Biodiversity legislation in India: Relevance
- GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Biodiversity legislation in India: Context
- Government has recently introduced the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha to facilitate fast-tracking of research, patent application process and transfer of research results.
Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021: Key points
- The Bill, once passed by the Parliament, would amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- The said Act seeks to fulfil India’s obligations under the Convention of Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol.
- The Bill seeks to reduce the pressure on wild medicinal plants by encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.
- The Bill proposes to exempt AYUSH practitioners from intimating biodiversity boards for accessing biological resources or knowledge.
- The Bill also facilitates fast-tracking of research, simplify the patent application process, decriminalises certain offences.
- The Bill brings more foreign investments in biological resources, research, patent and commercial utilisation, without compromising the national interest.
- The bill focuses on regulating who can access biological resources and knowledge and how access will be monitored.
- The Bill has also clarified and strengthened the role of state biodiversity boards.
- Decriminalising of offences: Violations of the law related to access to biological resources and benefit-sharing with communities, which are currently treated as criminal offences and are non-bailable, have been proposed to be made civil offences.
Why is the Biodiversity Act 2002 being amended?
- People from AYUSH medicine urged the government to simplify, streamline and reduce the compliance burden to provide for a conducive environment for collaborative research and investments.
- They also sought to simplify the patent application process, widen the scope of access and benefit-sharing with local communities.
- Ayush companies have been seeking relaxation of the benefit-sharing provisions.
- Case study: Divya Pharmacy founded by Swami Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna in Uttarakhand. The Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) sent a notice to Divya Pharmacy in 2016 stating that the company was in violation of the Biodiversity Act for using biological resources from the state for its ayurvedic formulations, without intimating the board and that it was liable to pay an access and benefit-sharing fee.
- The company filed a writ petition in the Uttarakhand high court challenging the powers of the biodiversity board to determine benefit-sharing by Indian companies.
- The court in 2018 upheld the powers of the biodiversity board in its judgement.
- Under the Biodiversity Act 2002, national and state biodiversity boards are required to consult the biodiversity management committees while taking any decision relating to the use of biological resources.
Biodiversity Amendment Bill 2021: Concerns with the Bill
- The main focus of the bill is to facilitate trade in biodiversity as opposed to conservation, protection of biodiversity and knowledge of the local communities.
- The amendments to the Bill seem to be completely contrary to the aim and objective of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.