Biodiversity Act has gone ahead of global legal arrangement: Prof M K Ramesh

Bengaluru: “Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is a new and evolving philosophy. Its issues are technically and legally complex that require some degree of understanding of scientific, legal and social considerations," said Prof M.K. Ramesh, professor of law at National Law School of India University, at a one-day Awareness Workshop on Understanding the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, and its Legal Provisions, organised by the Bengaluru Bioinnovation Centre (BBC) in association with the Karnataka Biodiversity Board, Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). 

He said that the Biodiversity Act 2002 went beyond its international commitment and promise and, at times, appears to have gone ahead of the international legal arrangement. 

“This is, arguably, the first law to recognise and protect traditional and communitarian rights,” he said.

Pointing to the concerns that still remain in the Act, he said, “The law is poorly conceptualised and there are inordinate delays in the constitution of biodiversity management committees and there is a lack of clarity in determining their role, responsibilities and functioning. Biodiversity in this country has always been under pressure. When we became independent, we were 30 crore people and our requirements were within the limits of biodiversity elements as far as biological potentials are concerned. As we have grown, the potential to use biodiversity too has grown.”

Giving details of the historical aspects leading up to the Biodiversity Act, retired IFS officer G.A. Kinhal said the technology was with the West and they used Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) restrictions on us to use the technology. “They were using our species without permission. Our own species used to come back to India in the form of medicines from the West. They were alerted in 1992 in the Convention of Biodiversity," he said. 

He explained that the Act was formed for the conservation of species by adopting sustainable harvest methods and also by providing equitable benefits to the people who protected these species. 

“If the people are accessing the resources for commercial benefits they have to share a part of the benefit with the local people,” Dr Kinhal said.

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