Nov 5, 2015


P A Francis
Wednesday, November 04, 2015, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]
Implementation of guidelines on access to biological resources and benefits sharing (ABS) as per Biological Diversity Act of 2002 is yet to take place in all the states in the country. The objective of the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests in November 2014 was to ensure sustainable use of bio-resources across the country. The government has found that Ayush companies have been the largest single beneficiary of bio-resources in the country as they have been commercially exploiting bio-resources for manufacturing their various products for all these years. The ABS guidelines empower respective state biodiversity boards to determine the amount of benefit sharing to be given by Ayush manufacturers to the state exchequer under the Act. In fact, notification of the guidelines on ABS have been held back for the past 10 years due to pressure from the industry groups during successive government regimes as it helped mainly Ayush companies to save thousands of crores of rupees that they would have to shell out as royalties every year.

ABS guidelines mandate collection from domestic and foreign companies 0.1 to 1 per cent of their ex-factory gross sales of products using biological resources and traditional knowledge of the country. As per the Section 7 and 24 (2) of the Biological Diversity Act, manufacturers extracting plant based materials for commercial purposes without intimation to State Biodiversity Boards shall be punishable under Section 55 (2) of the Act with imprisonment which may extend up to three years with fine or five years with fine or both. One of the main reasons for ineffective implementation of the Act and the guidelines is the lack of cooperation by the state governments. Only a few states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal and Maharashtra have started enforcing the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act so far although 28 State Biodiversity Boards and 34,000 Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) have been set up in the country. BMCs constituted by the local bodies in States prepare, maintain and validate People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) in consultation with the local people. Now only Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board started taking action against Ayush companies for non compliance of ABS payments by way of sending notices for recovery. Ayush companies in the state, however, are in no mood to comply with orders and planning to challenge the same. A critical statute like Biological Diversity Act needs to be implemented with extreme urgency and all the state governments have to cooperate with the Centre for the sustainable growth of Ayush sector. And the Ayush companies and their associations have a moral responsibility to participate in this exercise by giving a part of their earnings to the government for preserving bio-resources of the country. 


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