ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India in the Environmental Performance Index

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The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for 2022 is a data-driven overview of the global level of sustainability. The EPI rates 180 nations on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality using 40 performance indicators across 11 issue areas. These metrics show how near countries are to meeting the stated environmental policy goals on a national basis. The recently released EPI scorecard identifies environmental leaders and laggards as well as practical advice for nations seeking to move towards a more sustainable future. Despite the implementation of various projects such as Sashakt Bharat, Swachh Bharat, Sanatan Bharat, and others, India was rated last in the EPI 2022. According to the survey, India is the least ecologically sustainable out of the 180 countries studied. According to this research by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, the Yale University, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University, and the McCall MacBain Foundation, India has the lowest EPI of 18.9.

One of the most peculiar features of the scorecard was the placement of the country at the 179th position for the category “Biodiversity and Habitat.” This category evaluates a country’s efforts to preserve natural ecosystems and safeguard the complete variety of biodiversity found within its boundaries. Protected Areas Representativeness Index (177), Species Habitat Index (80), Species Protection Index (175), and Biodiversity Habitat Index (170) are among the seven indicators. The variety of living forms that exist on earth is referred to as biodiversity. Human activities on earth have generated difficulties for biodiversity, such as habitat loss, ecological system degradation, and species extinction or threat of extinction.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was signed in 1992, is an important international instrument that addresses these problems. It recognises sovereign rights over biological resources and allows countries to manage access to these resources in accordance with their own laws. It acknowledges local and indigenous groups’ contributions to conservation and sustainable usage via traditional knowledge, traditions, and inventions. In 1994, India became a signatory to the CBD. The CBD has adopted two protocols: (i) the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2003) and (ii) the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (2014). In 2003, India accepted the Cartagena Protocol, and in 2014, it ratified the Nagoya Protocol. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was approved by Parliament in light of India’s responsibilities under the CBD. The act governs access to biological resources as well as traditional knowledge related to them.

The bill of 2021 aims to alter the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 to (i) promote Indian medicine and the cultivation of wild medicinal plants, (ii) expedite research, patent applications, and research findings transfer, (iii) decriminalise offences, and (iv) attract foreign investment in the area. A corporation “incorporated in India” that is a “foreign-controlled company” will need the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) authorisation for certain actions, according to the bill. A “foreign-controlled firm” is defined in the bill as a foreign corporation controlled by a foreigner as per Section 2(42) of the Companies Act, 2013. A foreign corporation is defined as a company or body corporate established outside of India under Section 2(42) of the Companies Act. As a result, the bill contradicts itself by needing NBA clearance for a business formed in India (Clause 5) yet incorporated outside India (Section 2[42] of the Companies Act). The bill replaces a judge with a government person as the adjudicating authority. Instead of a judgment based on open court arguments, the punishment judgments will be based on an inquiry. The debate is whether such discretion should be granted to government personnel. Users of biological resources and associated knowledge must share advantages with local communities under the 2002 act.

Users of “codified traditional knowledge” are excluded from this requirement under the bill. Moreover, this term is neither defined in the bill nor is it defined in the CBD, or in the Nagoya and Cartagena Protocols that follow it. Using a wide definition of this phrase, practically all conventional knowledge might be free from benefit-sharing rules. Local authorities and benefit claimants will no longer have direct involvement in defining mutually agreed terms under the bill. The NBA would decide the parameters for benefit-sharing when giving licences for various operations, according to the act. The terms of such permission should be jointly agreed upon by the applicant, concerning local entities, and benefit claimants. Claimants for benefits include those who are biological resource conservationists as well as producers or holders of related traditional knowledge. The bill changes this to require that permissions be granted on mutually agreed-upon terms between the applicant and the relevant Biodiversity Management Committee, which is represented by the NBA. As a result, benefit claimants and local residents will not have a direct say in determining the terms and conditions. In light of the EPI ranking, the bill needs an urgent revisiting. Though blurred, the picture is an alarm bell for our country and requires us to consider law and policymaking with utmost sincerity and delicacy.

Nabeela Siddiqui

New Delhi

 

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Updated On : 20th Jun, 2022
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