Biodiversity is crucial to a functioning ecosystem that provides various products like oxygen, food, fresh water, fertile soil, and fuel, besides ecological services like moderating storms and mitigating climate change. It makes it possible for millions of species, including humans, to survive on earth.
India is a land of diverse biological resources and was a signatory of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. To fulfil the required obligation of the convention, the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 got enacted.
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Background of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002
Biodiversity Act 2002 came into existence by the parliament to protect biodiversity and facilitate the sustainable management of biological resources within the local communities. It was an attempt to realise the objective of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992.
Furthermore, the Act conserves biological resources, manages resources sustainably, and enables free and fair use of the equitable sharing benefit that arises out of the use of the knowledge of natural resources. This Act regulates access and use of biological resources and provides a measure to safeguard traditional knowledge, preserve threatened species, and prevent bio-piracy.
The objective of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002
The Act seeks to preserve biological diversity and maintain and control its components’ proper use. The Act ensures equitable distribution of benefits that derives from its utilisation. The Biological Diversity Act further provides provisions to safeguard traditional knowledge and prevent biopiracy. It prohibits people from claiming patents without the permission of the Government.
Need for the Act
The Biodiversity Act of 2002 got introduced much later than the existing laws like:
- Indian Forests Act of 1927,
- Wildlife Protection Act of 1972,
- Environment Protection Act of 1986, etc.
This legislation emphasises the conservation of the environment; however, it does not deal with every aspect of ecological and biodiversity preservation.
India is also the signatory of various other ecological and environmental laws. Some of them are listed below:
- Ramsar Convention on Wetland, 1971
- Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972
- Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora, 1973
- Convention on the conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats of 1979
- World Convention Strategy, 1980
- The United Nations Convention on the Biological Diversity, 1992
All the above conventions cater to the need to protect wildlife and the environment.
Salient features of the Biodiversity Act, 2002
Salient features of the biodiversity Act are as follows:
- To control the access to natural resources of the country.
- To conserve biological diversity.
- To protect the knowledge of the local communities regarding biodiversity.
- To secure the sharing of benefits with local people as conservers of biological resources and holders of knowledge and information related to using these natural resources.
- To protect and rehabilitate threatened species.
- To involve state government institutions in the broad scheme of implementing the Biological Diversity Act by establishing dedicated committees.
- The Act prohibits certain activities without prior approval of the National Biodiversity Authority. Some of the activities prohibited by the Act are:
- To obtain any biological resource in India for research or commercial use.
- Transfer any research related to any biological resources that happened in India.
- Claim on any Intellectual Property Rights on any invention based on the research on biological resources in India.
- The Act envisaged a three-tier system to regulate the surplus of biological resources:
- The National Biodiversity Authority
- The State Biodiversity Boards
- The Biodiversity Management
Approval under the Biodiversity Act, 2002
Section 3 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 provides that any person who is
- a non-citizen,
- a citizen but not a resident of India, or
- a body corporate in India that has non-Indian Participation,
All such persons are required to obtain prior approval from the National Biodiversity Authority. The approval is to access any biological resource that occurs in India or knowledge associated with the purpose of research.
Section 4 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, prohibits any person from transferring the result of the research to a non-citizen, a non-resident, a body corporate, or an organisation that is not registered or incorporated in India.
Section 6 of the Biodiversity Act, 2002 prohibits a person from applying for any intellectual property inside or outside India for any invention based on any research or information related to the biological resource obtained from India without obtaining prior approval from the National Biodiversity Authority.
Exemptions from the Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- The Act excludes Indian Biological resources traded as commodities. The exception to the trade is related to the biological resources used as commodities and not for any other purpose.
- The Act excludes the traditional use of Indian Biological Resources and associated knowledge. Thus, excluding traditional knowledge used in a collaborative research project between Indian and foreign institutions. Such research gets excluded when done with the prior approval of the Central Government.
- The use of biological resources by cultivators and breeds, for instance, farmers, livestock keepers, etc.
National Biodiversity Authority
Section 8 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, establishes the National Biodiversity Authority. The National Biodiversity Authority got established in 2003 by the Central Government under the Ministry of the Environment and Forest.
The Act formed a statutory body under it.
The National Biodiversity Authority has its statutory, autonomous body headquartered in Chennai. The statutory body that performs facilitative, regulatory, and advisory functions for the Indian Government is the National Biodiversity Authority. It also works on the issues of conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.
Structure of the National Biodiversity Authority
The National Biodiversity Authority comprises the following members to be designated by the Central Government:
- A Chairperson
- Three Ex-Officio members from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the environment and forest
- Seven Ex-Officio members that represent respectively the ministry of Central Government deals with:
- Agricultural research and education
- Biotechnology ocean development
- Agriculture and cooperation
- Indian system of medicine and homoeopathy
- Science and technology
- Scientific and industrial research
Functions of the National Biodiversity Authority
Chapter IV of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, provides the functions of the National Biodiversity Authority. Following are the functions of the National Biodiversity Authority:
- To monitor and prevent actions prohibited by the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- To provide advice to the Government related to the conservation of biodiversity,
- To prepare a report on the selection of the biological heritage sites.
- To make concrete steps to prevent the grant of intellectual property rights about locally physical resources or allied traditional knowledge.
- To create and enable an appropriate environment to promote conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
- To take necessary measures to oppose the grant of Intellectual Property Rights on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with biological resources.
- To advise the State Government to select the areas of biodiversity important to notify as heritage sites and suggest the measures for their management.
State Biodiversity Board
Chapter VI of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, deals with the State Biodiversity Board.
Section 22 establishes the State Biodiversity Board under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The establishment of the board was to be accessed by the Indians for commercial purposes.
Composition of the State Biodiversity Boards
The state biodiversity board comprises the following members to be appointed by the State Government of the respective state:
- A Chairperson
- Maximum Five ex-officio members to represent various departments of the State Government.
- Maximum Five members to be experts in the matter related to the conservation of biological diversity, including the sustainable use of biological resources, which includes equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of natural resources.
Functions of the State Biodiversity Board
Section 23 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 provides for the functions of the State Biodiversity Board. The State Biodiversity Board performs the following functions:
- Advise the state government in biodiversity and equitable distribution of biodiversity. Further, it advises the state government on the conservation, sustainable use, and equal sharing of biological resources.
- To regulate the granting of approvals requested for commercial utilisation, which includes bio-survey or bio-utilisation of the natural resources by the people.
Duties of the Central Government
Section 36 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 provides the duties that are to be conducted by the Central Government for the growth of National Strategies for biological diversity.
The Central Government shall perform the following duties:
- Develop national strategies and plans to conserve and promote sustainable use of biological resources.
- To issue directions to the state government to take immediate measures to protect the area rich in biological diversity where the Government feels the exploitation of the biological diversity.
- To take measures to assess the environmental impact of the project.
- To respect and protect local people’s knowledge related to biological diversity as the National Biodiversity Authority recommended.
Biodiversity Heritage Sites
Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 states that after the consultation of the local bodies, the state government shall notify the biodiversity areas as Biodiversity Heritage Sites.
The Biodiversity Heritage Sites have defined areas with a unique, ecological, and fragile ecosystem. The terrestrial, coastal, and inland waters, including marine, have rich biodiversity that compromises any one or more of the following components:
- The richness of wild and domestic species or intra-specific categories
- High endemism
- Presence of rare and threatened species
- Keystone species
- Species of evolutionary significance
- Wild ancestors of domestic and cultivated species and their varieties
- Past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds
- That has significant cultural, ethical, or aesthetic value.
Biodiversity Management Committees
Section 41 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, deals with forming the Biodiversity Management Committee. This section provides that every local body should constitute the biodiversity management committee within the area. It promotes conservation, sustainable use, and documentation of biological diversity. It includes:
- Preservation of Habitats
- Conserve landrace
- Folk varieties and cultivars
- Domesticated stocks and breeds of animal
- Microorganisms and chronicling of knowledge are related to biological diversity.
Composition of the Biodiversity Management Committee
The Biodiversity Management Committee consists of:
- A chairperson
- Maximum of six-person nominated by the local body
- One-third of members of the total number of the Biodiversity Management Committee must be women. Also, 18% of the members should belong to Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
The election of the Chairperson must be from the committee members by the Chairperson of the local body.
Functions of Biodiversity Management Committees
The following functions are to be performed by the Biodiversity Management Committee:
- To prepare the people’s biodiversity register after consultation with the local people.
- To spread education and awareness on biodiversity building.
- To eco-restore the local biodiversity
- To provide feedback to the State Biodiversity Board on IPR, Traditional Knowledge, and local biodiversity issues, To conserve the traditional varieties and breeds of economically important plants and animals.
- Manage heritage sites, including heritage trees and animals, microorganisms, etc.
Offences and Penalties under the Act
Chapter XII of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, provides offences and penalties.
Section 58 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, provides that the offences under the Act are cognisable and non-bailable. However, section 61 provides that the courts cannot directly take cognisance of an offence committed under the Act. The court can only accept cognisance of the complaint of the Central Government or Authority authorised by the Government.
Section 55 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 provides a penalty for the person who contravenes or abets the contravention of sections 3, 4 or 6. The punishment for a person who violates the abovementioned provision will be imprisonment for a term extending to five years or a fine extending to ten lakh rupees. When the damage exceeds ten lakh rupees, the fine may extend to damage caused or with both.
Section 56 provides a penalty for the contravention of the direction or orders of the Central Government, State Government, National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Boards, for which no punishment is provided separately in the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The person committing such an offence is punishable with a fine extending to one lakh, and for the second or subsequent offence, the person may be punishable with a fine extending to two lakh rupees. Furthermore, if the infringement continues, the fine may exceed two lakh when the default continues.
The Biological Diversity Act of 2002 curtails the availability of biological material from India to the rest of the world. The Act influenced the free Scientific exchange of valuable research. The biological diversity or biodiversity act from National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Board.
The objective behind the formation of the Authority is to meet the Act’s goal, i.e. equitable sharing of the benefits. However, the worst part is that even after the Act’s enactment and the Authority’s formation, we cannot achieve its objective.
When did the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 come into force?
The Biological Diversity Act of 2002 came into force on 5th February 2002.
What is the aim of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002?
The Biological Diversity Act of 2002 aims to conserve biological resources, manage sustainable use, and enable a fair and equitable share of advantages arising from the use and knowledge of natural resources with local communities.
Which convention led to the enactment of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002?
The Convention on Biological Diversity held in Rio De Janeiro in 1992 made it necessary for its signatory countries to enact Biological Diversity Act.
What are authorities formed under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002?
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 formed the following Authorities:
- National Biodiversity Authority
- State Biodiversity Board
What is the People's Biodiversity Register?
People's Biodiversity Register is a legal document which contains the details of the biological resource that occurs within the Biodiversity Management Committee. It acts as a source of the inventory of natural resources and knowledge.
Who created the People's Biodiversity Register?
The Biodiversity Management Committee prepares the People's register of biodiversity.