Lok Sabha passed the Biodiversity Bill, and it is set to be passed in the Rajya Sabha. While there is no doubt that measures like ease of doing business are positive steps, we must tread cautiously when it comes to addressing the pressing issue of global warming. The month of July has been recorded as the hottest in 120,000 years on Earth, underscoring the urgency of our actions.
The Biodiversity Bill is of paramount importance to India, as it is one of the 17 internationally recognized mega-biodiversity countries, and it hosts four of the 35 globally recognized biodiversity hotspots. This bill grants Indian companies easier access to and use of biological resources for various commercial applications, such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and biotechnology.
It stems from the Biological Diversity Act of 2002, which aimed to facilitate the development of products relying on Indian biodiversity. One significant proposal in the amendments to the bill is the encouragement of foreign investment in India’s biological resources. While this may attract foreign investors, it also raises concerns about potential exploitation.
However, if implemented with care, these amendments might foster developments that benefit both commercial enterprises and local communities, ensuring fair benefit sharing and respect for traditional knowledge. On the other hand, there are apprehensions surrounding the dilution of conservation laws, especially those affecting India’s Himalayan ecosystem.
The recent amendments to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 by the Lok Sabha have triggered concerns about the potential threat to these fragile ecosystems. The original FCA aimed to regulate industrial uses of forested land, such as mining and hydropower, while also prioritizing conservation efforts. The amended law, if passed by the Rajya Sabha, will exempt forest land within 100 kilometers along India’s borders and certain other types of forest land from protection.
It also does away with the earlier requirement for the consent of residents living on forest land. This has raised alarm among environmentalists, conservationists, and civil society groups, who argue that India’s border areas house some of the most biodiversity-rich forests and protected areas. Six Opposition members in the Joint Committee of Parliament have dissented against the Bill, advocating for environmental audits and consultations with state governments before issuing forest diversion orders in the ecologically sensitive Himalayan and northeastern regions.
These dissenting voices emphasize the importance of protecting the Himalayan provinces, which are particularly susceptible to climate hotspots. The government justifies the legislative reforms as part of its commitment to mitigating climate change and boosting agroforestry while expanding forest cover.
While the intentions are noble, there is a concern that the underlying approach towards the environment is resourcedriven, lacking greater accountability for ecological protection. To address the challenges effectively, there is a need for a paradigm shift in our approach to the environment. The faulty idea of viewing nature as an endless resource to be exploited must give way to a more sustainable and accountable governance model. This transformation will only occur when the common citizen demands such a shift and actively participates in the process.
In conclusion, the Biodiversity Bill is a crucial step towards safeguarding India’s diverse ecological treasures, and it must be implemented with a balanced approach that ensures both ease of doing business and addresses the pressing issue of global warming. We must recognize the importance of conserving our environment for the sake of future generations and strive for a sustainable and equitable path towards progress. (The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Central Chronicle