Parliament will have a monsoon session to decide the fate of the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill

  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, is expected to be introduced during the Parliament’s monsoon session. It was scheduled to be debated in the Lok Sabha on March 29, 2023, but was postponed.
  • The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, introduced in 2021, attempts to alter the 2002 Biological Diversity Act. However, it has been met with criticism and objections because of fears that certain revisions may favour business interests while failing to maintain the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). So far, the bill’s progress has generated concerns about its possible influence on biodiversity conservation in India.

The Bill’s Objectives

  • The amendment bill’s major goals are to loosen rules on wild medicinal plants.
  • Promote the Indian medical system.
  • Create an environment conducive to collaborative research and investment.
  • Reduce the burden on practitioners and enterprises producing medical products of acquiring authorization from the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 Controversial Provisions

  • The bill aims to decriminalise infractions of biodiversity rules and removes the National Biodiversity Authority’s (NBA) authority to file a First Information Report (FIR) against defaulting parties.
  • The measure allows domestic businesses to use biodiversity without obtaining permission from biodiversity boards. Only foreign-controlled enterprises must obtain authorisation.
  • The term codified traditional knowledge appears in the bill, and it exempts users, including practitioners of Indian systems of medicine, from the terms of permissions for accessing or sharing benefits.

Concerns expressed by activists

  • Some critics say that the planned revisions will undermine India’s biodiversity conservation efforts.
  • Lack of control and accountability may result in unrestrained use of biodiversity resources, negatively impacting ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Profit-seeking domestic firms may be able to exploit codified traditional knowledge without fairly paying the communities that have conserved and developed it for decades.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) emphasises the fair and equitable distribution of benefits derived from biodiversity utilisation. The suggested adjustments may not be completely consistent with these concepts.
  • While the bill seeks to promote traditional medicine and reduce rules, it may fall short of addressing the larger challenges of biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and the need for stronger conservation measures.
  • Weakening biodiversity protection and benefit-sharing systems may have a disproportionate impact on indigenous and local populations, which frequently rely on biodiversity for their livelihoods and cultural practises.

The way forward

  • Reconsider and redraft the bill’s controversial elements, particularly those relating to decriminalising infractions, exempting local firms from requesting permission, and codifying traditional knowledge.
  • Create strong and transparent procedures for equitable benefit sharing through biodiversity usage.
  • Appropriately recompense indigenous people and traditional knowledge bearers for their contributions to biodiversity conservation and preservation.
  • Encourage firms to prioritise resource conservation and sustainable resource use.
  • Increase enforcement to guarantee that biodiversity conservation requirements are followed. To deter noncompliance, impose appropriate consequences for infractions.
  • Align the measure with India’s international commitments, particularly those reached during the CBD’s 15th Conference of Parties.
  • Strengthen biodiversity governance bodies’ competence and power, such as the National Biodiversity power (NBA), to effectively regulate and monitor biodiversity-related activities.
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