After reading this article you will learn about the national policy of biodiversity conservation.
Biodiversity management consists of three types of activity surveying, characterizing biodiversity, regulating its protection; and ensuring its sustainable utilisation. Until 2002, there was no single piece of legislation or governmental organisation covering all aspects of biodiversity management understood thus.
So while there is no specific law dealing with biodiversity management in this broad sense, a number of allied laws are relevant.
These include the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. India has made considerable progress with respect to surveying and characterizing biodiversity from the time that the Botanical and Zoological Surveys of India were established (in 1890 and 1916 respectively).
Even so, as many as 400,000 species may exist in India that have been neither identified nor characterised. With respect to in situ conservation, India has a large protected areas system comprising 4.2 per cent of the national territory. The country also has a well-developed network of gene banks, as well as botanical and zoological gardens for ex-situ conservation.
To fill the policy and regulatory gaps, the MoEF is developing a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), and in 2000 drafted legislation that was passed in 2002 as the Biological Diversity Act. It is likely that provisions relating to access and benefit sharing (ABS) and IPRs will be included in the NBSAP. Both issues are central to the Act.
In fact, regulating access to India’s biogenetic resources is no less controversial than reforming the country’s patent system. Law and policy-making in both the biodiversity and IPR fields is greatly affected by domestic politics, both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary.
Interest and advocacy groups include business associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Seed Association of India, and some highly vocal and determined national and grassroots-level non-governmental organisations (NGOs), many of which have a view on trade and biodiversity that could be described as ‘bio-mercantilist’.
Bio-mercantilism in varying degrees of intensity, is no doubt a legacy of India’s colonial experience and rooted in the post-colonial ideology-associated with Gandhi and Nehru of self-reliance, exists throughout the full extent of Indian social and economic sectors.
The conventional view among such people is that the country did not benefit when biological resources were the common heritage of mankind and that in order for India to profit from its great biological wealth it must start by strictly controlling the export of biological material. And ambivalence-if not hostility-towards the TRIPS Agreement is often an element of such a viewpoint, especially the section on patents.
The patents on ‘Indian’ natural products like neem tree bio-pesticides, turmeric powder, and basmati rice have provoked a furore throughout India, and is indicative of the perception shared by many Indians that their biological wealth is being plundered by TNCs while successive governments seem unable or unwilling to do anything to prevent it.
To a large extent, then, the concern is not just to find ways for Indian people, communities and firms to use resources more profitably, but to prevent unscrupulous foreign individuals and firms from doing so.
Consequently, throughout the 1990s, governments were constantly pressured to develop appropriate strategies and laws to prevent the misappropriation of Indian resources and traditional knowledge (TK), and condemned for those policies considered weak or half-hearted.
The Biological Diversity Act set up inter alia a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). The NBA is empowered to grant or refuse authorisation from foreigners and foreign companies (including Indian-based firms not wholly owned and managed by Indians) to access biological resources occurring in India or associated knowledge for purposes of research or commercial use.
It will also require authorisation for transfer to foreigners or foreign companies of the results of research relating to any biological resources occurring in or obtained from India. Finally, it will require prior approval for applications for IPR protection in India or elsewhere based on any research or information on a biological resource obtained from India.
In cases where such approval is granted, the NBA may impose benefit-sharing requirements. The NBA is required to ensure that the terms and conditions of the approval guarantees equitable benefit sharing ‘arising out of the use of accessed biological resources, their by-products, innovations and practices associated with their use and applications and knowledge relating thereto.
The NBA has some discretion in determining the specific forms that benefit sharing should take, but the following are specifically referred to:
1. Grant of joint ownership of intellectual property rights to the National Biodiversity Authority or where benefit claimers are identified, to such benefit claimers;
2. Transfer of technology;
3. Location of production, research and development units in such areas which will facilitate better living standards to the benefit claimers;
4. Association of Indian scientists, benefit claimers and the local people with research and development in biological resources and bio- survey and bio-utilisation;
5. Setting up of venture capital fund for aiding the cause of benefit claimers;
6. Payment of monetary compensation and other non-monetary benefits to the benefit claimers as the National Biodiversity Authority may deem fit.
In addition, the NBA may take measures to oppose the grant of IPRs in any country outside India ‘on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with such biological resource which is derived from India.
Conservation and wise management of biological diversity must receive due importance in our planning process and economic development must be based on ecological considerations. The living resources are biological capital available for human use, and we should not use the capital but only the interest. Therefore, all efforts should be directed towards sustainable utilisation of species and the ecosystem.
In India, conservation is biased towards animals and that too in favour of big cats and large mammals. There is need to give attention to smaller animals like musk deer, fish, frogs, turtles, butterflies, and earthworms.
Furthermore, higher plants particularly trees and herbal drugs, orchids and agricultural and non-agricultural economic plants, microorganisms, blue green algae and marine biota are also need immediate attention.
In India, over the year, work in the areas of wildlife has -become synonymous with preservation of big cats and large mammals, Perhaps, it may have been necessary to do so in the initial stages or was due to lack of understanding about the subject.
Furthermore, this area has also remained largely out-of-bounds of life scientists for a variety of reasons and result has been that programs are generally devoid of scientific and technical content.
For conservation of Wildlife and other bio- resources of India two major Acts have been implemented so far. These includes the The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Biodiversity Act, 2002. In addition The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 also supplement the Biodiversity Conservation Program of the country.
Throughout the world, the value of biologically rich natural areas is now being increasingly appreciated as being of unimaginable value. International agreements such as the World Heritage Convention attempt to protect and support such areas. India is a signatory to the convention and has included several protected areas as World Heritage sites.
These include Manas on the border between Bhutan and India, Kaziranga in Assam, Bharatpur in UP, Nandadevi in the Himalayas, and the Sunderbans in the Ganges delta in West Bengal.
India has also signed the Convention in the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) which is intended to reduce the utilisation of endangered plants and animals by controlling trade in their products and in the pet trade and one of the signatories of CBD (Convention on Biodiversity) at Brazil in 1992.
The new act “The Biodiversity Act, 2002” was also approved by the Indian Parliament for protection and conservation of our “Bio resources”.
Methods selected for monitoring biodiversity depend on management objectives. A management objective of maintaining species viability would involve different monitoring methods than an objective of restoring inherent disturbance regimes.