Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021

News: The Lok Sabha recently passed the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill 2021. 

Background:
• The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted in response to India's commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of 1992.
• The CBD recognizes that countries have the right to control their biological resources and sets the stage for regulating access to these resources based on national legislation.
• The Biological Diversity act 2002 set up a 3 tier structure for regulation - National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) at the state level, and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the local body level.
• In December 2021, the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha to amend the 2002 Act. The amendments are designed to align the Act with current needs and developments, while supporting sustainable biodiversity conservation and utilization in India.

Key Highlights of 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.

What are key provisions of the Biological Diversity Amendment bill 2021?

Key ProvisionsThe Biological Diversity Act, 2002 The Biological Diversity Amendment Bill, 2021
Access to biological resources and associated knowledgeRequires prior approval or intimation to the regulatory authority based on the origin of the entityThe Bill modifies the classification of entities and activities that require intimation, while also introducing exemptions to certain cases.
Intellectual Property RightsApproval of NBA is required before applying for IPR involving biological resources obtained from India or sealing of the patentThe Bill suggests that approval will be required before the actual grant of the IPR, not during the application process.
Offences and PenaltiesThe Act imposes criminal penalties, including imprisonment, foroffenses such as not obtaining approval or intimation for specific activities.The Bill, on the other hand, decriminalizes these offenses and introduces fines ranging from one lakh to fifty lakh rupees instead.
Benefit SharingNBA is required to determine terms of benefit sharing while granting approvals for various activities.SBB will determine benefit sharing while granting approvals to domestic entities as per the regulations by NBA.


Key Issues of the Bill:
• 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.
• The amendments do not adequately address the challenges faced by biodiversity conservation in India and appears to reduce regulations and facilitate business interests.

Way Forward
• It is important to strike right balance between Biodiversity conservation and economic development which the amendments fail to replicate.

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