India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world. With only 2.4% of the world’s area, India accounts for 7-8% of the world’s recorded plant and animal species. India’s ten biogeographic zones possess an exemplary diversity of ecological habitats like alpine forests, grasslands, wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems, and desert ecosystems.
India has 4 out of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, which is an indicator of high degree of endemism (of species) in India. India’s biodiversity includes wild relatives of agricultural crops and domesticated animals. India has 16 major types and 251 subtypes of forests.
India’s Constitutional and other efforts on Biodiversity
Environment protection is enshrined in the Constitution of India [Article 48A and Article 51A (g). Wide-ranging policies, programmes and projects are in place, which directly or indirectly serve to protect, conserve and sustainably use the country’s biological resources. These include:
- Forest (Conservation) Act
- Wildlife (Protection) Act
- Biological Diversity Act
- National Green Tribunal Act
- National Biodiversity Action Plan
- National Forest Policy
- National Wildlife Action Plan
- National Forestry Action Programme
- National Environment Policy and
- National Action Plan on Climate Change.
Sustainable use of our biodiversity, therefore, has both ecological and economic value. It is with this objective that India has enacted Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and set up a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in 2003 with an explicit mandate of promoting conservation of biological resources and associated knowledge as well as facilitating access to them in a sustainable manner.
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, enacted in 2006, is a tool to provide occupational and habitational rights to the people, thus, incentivising conservation and sustainable use of biological resources by providing access to livelihood enhancing resources to people.
National Biodiversity Action Plan of 2008 developed in consultation with various stakeholders and by taking cognizance of legislative and policy framework is a dynamic matrix for mainstreaming biodiversity concerns in the country. India proudly upholds the tradition of nature conservation Jim Corbett National Park covering an area of 325 sq. Km. came into being as the India’s first and world’s third National Park in 1936. India has currently 4.79% of total geographic area under an elaborate network of protected areas (PAs), which includes 99 National Parks, 513 wildlife sanctuaries, 43 conservation reserves, 4 community reserves and 4 Biodiversity Heritage sites.
Under the Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme out of 17 biospheres in India (70,000 sq. km ), seven are already in UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (World total 503).
India has a National Wetland Conservation Programme covering 125 wetlands including 25 Ramsar sites under the Ramsar Convention. India accounts for about 5% of the world’s- mangroves (including Sunderbans delta the largest mangrove forest in the world) and partners with lUCN’s Mangroves for future programme and has established a National Institute of the Mangrove Research at Kolkata. Coral reefs in India occupy an extent of 2375 sq. km. (including the Andaman Islands, which have rich coral diversity and a National Coral Reef Research Centre at Port Blair).
National Lake Conservation Plan
It covers 42 lakes, which aims at rejuvenation in terms of improvement on water quality and biodiversity.
The objective of the scheme is to restore and conserve the urban and semi-urban lakes of the country degraded due to waste water discharge into the lake and other unique freshwater eco systems, through an integrated ecosystem approach.
Activities covered under NLCP
Prevention of pollution from point sources by intercepting, diverting and treating the pollution loads entering the lake. The interception and diversion works may include sewerage & sewage treatment for the entire lake catchment area.
- In situ measures of lake cleaning such as de-silting, de- weeding, bioremediation, aeration, bio-manipulation, nutrient reduction, withdrawal of anoxic hypolimnion, constructed wetland approach or any other successfully tested eco- technologies etc depending upon the site conditions.
- Catchment area treatment, which may include afforestation, storm water drainage, and silt traps etc
- Strengthening of bund, lake fencing, shoreline development etc.
- Lake front eco-development including public interface.
- Solid waste management & provision of dhobi ghats is generally not covered under NLCP.
- Prevention of pollution from non-point sources by providing low cost sanitation.
- Public awareness and public participation.
- Capacity building, training and research in the area of Lake Conservation.
- Any other activity depending upon location specific requirements
India has a National River Conservation Plan under implementation in 160 cities covering 34 rivers. NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority) is responsible for conserving and sustainable use of the biodiversity of the river Ganges.
Legislative and Policy Measures for Biodiversity Conservation
India has been a signatory to the Convention since 18th February 1994, and is one of the first countries to have enacted an appropriate comprehensive legislation to achieve the objectives of the convention. As signatory to the CBD, the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, passed on December 11, 2002 came into force on February 5, 2003, followed by the formation of it Rules in 2004.
The Biological Diversity Act of 2002 provides necessary statutory and administrative mechanism at the National, State and Local body levels to realise the objectives of the Act and CBD. A three-tiered system of regulation is envisaged under the Biological Diversity Act, which consists of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the apex level, Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) at State level and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) " at local level.
The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act, 2001 and Rules 2003 deal primarily with the protection of plant breeders rights over the new varieties developed. The Act also provides for protection of farmer’s varieties and creation of national gene fund for promoting conservation of local varieties.
The Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999 has been enacted to provide for protection of geographical indications of goods referring to a place of origin of that product and the exclusion of unauthorized persons from misusing geographical indications. Till march 2012, 169 goods have been registered.
National Innovation Foundation (NIF), an autonomous society established in 2000 for recognising, respecting and rewarding innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge at grassroots, has developed a model for facilitating prior informed consent for local innovators and traditional knowledge holders which provides for NIF mediation.
Protection of Traditional Knowledge
India has possessed a rich traditional knowledge of ways and means practiced to treat diseases afflicting people. This knowledge has generally been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. A part of this knowledge has been described in ancient classical and other literature, often inaccessible to the common person and even when accessible rarely understood. Documentation of this existing knowledge, available in public domain, on various traditional systems of medicine has become imperative to safeguard the sovereignty of this traditional knowledge and to protect it from being misappropriated in the form of patents on non-original innovations, and which has been a matter of national concern.
India fought successfully for the revocation of turmeric and basmati patents granted by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and neem patent granted by European Patent Office (EPO). As a sequel to this, in 1999, the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) constituted an inter-disciplinary Task Force, for creating an approach paper on establishing a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL).
Biodiversity Act 2002
The Biodiversity Act address
The Biodiversity Act - 2002 primarily addresses acpess to genetic resources and associated knowledge by foreign individuals, institutions or companies, to ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of these resources and knowledge to the country and the people.
The Biological Diversity Act covers
The Act covers conservation, use of biological resources and associated knowledge occurring in India for commercial or research purposes or for the purposes of bio-survey and bioutilisation. it provides a framework for access to biological resources and sharing the benefits arising out of such access and use. The Act also includes in its ambit the transfer of research results and application-for intellectual property rights (IPRs) relating to Indian biological resources.
Requirement under the Biological Diversity Act
The Ac covers foreigners, non-resident Indians, body corporate, association or organization that is either not incorporated in India or incorporated in India with non-Indian participation in its share capital or management. These individuals or entities require the approval of the National Biodiversity Authority when they use biological resources and associated knowledge occurring in India for commercial or research purposes or for the purposes of bio-survey or bio-utilisation.
Indians and Indian institutions do not require the approval of the National Biodiversity Authority when they engage in the above - mentioned activities. However, they would need to inform the State Biodiversity Boards prior to undertaking such activities. However, any commercial application related to use of biological resources should be approved by the Authority.
The legislation provides for the following exemptions
- Exemption to local people and community of the area for free access to use biological resources within India
- Exemptions to growers and cultivators of biodiversity and to Vaids and Hakims to use biological resources.
- Exemption through notification of normally traded commodities from the purview of the Act
- Exemption for collaborative research through government sponsored or government approved institutions subject to overall policy guidelines and approval of the Central Government
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established in 2003 to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002). The NBA is Autonomous body and that performs facilitative, regulatory and advisory function for Government of India on issue of Conservation, sustainable use of biological resource and fair equitable sharing of benefits of use. The headquarter of NBA is at Chennai.
State Biodiversity Boards (SBB)
All matters relating to access by Indians for commercial purposes will be under the purview of the State Biodiversity Boards (SBB). The Indian industry will be required to provide prior intimation to the concerned SBB about the use of biological resource. The State Board will have the power to restrict any such activity, which violates the objectives of conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits.
Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)
Institutions of local self government will be required to set up Biodiversity Management Committees in their respective areas for conservation, sustainable use, documentation of biodiversity and chronicling of knowledge relating to biodiversity.
NBA and SBBs are required to consult the concerned BMCs on matters related to use of biological resources and associated knowledge within their jurisdiction.