Biological Diversity Act, 2002: Overview and Recent Amendments8 min read
By Ayushi Budholia
Published on: May 14, 2022 at 11:11 IST
The term ‘biodiversity’ as the existence of a large number of different kinds of animals and plants which make a balanced environment. It refers to the existence of a wide variety of plant and animal species living in their natural environment. Thus, it does not only include endangered plants and animals but includes all the living organism present on this planet.
There are three types of biodiversity – Genetic biodiversity, species biodiversity and ecological biodiversity.
Genetic biodiversity refers to the differences in the genetic structure of individuals. Such differences give rise to different varieties in the same species. For Example, different varieties of mangoes, different breeds of cats, different varieties of roses.
When in a particular area varieties of different species are found, it is called Species biodiversity. For example, Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
The interconnection between plants and animals by food chain and the variation among them is referred as ecological diversity. For example, variation is rainforests, desserts, etc.
The biodiversity is of great importance to human beings. It has economic benefit as it provides a source of livelihood to people. It provides them with raw materials such as wood, fisheries, timber, etc. which they can use in production of various food products, pharmaceutical products, etc. Further, the creation of different types of wildlife sancturies and national parks acts as a source of national income of the country.
It also has ecological benefits as every species has a specific role in an ecosystem. They capture and store energy and also produce and decompose organic matter. The ecosystem supports the services without which humans cannot survive. A diverse ecosystem is more productive and can withstand environmental stress.
THREATS TO BIODIVERSITY
Everything on this planet is to be used in an optimum way. If things are not used in a judicial way then it creates threats of their extinctions. The same is the case with the resources of biodiversity. The biodiversity is not used in a judicial manner and is not given the required care, this creates threats of their extinction.
The following are the main threats to biodiversity –
- Human activities and habitat loss
The studies shows that maximum amount of loss of species of plants and animals is caused by human activities. The human activities are causing changes in the environment which can harm the environment. These human activities result in the exploitation of resources, industrialization, urbanization, changing the use of land, etc which causes habitat loss.
Deforestation reefers to cutting down the trees and decrease in the forest areas. The increasing human demand of wood results in cutting down of more trees, which directly lead to biodiversity loss when animal species that live in the trees no longer have their habitat, cannot relocate, and therefore become extinct. Deforestation can lead certain tree species to permanently disappear, which affects biodiversity of plant species in an environment.
- Climate change
In the present world, climate change is one of the major concern around the world. With the temperature getting increased and the oceans getting warm, many land and aquatic animals find it difficult to survive. As a result, they are slowly getting extinct.
Keeping in view the threats to biodiversity, it is essential to conserve them. The process of protecting the biological resources so as to make a sustainable us of them such that the present needs are fulfilled while saving them for future is called biodiversity conservation.
Biodiversity conservation can be done by two methods – In-situ conservation and Ex-situ conservation.
In In-situ conservation, the biological resources are protected within their natural habitat. This is done by building national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, etc.
Ex-situ conservation of biodiversity involves the breeding and maintenance of endangered species in artificial ecosystems such as zoos, nurseries, botanical gardens, gene banks, etc. There is less competition for food, water and space among the organisms.
In India, various steps were taken in the direction of biodiversity conservation. In 1973, the government of India with the help of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), launched the project tiger. In 1960s, when the crocodiles were on the verge getting extinct, the government of India initiated a Crocodile Breeding and Conservation Programme (1975). The Project Elephant was launched in 1992 to ensure the long-term survival of a viable population of elephants in their natural habitats in north and north-eastern India and south India.
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT, 2002
In 2002, the Biological Diversity Act was enacted with the objective to provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
In 1994, India became the member of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention aims at the conservation of biological resources and using them in sustainable way. To give effect to this convention, on 5th February, 2003, the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted.
Section 2(b) of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 gives the definition of “biological diversity”. It states that –
“(b) “biological diversity” means the variability among living organisms from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are part and includes diversity within species or between species and of eco-systems;”
AUTHORITIES ESTABLISHED UNDER THE ACT
The Act has created a three-tier structure to regulate the access of biological diversity.
Under Section 8 of the Act, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established by the Central Government as a body corporate. Under Section 18 of the Act, the functions of NBA are laid down. It includes, advising the Central Government, regulating activities and issuing guidelines for access to biological resources and for fair and equitable benefit sharing in accordance with the Act. Taking necessary measures to oppose the grant of intellectual property rights in any country outside India on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with such biological resources derived from India illegally. Advising the State Governments in the selection of areas of biodiversity importance to be notified as heritage sites and suggest measures for their management.
The Section 22 of the Act provides for the establishment of State Biodiversity Board (SBB) as a body corporate by the State Government. The Section 23 of the Act lays down the functions of the SBB. It includes, advising the State Government on the basis of the guidelines issued by the Central Government, regulate by granting of approvals or otherwise requests for commercial utilisation or bio-survey and bio-utilisation of any biological resource by Indians.
The Biodiversity Management Committee is to be constituted under Section 41 of the Act by every local body in its area.
The Section 37 of the Act talks about the Biodiversity Heritages. It states that –
“(1) Without prejudice to any other law for the time being in force, the State Government may, from time to time in consultation with the local bodies, notify in the Official Gazette, areas of biodiversity importance as biodiversity heritage sites under this Act.
(2) The State Government, in consultation with the Central Government, may frame rules for the management and conservation of all the heritage sites.
(3) The State Government shall frame schemes for compensating or rehabilitating any person or section of people economically affected by such notification.”
Thus, the Section provides for the establishment of the biodiversity important areas by the State Government in consultation with the local bodies. Some of the important biodiversity areas in India are – Nallur Tamarind Grove in Karnataka, Glory of Allapali in Maharashtra, Mandasaru in Odisha, Naro Hills in Madhya Pradesh, etc.
According to Section 58 of the Act, all offences under the Act shall be cognizable and non-bailable offence. Which means that the punishment for all offences under the Act shall be an imprisonment for three or more years and the arrest can be made without a warrant.
Section 55 of the Act states that –
“(1) Whoever contravenes or attempts to contravene or abets the contravention of the provisions of section 3 or section 4 or section 6 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and where the damage caused exceeds ten lakh rupees such fine may commensurate with the damage caused, or with both.
(2) Whoever contravenes or attempts to contravene or abets the contravention of the provisions of section 7 or any order made under sub-section (2) of section 24 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees, or with both.”
Clause (1) of Section 55 provides that any contravention or abetment or attempt of contravention of Section 3 or Section 4 or Section 6 will be punishable with imprisonment of 5 years or more, or with fine up to rupees ten lakh.
The Section 56 of the Act deals with the penalty for contravention of directions or orders of Central Government, State Government, National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Boards. It states that the penalty for such an offence will be fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in case of a second or subsequent offence, with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees and in the case of continuous contravention with additional fine which may extend to two lakh rupees every day during which the default continues.
On 16th December, 2021, the Biological Diversity Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 was tabled in the Lok Sabha. The Bill aims at amending the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. It is creating a lot of controversies around the corner.
On 11th May, 2011, India signed the Nagoya Protocol which establishes a framework that helps researchers access genetic resources for biotechnology research, development and other activities, in return for a fair share of any benefits from their use. This provides the research & development sector with the certainty they need to invest in biodiversity-based research.
Since India became the party of the Nagoya Protocol, there were regular demands to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol. However, the amendment resulted in making the 2002 Act even less equitable and that reduced the power of bio-diversity committees.
The amendment shifted the focus from conservation of Biological resources to commercialisation of biological resources. It further seeks to dilute the three-tier structure created under the Act of 2002 which aims to regulate the access of biological diversity. It seeks to comprehensively dilute institutional structures such as BMCs and Central/State biodiversity committees and give primacy to the NBA, say activists. The amendment states that the “Biodiversity Management Committee represented by the National Biodiversity Authority” will determine fair and equitable benefit sharing.
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted to give effect to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Act establish a three-tier structure to regulate the access of biological resources. These three-tier structure includes, the National Biodiversity Authority, the State Biodiversity Board and the Biodiversity Management Committee. The Act also provides for the penalties of the offence committed under this Act. It also provides that all the offences under this Act are Cognizable and non-bailable offences.
The Biological Diversity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was tabled in the Lok Sabha. Since its introduction, the Bill is creating a lot of controversies around the corner as it shifted the focus of the 2002 Act from conservation of biological resources to commercialisation of resources. It further also seeks to dilute the three-tier structure created under the 2002 Act.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ayushi Budholia is a third-year, B.A.LL.B Student of Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida.
Edited By: Advocate Ramsha Shaikh, Associate Editor at Law Insider
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- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (Act 18 of 2003). ↑
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- Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, “The Nagoya Protocol – Convention on Biological Diversity”. ↑