Wildlife & Biodiversity

Monsoon session of Parliament to decide fate of Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill

Bill fails to benefit communities that have protected biodiversity in the country 

 
By Vibha Varshney
Published: Friday 21 July 2023
One of the main aims of the bill is to reduce burden on wild medicinal plants and encourage their cultivation. Photo: iStock__

The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 is set to be tabled during the monsoon session of the Parliament. Earlier, it was to be discussed in the Lok Sabha on March 29, 2023 but was deferred. 

The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Parliament December 16, 2021 by Bhupender Yadav, Union minister for environment, forest and climate change. This would amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. 

The Bill was moved to a joint committee on December 20, 2021 due to concerns that the amendments favoured industry and contradicted the spirit of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This global convention posits, among other things, that the benefits from the use of biodiversity should be shared with the community that has conserved it for centuries.

The joint committee submitted its report in Parliament on August 2, 2022 with the recommendation that the Bill may be passed after the inclusion of their recommendations. 

According to the government, the main aims of the amendment bill is to reduce burden on wild medicinal plants and encourage their cultivation; encourage Indian system of medicine; facilitate environment for collaborative research and investments; reduce need of practitioners and companies making medicinal products for taking permission from National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).  

However, the bill also proposes to de-criminalise violation and even withdraws the power given to the National Biodiversity Authority to file an FIR against a defaulting party. 

Also, it allows domestic companies to use biodiversity without the permission from biodiversity boards. According to the amendments, only  ‘foreign controlled companies’ would need to take permission. This means that companies with shares controlled by foreign companies would also be exempted. 

The amendments have also included the term “codified traditional knowledge”, under which the users, including practitioners of Indian systems of medicine, will be exempted from the provisions of approvals for access or sharing benefits. This suggests that profiteering domestic companies do not have to share profits.

Many of the amendments did not find favour among activists and legal experts. These amendments do not address the issues that biodiversity conservation in India face.  

Since the time the Biological Diversity (Amendments) Bill was introduced first, the world has set new targets for biodiversity conservation at the 15th Conference of Parties to CBD held in Montreal in December 2022. Access and benefit sharing remains an important part of this Framework. 

Other than amendments to the biodiversity bill, Yadav has also introduced bills to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972. 

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