NGT extends time for constitution of biodiversity management committees

NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal has extended the time limit for the constitution of biodiversity management committees (BMCs) and preparation of people’s biodiversity registers (PBRs) on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel was assured by the member secretary of the National Biodiversity Authority that monitoring will be faithfully conducted with all the state biodiversity boards concerned and necessary steps for compliance of law will be taken.

“We also find that in view of COVID situation, it will be necessary to take a liberal view about the delay caused. Accordingly, the time for remaining compliances is extended up to June 30, 2021, and compensation amounts will stand waived if compliances are ensured by that date,” the bench said.

The green panel noted that it has already monitored the matter for the last more than four years and there is substantial progress in compliance with the requirements of setting up BMCs and maintaining PBRs.

The order was passed after some states sought extension of time on account of the pandemic and also waiver of the requirement to pay compensation for the delay.

The NGT noted that India is one of the recognised mega-diverse countries of the world, harbouring nearly seven to eight per cent of the recorded species of the world, and representing four of the 34 globally identified biodiversity hotspots.

“So far, over 91,200 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants have been documented in the 10 biogeographic regions of the country. The indigenous and local community are a repository of traditional knowledge and their knowledge and practices help in conservation and sustainable development of the biodiversity,” the tribunal said.

“In the past, India has already faced biopiracy. There is, thus, urgent need to document the knowledge of the local community in the form of PBR,” it added.

The NGT was earlier informed by a monitoring committee formed by it that as against 2,52,709 panchayats where biodiversity management committees were to be constituted, a total of 1,44,371 BMCs have been formed, which shows a gap of more than one lakh.

With respect to people’s biodiversity registers, 6,834 have been documented so far and another 1,814 are in progress, it had noted.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Pune resident Chandra Bhal Singh seeking implementation of provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Biological Diversity Rules, 2004.

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 aims to preserve biological diversity in India and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge.

“The blatant non-compliance of the provisions of the said act and rules has frustrated the whole efforts of enacting such a legislation owing to the International obligation of India while being a signatory to the Rio Declaration and Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992,” the plea had said.

It was alleged that various states in the country have failed to give proper attention to the unique biodiversity prevalent in India and they have also not undertaken their statutory obligations with “seriousness and have remained oblivious in discharging the statutory provision in last couple of years”.

Seeking constitution of biodiversity management committees at the local level in every state under Section 41 of the Biological Biodiversity Act, 2002, the plea claimed that several state biodiversity boards have not constituted a BMC at the local level “for the purpose of promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity”.

It further said the People’s Biodiversity Register, a document which records diversity of flora and fauna, has not been prepared and maintained by the Biodiversity Management Committee in some of the states.

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