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Sansad TV: Bills: An Insight- The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

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Introduction:

The Bill amends the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to simplify compliance requirements for domestic companies. It also allows for foreign investment in research in biodiversity.

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill amends the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 to simplify compliance requirements for domestic companies.
  • Users of codified traditional knowledge and AYUSH practitioners will be exempted from sharing benefits with local communities.
  • The Bill removes research and bio-survey activities from the purview of benefit sharing requirements.
  • Benefit sharing will be based on terms agreed between the user and the local management committee represented by the National Authority.
  • The Bill decriminalises all offences under the Act.

Issues:

  • The term codified traditional knowledge has not been defined.  A broad interpretation might exempt all local traditional knowledge from benefit sharing requirements.
  • The Bill removes the direct role of local communities in determining benefit sharing provisions.
  • The Bill decriminalises offences under the Act and instead provides for a wide range of penalties.   Further, the Bill empowers government officials to hold inquiries and determine penalties.  It may be questioned whether it is appropriate to confer such discretion to government officials.

Local communities may not have a direct say in benefit sharing

  • The Bill removes the direct role of local bodies and benefit claimers in determining mutually agreed terms.
  • The Act states that while granting approvals for various activities, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) will determine terms for benefit sharing.
  • Such approval should be in accordance with the mutually agreed terms between the applicant, concerned local bodies, and benefit claimers.
  • Benefit claimers are persons who are conservers of biological resources, or creators or holders of associated traditional knowledge.
  • The Bill amends this to require that approvals should be in accordance with mutually agreed terms between the applicant and the concerned Biodiversity Management Committee represented by NBA.
  • Thus, benefit claimers and local people will not be directly involved in setting the terms and conditions.