Amended Biological Diversity Law Raises Concerns over Loss for Tribals

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

Amendment to the Biological Diversity Act, 2023, sparks debate as it exempts Ayush practitioners from Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), raising fears of economic loss for tribal communities.

Biological Diversity (Amend­ment) Act, 2023

  • Recently, the Centre notified the Biological Diversity (Amend­ment) Act, 2023, which is aimed at simplifying access to the country’s rich biodiversity for research and development while ensuring environmental protection and fair benefits to local communities.
  • The amendment to the Biological Diversity Act would help the traditional segment expand its footprint in health and wellness.
  •  The Amendment exempts Ayush practitioners from paying Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).
  • According to the Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India, the amendment would empower Ayush drug manufacturers to expand their market presence within the broader health and wellness industry.

Access and benefit-sharing (ABS):

  • The ABS provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are designed to ensure that the physical access to genetic resources is facilitated and that the benefits obtained from their use are shared equitably with the providers.
  • The benefits to be shared can be monetary, such as sharing royalties when the resources are used to create a commercial product, or non-monetary, such as the development of research skills and knowledge.
  • In India, the ABS is a compensatory amount typically paid to tribal and other communities with a tradition of gathering, safeguarding, and utilising herbs and medicinal plants crucial for the Ayush industry.
    • The mandated percentage of earnings that goes as ABS ranges from 0.1 to 0.5 %  of sales, depending on the company’s revenue.


  •  The word AYUSH is derived from a Sanskrit phrase “ayusmanbhava" meaning long life.
  • The term AYUSH is universally adopted for "traditional and Non – conventional system of health care and healing which include Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Naturopathy, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa, Homoeopathy, etc” by the commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology.
  • The entire system of medicine under the umbrella of AYUSH is the time-tested holistic approach to health care and healing. Since the beginning of human civilization, these systems of medicine are popular around all over the globe.
  •  Fundamentally AYUSH provides an integrative healthcare modality for complete physical, mental, social, and spiritual health.
  • Ministry of Ayush is focused attention towards education and research in Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy.

Issues with the amended Biological Diversity Act

           Exemption for Ayush Practitioners:

  •  Environmentalists argue that this exemption might negatively impact tribal communities that traditionally gather, safeguard, and utilize herbs crucial for the Ayush industry.
  • The critics say that the exemption curtails the potential revenue of tribals, whose livelihoods depend on herbs.
  • The fear is that by not requiring Ayush practitioners to contribute to ABS, the economic well-being of tribal communities could be compromised.

           Ambiguity in Definition of Ayush Practitioners:

  • There are worries about the ambiguity in defining Ayush practitioners, especially regarding individuals cultivating herbs without registering a company.
  • The lack of a clear definition may lead to challenges in controlling and regulating individuals or entities involved in herb cultivation, potentially leading to exploitation.

             Decriminalization of Offenses and cultivation of medicinal plants:

  • Environmentalists question the decriminalization of biodiversity offenses, which the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Environment, Forest and Climate Change justified as reducing fear among stakeholders for effective compliance.
  • The move raises debates about balancing effective compliance with environmental protection, as critics argue that decriminalization might undermine the deterrence factor in biodiversity conservation.
  •  While the amendment aims to encourage the cultivation of medicinal plants, there are questions about how effectively it will ease the compliance burden on Indian companies.

Way forward

  • To address concerns arising from the Biological Diversity Act amendment, it is crucial to clarify the definition of Ayush practitioners and ensure fair compensation mechanisms for tribal communities.
  •  Balancing the growth of the Ayush industry with the protection of biodiversity and the livelihoods of indigenous communities requires a nuanced approach.
  • Collaborative efforts, transparent regulations, and community involvement can foster sustainable development in the health and wellness sector.


Prelims PYQ

Q. The most important strategy for the conservation of biodiversity together with traditional human life is the establishment of (UPSC 2014)

(a) biosphere reserves

(b) botanical gardens

(c) national parks

(d) wildlife sanctuaries

Mains PYQ

Q. How does biodiversity vary in India? How is the Biological Diversity Act,2002 helpful in conservation of flora and fauna? (UPSC 2018)

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