Reporter’s dairy on UN’s Hyderabad biodiversity summit

Leave aside rest of the world, the fortnight long conference of around 184 countries failed to even enthuse locals even in the cyber city of Hyderabad, where it was held.

The only people interested in the conference were the ones whose employment was directly linked with the conference — auto and taxi drivers, policemen, catering staff and volunteers from colleges. Except them, there was not much appreciation of the conference being held in the city.

Being in Hyderabad’s International Convention Center for a week, I felt that the state government and the environment ministry failed to create much hype about the global conference, held once in two years. “The government failed to sell Indian and global biodiversity to Hyderabadis,” said a local.

In addition, the huge security restrictions prevented the locals from accessing ecological diversity at display in and around the conference venues. Just a few school children could be seen visiting some of the stalls on biodiversity at HITEX center.

Although environment ministry claimed that over 1,400 delegates came, the officials at the secretariat of Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) said the number included local staff registered to organize the conference. Around 3,000 policemen and 2,000 volunteers, technical staff, government employees were registered as participants.

Many local journalists were denied entry passes into the main conference hall where the negotiations were being held leading to a silent protest on the day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived to inaugurate the high level segment of the conference.

A bizarre rule — that only one reporter and one photographer from a news organization will be allowed inside the main conference hall -– robbed an opportunity for many young journalists to witness how global environment negotiations are held. Even after witnessing so less attendance of news organizations, the conference organizers India did not change the rule.

Had it been any European or any other country, more journalists would have been allowed to improve accessibility. The climate change conference of parties allows as many journalists from a news organization to register and take a badge to attend the conference. There journalists from Hindustan Times participated at the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen.

The CBD officials said the rule was brainchild of Indian government officials who felt that the main conference hall will get flooded with journalists and will disrupt the proceedings. They didn’t ponder over poor attendance of media and no coverage outside Hyderabad to change the silly rule.

The situation went out of hand as the private public relation agency hired by the Indian government failed to improve accessibility even for journalists have the badges. In fact, they were seeking information from journalists about the negotiations.

There were positives from the conference. A daily newspaper about the conference — Parakriti Mitra – brought out by a group of 70 college students. Also, the volunteers for the conference showed up-most dedication to do their duty. Police personnel for a change were very polite and ensured seamless security arrangements.

As it happens in most Indian cities during such conferences, the autowallahs, taxi drivers and eateries hiked their rates several times to earn some extra bucks from foreigners. They did from the few who came to Hyderabad to attend the conference.

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