22.

Prof Jonathan Baillie, scientific advisor to GLOBE -- the World Summit of Legislators -- told rediff.com that it lies under the earth till the monsoons and is particularly susceptible to climate change, if the rains are delayed.

"It's a big, amazing species, and EDGE, as the Evolutionally Distinct and Globally Endangered initiative is known, is raising awareness of such species globally," he said. Its closest relative is found in Seychelles.

It was discovered by S D Biju and F Bossyut nine years ago. "Its discovery also adds to the evidence that Madagascar and the Seychelles separated from the Indian landmass sometime well after the breakup of Gondwana had started," says EDGE.

The Indian purple frog is one of the iconic species that highlights the most crucial issue being discussed at Rio+20. GLOBE is one of the many northern NGOs which is focusing on valuing natural capital and biodiversity. Prof Baillie told journalists: "If we can't measure it, we can't manage it. In 1992 (at the first Rio Summit), we looked at the stock of natural resources; now we are looking at the very survival of some."

Another Indian species that is in grave danger is the Ganges river dolphin, he told rediff.com. This is closely related to the Irrawaddy river dolphin in Myanmar. But experts are concerned about such species which do not have too many relatives; the Chinese river dolphin has already become extinct.

Prof Baillie, in response to a question, clarified that if a country wanted to build a dam, in spite of damaging its stock or flow of natural  resources, green accounting principles would not interfere with that country's sovereignty in making such a decision, despite evidence to the contrary.

For the first time, applying principles of natural resource accounting, an economic value was being applied to the loss of natural species, which were previously only assessed from a biodiversity viewpoint.

GLOBE has three objectives.  The first is to recognise the role of legislators in monitoring and scrutinising the functioning of government. Rio+20 will establish an international mechanism to oversee implementation of government commitments at the summit.

Legislators will also play a role in developing and passing laws, highlighting best practices.  And finally, GLOBE recognises the role of parliaments in approving budgets and national accounts. The summit will examine how the value of natural capital can be integrated with national economic frameworks to enable law-makers to implement Rio+20 outcomes.

Among the small Indian parliamentary delegation that attended the GLOBE meet were Rudy Pratap Singh and Prakash Javadekar, both BJP party spokespersons, and Rajya Sabha member Bhubaneswar Kalita.

Photograph: S D Biju

Darryl D''Monte in Rio de Janeiro