An integrated policy framework and plan of action to prevent and control plant invasions in India.
Biological invasions are a major global challenge for the conservation of biodiversity, maintenance of ecosystem health and sustainable livelihoods. As the number of novel introductions of invasive species is predicted to increase due to rising trade volumes in the emerging economies, regulatory policies to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species are of paramount importance. However, poor response capacities, lack of coordination between stakeholders, heavy dependence on biological resources and little public awareness are some of the formidable barriers in framing and implementing such policies in developing countries. This study was conceptualized to establish common ground by considering the diverse interests of different actors and design a policy framework to control invasive alien plant species (IAPS) in the lower-middle income economies considering India as a case study. To achieve this objective, we evaluated the introduction pathways and current economic uses of IAPS in India and critically reviewed the infrastructure and current response capacity of the country for regulating pre- and post-border trading of these problematic species. We found that the majority of IAPS were introduced for ornamental purposes and some of them are still actively traded and used for several economic purposes. Despite having a rich legacy of environmental policies, a legal framework exclusively to deal with invasive species is non-existent in India. Here, we propose a set of policy interventions, for international and domestic trading, by integrating trade regulations based on a risk assessment framework with interests of both consumers and traders to ensure effective compliance from all stakeholders. Further, we identify potential hurdles for policy implementation in India and therefore, based on the existing biosecurity infrastructure, we outline an operable and dynamic decentralized system having a standard operating procedure to ensure coordination between different stakeholders, increase public awareness and guide further research direction.