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Biodiversity Act 2002 explained – Why implementation of People’s Biodiversity Registers is crucial?

Biodiversity Act 2002 explained – Why implementation of People’s Biodiversity Registers is crucial?

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  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Conservation Efforts

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Implementation of People’s Biodiversity Registers

Biodiversity Act 2002:

India’s endeavor to realize the objectives stated in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992, which acknowledges nations’ sovereign rights to exploit their own biological resources, resulted in the Biological Diversity Act 2002. The Act intends to protect biological resources and associated knowledge while also making them more accessible in a sustainable and equitable way. It established the National Biodiversity Authority in Chennai for the purpose of carrying out the Act’s objectives.

Relevant definitions under the Act:

  • Biodiversity: It is defined as “the variety among living creatures from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are a part, and encompasses diversity within species or between species and of ecosystems,” according to Section 2(b) of the Act.
  • Biological resources: “Plants, animals, and microorganisms or portions thereof, their genetic material, and by-products (excluding value added products) having current or prospective use or value, but does not include human genetic material,” according to the definition of biological resources.

Salient feature of the Act:

  • To control access to the country’s biological resources while ensuring a fair share of the benefits derived from their usage.
  • To conserve and utilize biological variety in a sustainable manner.
  • Establishment of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBB), and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs).
  • Establishing a national, state, and local biodiversity fund and putting it to good use for biodiversity protection.
  • To respect and conserve local community knowledge as well as traditional biodiversity knowledge.
  • Declare places of importance from the perspective of biological variety as biological diversity heritage sites in order to protect and enhance them.
  • The act envisioned a three-tiered system for regulating biological resource access:
    • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
    • The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
    • The Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) (at local level)
  • The Act establishes special funding and a separate budget for these agencies to carry out any research project involving the country’s biological natural resources.
    • It will oversee any use of biological resources and ensure that they are used sustainably, as well as keep track of financial investments and returns, and dispose of those funds correctly.
  • The Central Government, in conjunction with the NBA, is required to: Notify threatened species and ban or restrict their collection, restoration, and conservation under this legislation.
    • Establish institutes as biological resource repositories for various types of biological resources.
  • All offenses under the legislation are defined as cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Any complaints about the National Biodiversity Authority’s or a State Biodiversity Board’s decision of benefit sharing or orders made under this Act must be filed with the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Objectives of the Act:

  • Fair distribution of benefits: In principle, the Act strives to conserve biological diversity, maintain and manage correct use of its components, and ensure fair distribution of benefits arising from such usage.
  • Safeguarding traditional knowledge: The Act’s stated goals include safeguarding traditional knowledge, preventing biopiracy, prohibiting anyone from claiming patents without the government’s authorization, and more.
  • Conserve Biological diversity: The facets of the objective of aiming to conserve Biological diversity with sections 36, 37, and 38 deal with developing national plans and programs for biodiversity conservation, powers granted to state governments to notify and preserve biodiversity areas, and the Central Government’s authority to notify species that are dangerously endangered, on the verge of extinction, threatened species, prohibiting their collection, and so on.
  • Natural resource utilization: While the usage of its component in a sustainable manner would suggest a regularization of natural resource utilization rather than exhaustion.
  • Equal distribution of advantages: The provision of benefit sharing is governed by Section 21 of the Act. Its goal is to provide an equal distribution of advantages derived from accessible biological resources, by-products, knowledge, and practice connected to them, as determined by the terms and conditions agreed upon by the individual seeking such benefits and the local entities concerned.

Important Provisions:

  • Provisions for Environmental Protection: Section 36 discusses the role of the federal government in creating national conservation policies and programs. The central government is responsible for things like:
    • Formulating national strategies: It is duty-bound for formulating national strategies, plans and programmes to conserve and uphold the sustainable use of biological diversity.
    • Central government’s responsibility: If any area rich in biological diversity or such resources seems to be facing threats then it is the central government’s responsibility of notifying the respective state government and asking them to take appropriate steps to prevent it.
    • Composing sectoral and cross-sectoral plans and policies, which are practicable in the notified environment on the foundation of integration of conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity.
    • Measures to assess the harmful effects: The central government must take measures to assess the harmful effects of upcoming projects on biodiversity and either prevent or come up with techniques to mitigate such effects.
    • Protect traditional knowledge holders: The central government must aspire to protect traditional knowledge holders and their knowledge through methods such as registration of such knowledge at the local, state, or national levels, and so on.

Functions:

  • Consent and authorization: Prohibiting anybody from claiming a patent on biodiversity or related information, study, or research without the Indian government’s prior consent and authorization.
  • Biodiversity protection: The State Biodiversity Board advises the State Government on topics pertaining to biodiversity protection, sustainable use of its components, and benefit-sharing, in accordance with any recommendations issued by the Central Government.
  • Impose duties: The State Biodiversity Board carries out the duties imposed by the Act or the State government.
  • Biological resource conservation, including habitat and species protection (EIP) of projects, biodiversity integration, and the formulation of plans and policies by various Departments and Sectors.
  • Sections 3, 4, and 6 of the Act require the National Biodiversity Authority to regulate activities.
  • Prevent the granting of intellectual property rights: On behalf of the Central Government, the National Biodiversity Authority could take steps to prevent the granting of intellectual property rights in any country outside India in relation to any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge about such a biological resource derived from India.

Offences and penalties:

  • If a non-Indian, an Indian, or a corporate entity with foreign participation begins biodiversity-related operations without the National Biodiversity Authority’s prior consent, this is in violation of Section 3.
  • Any individual, whether a citizen or not, distributes the findings of any research linked to biological resources for monetary advantage to a non-Indian, in violation of Section 4.
  • Any person applying for an Intellectual Property Right of an innovation based on any research on a biological resource received from India without first receiving clearance from the National Biodiversity Authority, in violation of Section 6.

 Divya Pharmacy versus Union of India:

  • In a landmark judgment delivered in December 2018 in the Divya Pharmacy versus Union of India case, the Uttarakhand High Court held that all Indian companies which are extracting biological resources are liable to seek prior approval as well as share part of their revenue with the local communities that are responsible for conserving and protecting such resources.
  • The final judgment was an outcome of a litigation spanning multiple hearings over two years in which Divya Pharmacy vehemently opposed either seeking prior approval from the State Biodiversity Board or sharing a part of its revenue with the local communities as ‘fees’ under what is termed as ‘fair and equitable sharing of benefit’.

Steps that can be taken for future:

  • Proper execution of Acts: As can be observed, most statutory legislation and Acts are not adequately executed once they are enacted. Half of the time, the primary goal of such legislation is forgotten, and little progress is made.
  • Boards and committees are established to protect biodiversity:Even if specific boards and committees are established to protect biodiversity, if each ministry works together, monitors activities, and raises awareness of environmental harms caused by their actions, such a barrier can be easily overcome because everyone is held accountable for their actions and feels more responsible for the ecosystem’s protection.
  • The creation of a special committee would aid in the unification of various local groups and institutions, allowing them to collaborate in the period allotted.
  • Status and protection on biodiversity-rich regions: It is critical for the government to keep track of exceptional locations by conferring special status and protection on biodiversity-rich regions by designating them as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and other designations.

Conclusion:

The Biodiversity Act, which restricts the access of genetic material from India to the rest of the world, is certain to have an impact on open scientific interchange of vital research. Even after several years of existence, the NBA, whose major goal is fair benefit sharing, is not known to have provided any benefit to biodiversity stakeholders in the country or helped to biodiversity conservation. It is past time for us to recognize that the financial gains obtained from sharing biodiversity and the accompanying traditional knowledge are small and unimportant when compared to critical problems like food security and subsistence.

Mains oriented question:

Why proper implementation of Biodiversity Act 2002 is important? What are its provision and features? Write in details. (200 words)