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Aspects of Biodiversity Law

Although it only takes up 2.4% of the Earth's total land area, India is considered one of the 17 mega-biodiverse nations. The availability of a wide diversity of genetic, plant and animal species, and other natural resources, all of which have been and are being exploited for economic advantage, may be partly responsible for this contribution. Human overexploitation of resources has accelerated to the point that it has contributed to the extinction of several species and the depletion of valuable genetic diversity.

Years of unchecked urbanization, rapid industry, and other human activity have left the ecosystem in poor condition. As a result of this ecological decline, a legislation was enacted in India with the express purpose of ensuring the protection and preservation of the country's rich array of flora and fauna.

Implementation of Biological Diversity Act of 2002:

Indian lawmakers passed the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (the Act) in response to the environmental damage caused by humans and to fulfill their obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992. The Act's stated goal is to "conserve biological resources, take appropriate action for mitigation of risks, and effectively address the issues concerning equitable sharing of benefits pertaining to utilization of biological resources."

The Act establishes a three-tiered authority framework consisting of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs), and the Biodiversity Management Committees to ensure sustainable use of resources while promoting equitable usage and benefits (BMC). Each of these agencies plays a unique role in enforcing rules and regulations that promote preservation, responsible usage, and equitable distribution of benefits.

Before the Biodiversity Act of 2002

According to Article 51 of the Indian Constitution, the country must abide by all international accords and treaties. India signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in May 1994, hence the country had to comply with its terms. In the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumalpad v. Union of India 2, the country's judicial system reaffirmed India's commitment to its international duties to safeguard biodiversity.

The highest court in the land pointed out that it is the responsibility of the government to interpret domestic law in light of international treaties and standards. The highest court also ruled that protecting forest habitats and species is a matter of constitutional obligation. As part of its international commitments, the United States passed the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 and the Rule in 2004.

Post the Biological Resources Conservation Act of 2002

There has been a sea change in the last decade in terms of publicly and legally articulating the negative impact of human activities on biological variety. The National Green Tribunal was set up as a specialized entity to provide an efficient and effective first instance venue for environmental jurisprudence in the nation. Planning ahead for biodiversity concerns via policy interventions and financial commitments is seen as a key source for reducing unfavorable environmental effects in the future.

Recent Development
As to the United Nations Environment Programme, India is amongst the top achievers when it comes to efficiently meeting the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Biodiversity Management Committees are required by law to compile People's Biodiversity Registers after consulting with residents. It is crucial to recognise that the Registers are more than just records; they provide information that can be used to assess the situation on the ground and shape policies for the conservation and preservation of biodiversity. In 2021, the Haryana State Biodiversity Board established over 6,000 committees to collect and record local expertise on the topic of biological resources and biodiversity.

The Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing-House designed to allow for implementation of the Nagoya Protocol was approved by India in 2012, and since then it has served as a platform for the efficient sharing of data relating to the country's genetic resources. In 2013, the Madhya Pradesh State Biodiversity Board mandated that businesses make money off of the state's bio-resources and revealed the positive outcomes that would follow. The decree also detailed the approvals that businesses need in order to take use of biological resources for profit.

The National Biodiversity Authority (part of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change) published the Guidelines on Access to Biological Resources and Associated Knowledge and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Regulations, 2019 through a notification3 released in 2019. It seems from the Regulations that the State Biodiversity Board is obligated to comply with the regulations thereunder, and it also imposes specific duties on researchers and scientists in regards to discoveries made in India but stored in a repository outside of the country.

And to help facilitate United Nations agreement on issues related to biological diversity and the plan of action to effectively preserve and protect nature and its resources, the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has released a new structure called the Global Framework for Managing Nature Through 20304. The purpose of this new paradigm is to encourage more immediate and transformational action by governments and all of society, especially indigenous people and local communities, to reduce threats to biodiversity.

Biological diversity (amendment) bill, 2021

Concerns have been raised about the potential decriminalization of some elements in the Amendment Bill when it was first proposed. The Amendment Bill proposes to decriminalize violations of substantive provisions of the legislation, and it also provides for the creation of two separate authorities, namely, Biodiversity Authorities at both the Central and State levels, which were previously divided into the National Biodiversity Authority and the State Biodiversity Authorities under the Biodiversity Act, 2002. In cases where any of the Act's stipulations were broken, these bodies might file formal complaints (FIR) and thereafter initiate magisterial investigations.

However, the Amendment Bill suggests revoking the National Biodiversity Authority to initiate a FIR against a violating party. In addition, the proposed Bill calls for the appointment of an inquiry officer, who, after conducting an investigation, may fine repeat offenders up to Rs. 1 million.

Arguments have been made that the objective for conservation of biological resources has taken a second seat to the protection of intellectual property and the promotion of innovation, both of which are emphasized in the Amendment Bill. Biological resource access for specific AYUSH objectives without prior authorisation from State biodiversity boards is also a cause for worry.

Foreign investment in biodiversity research, however, will be permitted only with the prior consent of the National Biodiversity Authority and must come from an Indian firm engaged in biodiversity research. Considering the suggested provisions, which are open to additional revision based on its current state of rest. The long-term goal, however, is to have a more refined set of laws in place that consciously strikes a balance while still protecting the interests of all parties involved in India's biodiversity policy.

The Convention on Biological Diversity

The CBD encompasses several tiers of biodiversity, including ecosystems, species, and genetic resources, and is connected to many fields outside of academia. The Convention of Parties (COP) is the CBD's governing body, and it is in charge of monitoring progress, defining objectives, and creating strong action plans.

The 13th Meeting of the COP was held in Gujarat, India in February 2020, with the topic of migratory species of wild animals. India was deemed to have committed to a number of agreements and choices about risks to the migratory species and efficient strategies to assist in protecting their habitat around the world after the Conference concluded.

Indian Laws on Biodiversity

Forest Conservation Act 1980:

The goal of the law is to reduce the pace of deforestation and preserve forest areas. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change published a consultation document in October 2021 recommending changes to the Act aimed at making it simpler for businesses to comply with its requirements.

Fisheries Act 1897:

The Act has strict protections against the killing of fish with explosives, water poisoning, and other similar methods.

Mining and Mineral Development Regulation Act 1957:

The Mining and Mineral Development Regulation Act of 1957 came into being with the main goal of controlling the mining industry. It lays forth the steps and requirements for obtaining a mining or commercial exploration license in India.

Wildlife Protection Act 1972:

The major goal of the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1972 is to prevent the hunting of wild animals or endangered species, but it also covers the protection of some plants by making it illegal to uproot or cut them.

Major Biodiversity Projects in India

Project Elephant:

It was launched in 1992 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India to aid individual states in their wildlife management of free-ranging Asian elephants. The goal of the effort is to guarantee the long-term survival of elephants in their natural environments by protecting them, their habitats, and their migratory routes. Funding research into elephant ecology and management, increasing conservation awareness among locals, and bettering veterinary treatment for captive elephants are some of Project Elephant's other goals.

Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation:

This project is crucial to NMCG's goal of Ganga Rejuvenation since it will restore the river's natural balance. Aquatic biota are excellent indicators of river health and should be at the focus of every sustainable river restoration operation. For the purpose of conservation planning and information dissemination, the project also seeks to establish a Ganga Aqualife Conservation Monitoring Centre at WII DehraDun.

Shiwalik Biodiversity Park:

At 50 hectares in size, SBP is the largest park in the state dedicated to protecting the state's natural habitats and biodiversity. Over the course of the next five years, the project's three stages will be built. It will include more than thirty-three different conservation ideas.

Project Dolphins:

Beginning in 2021, India has been working on completing a triennial census of dolphin populations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the initiative in 2020, and a final report is likely to be released in June or July 2022.

National Mission on Sustainable Habitat:

The goal is to improve energy efficiency and facilitate the use of renewable resources in urban areas.

In order to preserve human survival now and in the future, biodiversity conservation and preservation measures must be put in place. Protecting and maintaining Earth's life-sustaining infrastructure requires a concerted and cooperative effort now that will pay dividends in the years to come. With our own existence dependent on the continued presence of nature, biological variety is of great social and cultural importance. Initiatives that are both comprehensive and focused on promoting sustainable lifestyles are quite likely to have a significant impact on environmental conservation.

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