Our World is no more segregated into 7 continents and 247 countries. It is One Big Global Village. We can have access to anything that is exclusively available in one part of the world in our home country. For this, we ought to thank Globalization, Commercialization and Industrialization. The coming up of more industries, MNCs has made our world a better place to live in – a more accessible place to live in. But this does come with a cost. With the onset of more industries creating more jobs, we have new cities and townships coming up, as a result of which, we are losing out on forest cover, the ramifications of which are drastic. Many a plant species have become endangered, some extinct and the birds and animals struggle to find a home.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was a wake-up call for the all countries in the global arena that there is an inherent threat to our biological diversity, given the current trends of globalization and industrialization. The Convention of Biological Diversity came into force on December 29, 1993. The main objectives of the Conventions are:

  • Sustainable development
  • Conservation of biological diversity
  • Access Benefit sharing

“Biological diversity” is stressed upon here as it is a very wide term, inclusive of any life from a varied range of ecosystems, existing on the face of the Earth. Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity explains that “biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”. The necessity of protecting “any life form” arises out of the increased poaching activities, drying up of rivers and lakes, immense loss of forest cover, a tremendous rise in the level of pollution; be it land, air or water which in-turn hampers the existence of both the aquatic and terrestrial life.

India became a member country to the said Convention in the year 1992. India’s ratification led to the birth of the Biological Diversity Act in the year 2002. The enactment of this Act was to meet the obligations bestowed upon India as a member state to the CBD.

Conservation of biodiversity is a far reaching goal. It would certainly take ample amount of time for the restoration of the loss of flora and fauna that we have come across in centuries. For achieving the said goal, the National Biodiversity Authority, an autonomous body, was established in the year 2003 by virtue of Section- 8 of the Act of 2002. This apex body, headquartered in Chennai, is for the better implementation of the provisions of this Act. Its major goal is to regulate the access of our resources to foreign individuals and body corporate as well as confining the ambit of such projects and ventures to check the exploitation of our resources. Regulation cannot be done by the establishment of a Central Authority alone. It is a process that commands checks at every level. The State Biodiversity Board and Local Bodies or Municipalities, are established under Section 22 of the Act of 2002 and Clause (1) of Article 243B and Clause (1) of Article 243Q of the Constitution respectively. Their founding has paved the way for better implementation of the provisions of the Act of 2002 in both state and municipal level, as it is impossible for the NBA to singularly look out for the loop holes in the implementation of its goals and objectives.

India is a land privy to innumerable natural resources that are not endowed anywhere else in the World. They are prayed to, worshiped and are given the stature of Gods, such is their significance. So, their use cannot be compromised with. But given the worth of these resources, we encourage and welcome foreign individuals, researchers and body corporate venture in and explore the essential qualities of such resources. This is where NBA implements the provisions of this Act. They regulate the inflow of such researches aiming to use our resources. Any foreign individual or body corporate is bound to take the permission of the NBA before starting any research project in India. They have to give a detailed description of their research project, what resources they shall be using and the tenure of such projects. NBA grants the permission to such research projects after analyzing every aspect of it. If the project seeks permission to use an endangered resource, NBA might not accept such projects to venture into India. If NBA grants an approval, it might stipulate certain conditions that the project has to necessarily adhere to. It shall be a conditional grant. There have been instances where the projects seek to use resources that are worshiped by a certain tribe residing in the interiors of India. In such a case, Prior Informed Consent (PIC) is obtained from the Tribe with regards to use of such resources. However, projects like the above are taken ahead on Mutually Agreed Terms (MATs) if the tribe or the authorities have expressed certain changes as to the usage of such resources in the project. Only foreign entities are required to take permission from the NBA for such projects. For Indian entities, they just have to inform the State Biodiversity Board about such projects.

One of the vital components of such research projects is the profit sharing clause. The worth of Natural resources is increasing day by day, given its degrading nature of its availability. Body corporate earn in millions from such ventures. NBA carefully foresees the worth of such projects and frames the profit sharing clauses. A lot of times, clauses include a certain percentage of the profit to be given to the Government every year. It might also include the outcome of such research projects to be distributed in India in a subsidized price. Such understanding is of utmost importance while giving way to a project for using our resources. This is called as Access Benefit sharing. We are giving foreign corporate and governments the access to our resources, but at the same time we want the benefit to be shared equitably.

The powers of the NBA are not only restricted to India. If a research project has not taken prior permission from the NBA to apply for a patent in its home country or any other country, then the NBA holds the power to oppose such patents in such countries and that is ultimately subjected to be struck down. It may even impose penalties in such situations for restricting such manipulative actions by the foreign corporate.

Currently, NBA is doing a very fine job is protecting our resources. This Act of 2002 is carefully drafted to cater the needs of both the Indian Government and the indigenous people. Natural resources are extremely important but their correct use in the correct way holds even more importance. It strictly upholds its three major functions: facilitative, regulatory and advisory function for Government of India on issue of Conservation, sustainable use of biological resource and fair equitable sharing of benefits of use.

– Post authored by Suprita Acharya

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