The Biodiversity Bill to empower local communities under scrutiny of parliamentary standing committee
The Biological Diversity Bill, which was introduced on May 15, 2000, in the Lok Sabha, is currently under scrutiny of the parliamentary standing committee on science, technology and environment. The committee is conducting a series of hearings with experts from across the country to get their opinion on the bill.
"The major tussle at the moment is between groups seeking more rights for the community and others who feel they already have much stronghold over natural resources," says Ashish Kothari, coordinator of the technical and policy core group formulating the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The report will be submitted to Parliament for the final decision on the bill.
According to Kothari, the bill will empower local people to take part in natural resource management. The people will be able to charge for use of natural resources and help in preservation of local knowledge. Kothari, however, feels the bill is unnecessarily soft on the corporates, "who are not necessarily responsible towards the environment or the local communities".
The draft bill has resulted in practitioners of Indian system of medicine demanding an amendment in the bill. "Medicinal plants are not being cultivated and the practice depends on the raw material collected from the wild," says P K Warrier, chief physician of Arya Vaidya Sala, Kerala. Though he appreciates the steps the government is taking to protect the biodiversity, he feels that there is a need to consider the medicinal herbs separately as the Indian system of medicine has a good market all over the world.
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