What is the Biodiversity Act? What changes has the Lok Sabha cleared in the law?

  • Recently, Lok Sabha passed the Biological Diversity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 with certain amendment to Biological Diversity Act of 2002.
  • It seeks to address concerns of several central ministries, state governments, researchers, industry, and other stakeholders, regarding the implementation of the 20-year-old law that is meant to preserve the country’s biological diversity and to ensure its sustainable use.

Aim of the bill:

  • To encourage Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda,
  • To attract more foreign investment in the preservation and commercial utilisation of India’s biological resources, and
  • To simplify and streamline processes so that it is easy for everyone to comply with its provisions

International and India’s effort to protect Biodiversity

  • The efforts to protect biological diversity had begun much earlier.
  • In 1994, countries including India had agreed to a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • There was a general agreement on three things:
    • indiscriminate use of biological resources needed to be halted,
    • sustainable use of these resources, for their medicinal properties for example, needed to be regulated
    • people and communities helping in protecting and maintaining these resources needed to be rewarded for their efforts.
  • With these objectives in Mind, Indian government enacted India’s Biological Diversity Act of 2002.
  • At the national level, it establishes the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), at the state level, it establishes State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs), and at the local body level, it establishes Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs).
  • The primary responsibility of the BMCs is to document local biodiversity and associated knowledge in the form of a People’s Biodiversity Register.
  • And National Biodiversity Authority as a regulatory body, and prescribed the conditions in, and purposes for, which biological resources could be utilised. The purposes mainly related to scientific research and commercial use.

Need for the amended bill

  • Over the years, several stakeholders, like those representing the Indian system of medicine, the seed sector, pharmaceutical and other industries, and the research community, have pointed out that some of the provisions of the 2002 law restricted their activities and thus needed to be modified.
  • In addition, countries agreed to the Nagoya Protocol in 2010, an important international agreement under the CBD, that contained an Access and Benefit Sharing mechanism.
  • Under this mechanism, biodiversity-rich countries needed to provide access to their biological resources to those wanting to use it for research or commercial reasons, and the user agencies, in turn, were mandated to share the benefits of their use with the local communities.
  • This access and benefit-sharing works at both the domestic and the international levels.
  • Over the last few years, the government too has been trying to encourage traditional systems of medicine, all of which rely on these biological resources

Proposed amendments

  • The Bill makes several amendments to the 2002 Act, addressing most of the concerns raised by the practitioners of traditional systems of medicine, the seed sector, and the pharmaceutical industry.
  • It sought to exempt registered AYUSH medical practitioners and people accessing codified traditional knowledge, among others, from giving prior intimation to State biodiversity boards to access biological resources for certain purposes.
  • Along with certain categories of users of biological resources, like practitioners of Indian systems of medicine have been exempted from making payments towards the access and benefit-sharing mechanism.
  • Companies registered in India and controlled by Indians are now treated as Indian companies, even if they have foreign equity or partnership, thereby reducing the restrictions on them.
  • The user and the local management committee, which will be represented by the National Authority, will work together to come to an agreement on the terms of benefit sharing.
  • Provisions have been included to speed up the approval process in cases of use of biological resources in scientific research, or for filing of patent applications.

Lok Sabha passes the Biodiversity Act amendment

Concern over the amended bill

  • Environmentalist organisations such as Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment (LIFE) have said that the amendments were made to “solely benefit” the AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) Ministry and would pave the way for “bio piracy.”
    • The modifications would exempt AYUSH manufacturing companies from needing approvals from the NBA and thus will go against one of the core provisions of the Act.
  • There is currently no agreed-upon definition for the term “codified traditional knowledge.”
  • A broad interpretation could mean that none of the local traditional knowledge is subject to the requirement of benefit sharing.
  • The bill eliminates the direct input of local communities in the process of determining the provisions for benefit sharing.
  • The bill removes the criminal penalties for certain violations of the act and replaces them with a variety of civil penalties.
  • In addition, the Bill gives government officials the authority to investigate complaints and decide on appropriate punishments.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002

  • It arose from India’s attempt to realise the goals enshrined in the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which recognises states’ sovereign rights to use their own biological resources.
  • The legislation, which was passed in 2002, intends to protect biological resources, manage their sustainable use, and enable a just and equitable distribution of benefits resulting from their usage and knowledge with the local populations.
  • The Act’s general objectives include maintaining and controlling the right use of the biological diversity’s components and guaranteeing fair sharing of the benefits obtained from such usage.
  • The Act’s aforementioned goals include protecting traditional knowledge, preventing biopiracy, forbidding persons from obtaining patents without the consent of the government, and more.
  • Section 8, sub-sections (1) and (3) of this Act provide for the establishment of a National Biodiversity Authority in Chennai.


  • Amendment to the bill ensure that tribes and vulnerable communities get the benefit from the proceeds of medicinal forest products and along with it by decriminalizing certain activities, it will help in encouraging Ayurveda as well as ease of doing business.
  • Therefore, amendments to the bills are need of hour to bring the positive amendment in the Biodiversity Act for sustainable utilisation of biodiversity resources while protecting the biodiversity.