News Excerpt
Recently, the Green Bench (National Green Tribunal) highlighted the issue of active implementation of the Biodiversity Act, 2002. The NGT directed for reports from the Union Government about constitution of biodiversity management committees (BMCs) and People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) in every State.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international Convention for conservation biological Diversity. The convention has been ratified by 193 countries including India.
•    The convention envisions following objectives:
o    Conservation of biodiversity,
o    Sustainable use of the Bio-resources, and
o    Ensuring equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of the biological resources
•    The Biological Diversity Act extends to the whole India, and its Rules mandates the establishment of BMCs at the local level including Panchayat and Municipal institutions throughout the country.
•    This act envisages a three tier system for implementing the above measures. For instance- BMCs are to be constituted at Gram Panchayat level, Mandal Parishad level and Zilla Parishad level.

State of BMCs& PBRs in India
•    Earlier there were only 9,700 BMCs and 1,388 PBRs in 2016. The NBA has cited that2,43,499 BMCs and 95,525 PBRs have been created so far.
•    The primary responsibility of the BMCs are:
o    To include documentation and preservation of local biodiversity, utilization of biological resource, Management and conservation of Heritage Sites, Regulation of access to the biological resources and associated Traditional Knowledge for commercial and research purposes, Biodiversity Education and Awareness building programs, Protection of Traditional Knowledge and to Conservation the traditional varieties/breeds of economically important plants/animals.
o    To prepare People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR), which will contain comprehensive information on local flora and fauna, traditional and scientific knowledge, and information associated with regional species.
•    A newly proposed framework e-PBRs (PBRs in electronic form) will have significant utility than the physical notebooks as geo-tag is it’s imbibe feature. The new system of PBR will ensure the protection of intellectual property rights over the traditional knowledge since the information will not be shared without consent. So, it would diversify the livelihood opportunities with scientific way.

•    The BMC comprises of One Chairperson and Six Members, 1/3rd of nominated should be women and SC/ST reservation as per state demography.
•    The local Member of the Legislative Assembly and Member of Parliament would be special invitees to the meetings of the Biodiversity Management Committees at different levels.

    Some Panchayati Raj Institutions refused to form BMCs due to the reason that the constitution of BMC would lead to undermining their authority over minor forest produce. State Forest departments, Forest traders & mining lobby also don’t cooperate with existing BMCs for the same reason.
    Under the various biodiversity conservation programme run by UNDP and UNEP, these agencies allow separate funding for BMCs. Due to India’s red-tapism the allotted fund is not utilized.
    The role of BMCs have been reduced, as of now its vital functions are to collect the data only (For PBRs) rather than to being a body that could galvanize sustainable movement at local grass root level.
    The BMCs are entrusted to create PRBs. The legal status of PBR register has been questioned on the grounds that it excludes some of inhabitants from decision making residing in the local region. For instance- Tribals in natural areas are not classified legally as residents. Their aspect of living and traditional practices are likely to exclude them from PBRs.
    However, PBRs may serve as a useful tool in providing baseline data that could be utilised for sustainable management programs for conservation of resources.

Moreover, there are certain benefits like-
o    Through BMCs and PBRs, Community participation and widespread biological conservation initiatives can be guided in a collective manner with a mix of ‘traditional and scientific knowledge’. In the long term it would help to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).
o    Majority of people are unaware about regional fauna and flora, Such Committees will play a significant role in order to enhance people participation at grass root level by conserving the traditional practices.

Way Forward
    Under the 73rd constitutional amendment act the operational aspects of BMCs and PBRs are to be Constitutionalized and legalised at grass root level in a clear defined way, so that the guiding provision would not be curtailed by respective State actors.
    Role of PBR should widen as it would help to trace how habitats are changing, and to understand the fragile parts of forests. India is land of biological and cultural diversity. Conservation of both could be achieved under the expanded version of PBR. Being a bottom-up exercise, it is also a means of understanding the overlap of cultural and natural biodiversity. For instance, several Endemic Birds Areas, like in the Western Ghats, are those where tribals like the Todas live. These communities have specific ways of interacting with the environment and have helped conserve it in a sustainable way.
    The relevance of efficient natural area monitoring will be lost if PBRs and Biodiversity Management Committees are not aligned under the provisions of local self-Government. It should be taken forward in order to achieve the elusive blend of tradition and modernity with truths from the ground.

Local Biodiversity Fund
•    It is created under the Biodiversity Act, 2002.
•    It is applicable at the areas notified by State Government.
•    Any grants and loans made under Act.
•    Any grants or loans made by the NBA.
•    Any grants or loans made by the SBB.
•    Any levy collected by BMCs.

Nagoya Protocol, Cartegena Protocol, AICHI Targets, TEEB, TEEB-India Initiative