The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 – which Parliament passed on February 5, 2003 – provides for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, the fair and equitable distribution of benefits arising from the usage of biological resources, and related matters. The Act refers to the Convention on Biological Diversity, adopted by the United Nations in 1992, which India is a signatory to.
The 20-page Act has
12 chapters: Preliminary (Chapter I); Regulation of Access to Biological
Diversity (Chapter II); National Biodiversity Authority (Chapter III); Functions
and Powers of the National Biodiversity Authority (Chapter IV); Approval by the
National Biodiversity Authority (Chapter V); State Biodiversity Board (Chapter
VI); Finance, Accounts and Audit of National Biodiversity Authority (Chapter
VII); Finance, Accounts and Audit of State Biodiversity Board (Chapter VIII); Duties
of the Central and the State Governments (Chapter IX); Biodiversity Management
Committees (Chapter X); Local Biodiversity Fund (Chapter XI) and Miscellaneous
What are ‘biological diversity’, ‘sustainable use’ and ‘biological resources' defined as?
‘Biological diversity’ refers to the “variability among living organisms from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are part.” It includes diversity among and within species’ and eco-systems.
‘Sustainable use’ means the use of components of biological diversity in a manner and rate that does not lead to their ‘long-term decline’.
‘Biological resources’ refer to plants, animals, micro-organisms and their genetic materials, which have actual or potential use or value. The term does not include human genetic material.
What does the Act say about regulating access to biological diversity?
Without the approval of the National Biodiversity Authority, no organisation or person – an Indian citizen or otherwise – shall obtain any biological resource occurring in India, or any associated knowledge for research or commercial utilisation.
What is the National Biodiversity Authority?
The Act directs the central government to set up the National Biodiversity Authority. The Authority may advise the central government on matters relating to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components; the selection of biodiverse areas to be notified as heritage sites and the management of such sites; or undertake any other activity necessary as per this Act. The Authority, on behalf of the central government, may also oppose the grant of intellectual property rights on any biological resource obtained from India in foreign countries.
What are the central government’s duties under this Act?
The central government shall develop plans and strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including identifying and monitoring areas rich in biological resources and incentives for research. If the central government believes that an area rich in biological diversity and resources is being threatened by overuse, abuse or neglect, it shall issue directives to the concerned state government to take immediate measures to tackle this. The central government shall integrate the conservation, promotion and sustainable use of biological diversity into its plans, programmes and policies. It shall take measures to assess the environmental impact of a project likely to have adverse effects on biological diversity. The government shall also endeavour to respect and protect the knowledge of local people relating to biological diversity, in the manner recommended by the National Biodiversity Authority.
Apart from this, the central government may notify areas as biological diversity sites; recognise any species on the brink of extinction as threatened; designate repositories for different categories of biological resources; and exempt biological resources from falling under the provisions of this Act.
What are State Biodiversity Boards?
The Act says that state governments may appoint their own Biodiversity Boards. Their functions shall be to advise the state government on matters related to the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, the fair and equitable distribution of benefits arising from the use of biological resources; regulating requests by Indian citizens for the commercial utilisation of any biological resource; and to undertake any other activity necessary as per this Act.
Focus and Factoids by Nivedita Gautam.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
05 Feb, 2003