Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
Union minister of commerce P Chidambaram's statement
Raiva Sabha, that a multi- disciplinary committee has been
up'by the government to prepare a regulatory framework
implementing the biodiversity convention in India, had
like a glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel.
The need for such a body can hardly be overstressed. The
ention, which seeks to protect the world's genetic
rux.,Ln:es of plants and animals, upholds the sovereign rights
Va nation over its natural resources. In other words, the
rul government has full authority to set up structured
nLsms to negotiate trading of its plants and germplasms.
i-ne honourable minister's announcement raised hopes
titans who walk the corridors of power have at last
to the fact that something needs to be done to stop,
illu-pt control, the indiscriminate culling of our biological
meowurr-trove by foreigners - be it scientists from prestigious
institutions or agents of multinational companies.
Butthe euphoria was shortlived. Chidambaram's state-
setmed to have thrown his ministry in a state of com
Sm-ilderment. Any attempt made to secure more infor
on this much-awaited committee was equivalent to
one.s head against the wall. None of the senior offi
am- c prepared to comment on it.
Wor4m er, while pursuing the issue, the represenhe Centre for Science and Environment
on to an astounding fact. She was that the committee has been in operation
iw rwo years, and that it consists of a panel
comprising scientists, environmentalists,
and economists. But the exact details
:V Provided immediately as they had to be
hr :: " :omforting to know that a team of
kwwt @ccn keeping a vigil on the outflow of
M re-A)-urces, it is rather disconcerting to
a dkv functions have, quite inexplicably,
pv=m&v wraps. Why was not the public kept
dibow dw regulatory programmes that this
pm9wwd to undertake, or perhaps has
JApe*W_ Surely, they had a right to know!
b6fiow. and the indigenous communities
gwwvsrr4 improved and developed the resources for
mmad on whose behalf the government is supposed
p6mw# m the first place.
Ow we grasp the significance of such committees.
ft *t 0obal context, they have a tremendously
a wit to pL&,6- Importantiy so in the case of the
lndk South- The world's biodiversity exists mainly in
L&Kht'd awal- in its tropical forests, wildlands and
bw *t era. it has been appopriated by the
Northern agricultural systems and later, by the multinational
biotech industries. And it has been acquired free of cost.
It is only as late as in the '70s that the developing countries
began to realise the mindboggling scale of such biological
appropriation. And they began to assert their claim, their right
to exploit and benefit from the resources they have so
painstakingly conserved. The world community was also sensitised to the extent of deprivation suffered by the indigenous
communities, the farmers and the tribals. The corporate
giants, who do not just collect plants but also pinch
traditional knowledge from the local people, patent the
bio-materials and reap enormous profits from it, while the
farmer's non-patentable contributions in identifying and
cultivating plant varieties remain largely ignored.
Now, however, their contribution has been formally
recognised in international fora. The governments of the concerned nations now shoulder the responsibility of playing the role of a watchdog, to ensure that the indigenous communities are no longer taken for a ride.
Therefore, government-sponsored committees such as the
one under discussion are supposed to be acting as negotiators
on behalf of the people. Their activities should be made as
transparent as possible, so that the people too get to
participate in the process of negotiation. And if the
committee has really been functioning for the last
two years, it appears to have achieved precious little
during the period. We can take the neern plant as a
test case to prove this point. Within the span of three
to four years, a deluge of patents have been issued on
the extracts of neem, and 90 per cent of the patent
holders are multinational companies. The companies have been making a neat packet by developing on the traditional knowledge of our farmers,
but no visible initiative has been taken by our government to ensure that there is at least some reverse flow of profits.
The importance of appointing an expert team
for monitoring the trade of genetic resources is
further enhanced by the fact that our legal system
hardly provides any protection on this front. And
the miserably inadequate Indian patent law is
hamstrung, goes back and forth in Parliament, while the
so-called representatives of the people still fail to agree on a
So, it is high time that our ministers took a more in-depth
view of the issue, followed by decisive action. Or else, as
Darrell Posey, the eminent ethnobiologist puts it, "mining of
the riches of indigenous knowledge will become the latest and
ultimate neo-colonial form of exploitation of indigenous peoples."