DMPQ-“Strengthening biodiversity governance is important steps towards the protection of India’s wild life.” Discuss.

Extensive biodiversity loss in the past decades has spared neither developed nor developing countries. The extinction of species, over-harvesting, introduction of exotic species, habitat loss, pollution and climate change has led to an increased risk portfolio for marginalised communities.

The need for ecosystem stability and habitat heterogeneity has slowly taken credence over conventional economic standards such as gross domestic product.  Rapidly accelerating biodiversity loss led to a series of introspections and eventually a worldwide catharsis among countries that resulted in them coming together at the Rio Summit in 1992, where major legally binding conventions for the protection of nature — including the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) — were adopted.

The BD Act was hailed as an important step towards preserving our vast biodiversity and was considered a pioneer legislation as it recognised the sovereign right of countries over their natural resources. It also put restrictions on the access of bio-resources by user countries.  Access to genetic resources rested with the national government and was subject to national legislation, according to CBD. This decision shifted the balance of power of utilising bio-resources from user countries to provider countries.  Most of the world’s biotechnology-based patents are owned by developed countries, with the resources to make them sourced from mega-diverse country like India.

Under the BD Act, an important regulatory mechanism was the emphasis on access and benefit sharing (ABS) to local populations.  Having integrated ABS within a decade of CBD, India came to be regarded as a pioneer country: Only 105 of 197 countries that signed CBD formed a national legislation for regulatory use of bio-resources.  This initial initiative taken by the Union government went a long way in strengthening the case of securing benefits for its rightful owners for the coming decades.

The BD Act helped create three structures: The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, the state biodiversity boards (SSBs) at the state level and biodiversity management committees (BMCs) at the local level.  These three bodies are statutory and autonomous in nature, while NBA and SBBs are body corporates. To ensure that independent autonomy exists, there is no overlap of NBA and SBBs on issues of ABS.  The BMC is a powerful statutory body which is an integral part of the legislative system setup by the BD Act.

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