Ten years after introducing a Biodiversity Act, India is yet to put it to serious use although several large development projects have invited controversy for their likely impact on biodiversity, say Shalini Bhutani and Kanchi Kohli.A National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was created in 2003, but the government is not bound by its recommendations.
The Act was meant to provide for the conservation of biological diversity, in line with the primary objective of the Convention of Biodiversity (CBD). But, given the reality in which it operates, the question is whether the Act will come anywhere near effecting biodiversity justice.
The central government is required by the CBD and the Act to develop national strategies, plans and programmes for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.Between 2000 and 2003, a civil society group was commissioned to helpprepare Indias National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, but the final report was not accepted by the government which released its own draft National Biodiversity Action Plan made by technocrats.
The Act only requires consultation with local communities which are nowhere near making decisions on local resources as prescribed by both the Act and the CBD. The Act does not take a clear position on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and there has been no instance of the NBA invoking powers to oppose grant of IPR in any foreign country on biological resources or peoples knowledge from India.