The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021was recently passed in the Lok Sabha. Bill was conscripted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in response to concerns raised by traditional Indian medicine practitioners. Read here to learn more.
The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill was drafted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The bill was drafted in response to concerns raised by traditional Indian medicine practitioners that Biological Diversity Act imposed a heavy compliance burden.
It amends the Biological Diversity Act, of 2002 for simplifying compliance requirements for domestic companies.
Biological Diversity Act, 2002
The Biodiversity Act of 2002, officially known as the Biological Diversity Act, of 2002, is an important environmental legislation enacted by the Government of India to conserve and protect the country’s rich biodiversity.
It aims to regulate access to biological resources, protect traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity, and ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising from using such resources and knowledge.
The primary objectives of the Act are to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainable use of biological resources, regulate access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization.
Other key features of the Act are:
- Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs): The Act mandates the establishment of Biodiversity Management Committees at the local level, such as in villages and urban areas. BMCs are responsible for promoting conservation, sustainable use, and documentation of biodiversity within their jurisdiction.
- Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS): The Act provides for the identification and notification of Biodiversity Heritage Sites, which are areas of significant biodiversity value, including sacred groves, community conserved areas, and other important ecosystems.
- Access and Benefit Sharing: The Act introduces a framework for regulating access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge. Prior approval is required for accessing genetic resources for research or commercial purposes. Benefit-sharing mechanisms ensure that local communities and indigenous people receive fair and equitable benefits from the commercial use of resources and knowledge associated with biodiversity.
- National Biodiversity Authority (NBA): The Act establishes the National Biodiversity Authority, which is responsible for implementing the Act at the national level. It oversees issues related to access and benefit sharing, conservation, and sustainable use of biodiversity.
- State Biodiversity Boards: Each state in India has a State Biodiversity Board, responsible for implementing the Act within its respective state or union territory.
- Biodiversity Fund: The Act provides for the establishment of a Biodiversity Fund at both the national and state levels to support conservation and sustainable use initiatives and promote benefit-sharing mechanisms.
- Protection of Indigenous Knowledge: The Act recognizes the rights of local communities and indigenous people over their traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity and prohibits the unauthorized use of such knowledge.
- Penalties and Offenses: The Act includes provisions for fines and punishments for offenses related to the unauthorized collection, export, and use of biological resources and traditional knowledge without prior approval.
The Biological Diversity Act, of 2002, plays a crucial role in the conservation and sustainable use of India’s biodiversity and in safeguarding the rights of local communities and indigenous people.
It aligns with the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and contributes to India’s commitment to global biodiversity conservation efforts.
Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
The Bill amends the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to simplify compliance requirements for domestic companies.
- Users of codified traditional knowledge and AYUSH practitioners will be exempted from sharing benefits with local communities.
- The Bill removes research and bio-survey activities from the purview of benefit-sharing requirements.
- Benefit sharing will be based on terms agreed between the user and the local management committee represented by the National Authority.
- The Bill decriminalizes all offenses under the Act.
The key changes through the amendment are:
- Access to biological resources: The Bill modifies the classification of entities and activities requiring intimation while introducing exemptions to certain cases.
- IPR: The Bill suggests that approval will be required before the actual grant of the IPR, not during the application process.
- Exemption to AYUSH practitioners: It seeks to exempt registered AYUSH medical practitioners and people accessing codified traditional knowledge, among others, from giving prior intimation to State biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources for certain purposes.
- Benefit sharing: The Bill removes the applicability of benefit-sharing requirements from research, bio-survey, and bio-utilization.
- Penalties: The Bill decriminalizes the offenses in the Act and introduces fines ranging from one lakh to fifty lakh rupees instead.
- The bill aims to reduce pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.
- It is trying to encourage the Indian system of traditional medicine.
- The bill seeks to facilitate the fast-tracking of research, the patent application process, etc., without compromising the objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol.
- It decriminalizes offenses and encourages foreign investment in the sector.
- The Bill also amends the Act to include references to the Nagoya Protocol.
Concerns about Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021
- The Bill has not defined the term ‘codified traditional knowledge’. The Convention on Biological Diversity and Nagoya and Cartagena protocols under it also do not define this term. A broad interpretation of this term might exempt almost all traditional knowledge from benefit-sharing requirements.
- The Bill removes the direct role of local bodies and benefits claimers in determining mutually agreed terms.
- There is no provision for a mechanism for obtaining prior informed consent from the local and indigenous communities. This may be in contrast with the framework under Nagoya Protocol.
- There is a lack of substantive legislative process for declaring the penalty and the Bill has not made any differentiation based on the type of offense.
- The Bill changes the adjudicating authority from a Judge to a government official. The penalty decisions will be based on an inquiry instead of a judgment after arguments in an open court.
The modifications, according to critics, appear to prioritize industrial interests over biodiversity protection, which is contrary to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s goals.
The CBD places a strong emphasis on providing communities that have preserved biodiversity for centuries with benefits from its utilization.
The framework for benefit-sharing and community participation may be weakened by the modifications.
Previous year question
Q. Consider the following statements: (2023)
- In India, the Biodiversity Management Committees are key to the realization of the objectives of the Nagoya Protocol.
- The Biodiversity Management Committees have important functions in determining access and benefit sharing, including the power to levy collection fees on the access of biological resources within its jurisdiction.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
- Biodiversity and Environment: Conservation
- Biodiversity Protection: Steps Taken By Indian Government
- Biodiversity Hotspots in India
- Biodiversity of India
-Article by Swathi Satish