The Indian Parliament passed the Biological Diversity Act 2002 to safeguard biodiversity and make it easier for local communities to manage biological resources sustainably. India is a party to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Act was enacted to comply with its provisions.

What is Biodiversity?

"Biodiversity" refers to the variety of all forms of life, including that which exists within and between species and the ecological systems of which they are a part. On the other hand, the word "biological resources" refers to any plants, animals, microbes, or parts of them, as well as their genetic material and byproducts, excluding human genetic material.

Evolution of Biodiversity Act

  • The enactment of this Act in 2002 was necessary even though India already has a number of environmental laws in place.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity, which laid the groundwork for sustainable development and preserving its biodiversity with a strong focus on natural resources, was signed by India in Rio de Janeiro.
  • The Biological Diversity Act of 2002 was enacted ten years later.
  • India's closed economy was changed into an open economy after 1990. As there was no strict regulation preventing resource overexploitation and piracy after that, biopiracy continued unchecked. As a result, a civil society organization was created and responsible for creating a national biodiversity strategy and plan. 
  • This was rejected, and the government developed the Biodiversity Bill 2000, which became the basis for the Act approved by the Lok Sabha on December 2, 2002, and the Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2002. The final day for it to get presidential approval was February 5, 2003. 

What is the Biological Diversity Act 2002?

  •  India's efforts to achieve the objectives of the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which recognizes states' sovereign rights to manage their biological resources, gave rise to the Biological Diversity Act of 2002.
  • The 2002 law aims to safeguard biological resources, manage their sustainable use, and facilitate a just and equitable transfer of benefits from their use and knowledge among the local inhabitants.
  • The overall goals of the Act include preserving and regulating the appropriate use of the components of biological variety and ensuring equitable distribution of the benefits resulting from such use.
  • Other objectives include safeguarding traditional knowledge, combating biopiracy, prohibiting anyone from applying for patents without the government's permission, and more.

Objectives of the Biological Diversity Act

  • By maintaining and regulating the appropriate use of its components and guaranteeing fair distribution of the benefits gained from such usage, the Act aims to conserve biological variety.
  • The Act's objectives include safeguarding traditional knowledge, fighting biopiracy, forbidding individuals from obtaining patents without official authorization, and more.
  • The development of national plans and programmes for biodiversity conservation, the grant of authority to state governments to notify and protect biodiversity areas, and the central government's power to notify species that are gravely endangered, on the verge of extinction, threatened, and prohibited species are some of the aspects of the goal of aiming to conserve biological diversity.
  • Regularizing the use of natural resources rather than depleting them 
  • The benefit-sharing clause aims to achieve equitable benefit-sharing from accessing biological resources, byproducts, knowledge, and related practice under the terms and conditions agreed upon by the individual applying for such benefits and the local entities concerned.

The salient features of the Biological Diversity Act are as follows.

  • Access to the nation's biological resources is subject to restrictions.
  • To maintain and preserve biological diversity.
  • To safeguard local populations' understanding of biodiversity.
  • To secure benefit-sharing with locals who serve as biological resource protectors and sources of knowledge and information about their use.
  • To safeguard and rehabilitate endangered species.
  • Creation of specialized committees to include state government entities in the overall implementation of the Biological Diversity Act
  • Any violation of this Act is both cognizable and non-bailable.
  • The National Green Tribunal should be contacted regarding any complaints against the decision on benefit sharing, or order of the National Biodiversity Authority or a State Biodiversity Board made in accordance with this Act (NGT).

 Exemptions from the Biological Diversity Act

  • The Act does not cover Indian biological resources typically sold as commodities. This exception only applies in cases where biological resources are solely employed as commodities.
  • The Act also excludes the utilization of indigenous biological resources and associated knowledge when done in accordance with central government authorization for joint research initiatives involving Indian and foreign institutions.
  • Additionally, exemptions are used by cultivators, such as farmers, livestock keepers, beekeepers, and traditional healers like voids and hakims. 

Framework of Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The Act envisioned a three-tiered framework to regulate access to biological resources:

  • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
  • The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
  • The Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) (at the local level)

NBA: In 2003, the Indian government established the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) under the Ministry of Environments and Forest to carry out the terms of the Act. The NBA is an autonomous, statutory organization with its headquarters in Chennai.

Under this Act, the Central Government, in consultation with the NBA, Shall notify threatened species, prohibit or regulate their collection, rehabilitation, and conservation, and designate institutions as repositories for different categories of biological resources.

SBB: In accordance with Section 22 of the Act, the State Governments established the SBBs, which handle all issues pertaining to access by Indians for commercial purposes. Some functions of SBB include:

  • To advise the state government on issues connected to biodiversity, how to distribute its benefits fairly, and issues with conservation, sustainable usage, or equitable benefit sharing.
  • Control the granting of authorizations or other requests for the human use of any biological resource for commercial purposes and for bio-surveillance and bio-utilization. 

Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)

According to Section 41 of the Act, each local authority must create the BMC within its area of responsibility to advance the preservation, wise utilization, and documentation of biological variety, including safeguarding habitats, maintaining landraces and local varieties, domesticated animals and Documentation of Biological Diversity Knowledge.

Limitations of Biological Diversity Act 2002

  •  The focus on eliminating profit-sharing from the commercial exploitation of biological resources rather than making measures for effective conservation is one of the main problems.
  • This law was passed partly to stop bio-piracy by industrialized nations, but this did not permit the neglect of the other main objective of conserving biodiversity.
  • This legislation misses its potential for harmonization with previously passed legislation and does not act as an umbrella.
  • It does not specify procedures for allocating non-monopoly rights or assessing the contributions made by businesses, regional communities, or particular inventions.
  • The fundamental clause linking communities and countries needs to be more convincing.
  • The Act does not even give immediate right holders the power to protect their rights in the same way that it armies the Indian government to fight biopiracy or gives them rights equal to those granted to people who own patents or are applying for them.
  • The fact that the data entered into the People's Biodiversity Register must be legally protected is one of the main problems.
  • Entities wishing to use the resources in a particular area may register on this page.
  • Such documents must be strictly monitored to guarantee that the benefits are distributed.

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