Legal Provisions regarding Biodiversity Conservation

Legal Provisions regarding Biodiversity Conservation

This article deals with ‘Legal Provisions regarding Biodiversity Conservation – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here.


Before Independence

1887 Wild Birds Protection Act was enacted by the British Government aimed to prohibit the trade and sale of scheduled wild birds. But the act remained merely a piece of legislation as wildlife protection wasn’t a priority for the British Indian government. 
1927 Indian Forest Act was enacted. But the act was not envisaged to protect Indian forests or the environment. Instead, the act was aimed to exploit Sal & Teak for making railway sleepers & export to Europe. 

After Independence

Legal Provisions regarding Biodiversity Conservation
1950 Indian Constitution came into force. It has various provisions for biodiversity conservation, such as Article 51-A(G), calling citizens should conserve Wildlife & Environment. 
1972 Wildlife (Protection) Act was enacted.
1980 Forest (Conservation) Act was enacted.
2002 Biological Diversity Act was enacted.

Some Acts to Protect Biodiversity in India

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The Biological Diversity Act, 2000 was enacted to fulfil India’s commitments under UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed in 1992 at Nagoya.


  • Conservation of biological diversity. 
  • Regulating the access to biological and genetic resources. 
  • Ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising by using those biological resources.

Institutional Structure

  • 3 -tier system was established with
    • National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at Centre.
    • State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) in each state.
    • Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) function with local governments (both municipalities and panchayats).
  • It also establishes the National and State Biodiversity Fund. 
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

Functions of NBA, SBB & BMC

1. National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)

  • All foreign nationals require approval from NBA for obtaining Indian biological resources.
  • All Indian individuals/organizations must seek NBA approval before transferring knowledge/research to foreigners.
  • The NBA’s prior approval is required before applying for IPR based on research conducted on Indian biological material.
  • Advise the Central Government on matters relating to (1) conservation of biodiversity, (2) sustainable use of its components and (3) equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of biological resource
  • Advise the State Governments in the framing rules for managing Biodiversity Heritage sites.

2. State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)

  • It advises state governments on the matter relating to the conservation of Biodiversity.  
  • It regulates the commercial use of bio-resources in the state by Indians (i.e. companies using biodiversity resources for a commercial purpose need to take permission from SBB ), excluding 1) Vaids and Hakims, practising Indian medicinal system 2) Local People using the bioresources for local use.
  • It ensures equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilizing biological resources.

3. Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)

  • BMCs are constituted by the local bodies within their area of jurisdiction. 
  • BMC will promote conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity.
  • NBA and SBBs shall consult the BMCS while taking any decision relating to the use of biological resources and knowledge within the jurisdiction of the BMCS.
  • BMC is mandated to prepare the People’s Biodiversity Register in consultation with local people. These registers will have comprehensive information about local biological resources and knowledge about their medicinal and traditional uses. 

Role of Indigenous & Local Community  (ILC)

  • The act recognizes the role of ILCs in conserving biological resources over the years. Under the act, if the company uses local biological resources and has an annual turnover of more than Rs 3 crore, it will have to share 0.5% of sales with the local community.
  • It also provides for the involvement of ILCs through biodiversity management committees (BMCs) in the preparation of people’s biodiversity registers (PBRs).

Biodiversity Heritage Sites

  • Under the provisions of the Act, State Government, after consulting local bodies, can notify any area with biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS). 
  • In consultation with the Central Government, the State Government may frame rules for the management and conservation of BHS.

Issues with Act

  • Lack of Local Representation: Neither NBA nor State Biodiversity Boards have any representation from indigenous communities, forest-dwelling communities, or traditional knowledge practitioners. 
  • Corporate Collusion:  Big players in this industry are yet not registered with the respective State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs). Hence, these corporations are able to bypass the provision of taking permission prior to using local biological resources and the subsequent requirement of sharing royalty.
  • Less than 16% of local bodies had constituted Biodiversity Management Committees till 2016.
  • Less than 3% of local bodies have prepared the People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). The absence of PBRs puts several endangered species at the risk of extinction and denies benefits to locals from the commercial use of biological resources.

Divya Pharmacy Case (2019)

  • Uttarakhand High Court has directed Divya Pharmacy to share part of its profits with the indigenous communities under the provisions of the Biodiversity Act, 2002. 
  • Judgement has said that both Indian and foreign companies are liable to pay indigenous and local communities for using the biological resources under the Biological Diversity Act, as the latter kept the traditional knowledge of biological resources alive over the years.  

TKDL (Traditional Knowledge Digital Library)

  • TKDL was started in 2001.
  • It is a collaboration project between CSIR & Ministry of AYUSH and implemented by CSIR.
  • TKDL acts as a bridge between traditional knowledge information existing in local languages & patent examiners at IPO (International Patent Offices). Whenever any MNC or foreign company tries to get a patent on traditional knowledge of Indians, TKDL files a complaint against it to stop biopiracy.
  • In the late 1990s, after granting Turmeric and basmati rice patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the neem patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), respectively, the Indian Government successfully achieved their repudiation. Thereafter, the biopiracy and unethical bioprospecting issue made headlines. This led to the coming of more patent claims. Due to India’s vast traditional medicine knowledge in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Tamil, it became impossible for patent examiners to verify such claims at the international patent offices. Thus, the Department of AYUSH, Government of India, was encouraged for the creation of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) in 2001.
  • Achievements Till 2010,
    • TKDL had transformed 148 books in the public sphere based on Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga languages into information consisting of 34 million pages, and further translated them into five languages, namely, English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
    • TKDL has already received information on Ayurveda’s 80,000 formulations, Unani’s 1,000,000 and Siddha’s 12,000.
    • TKDL also signed an agreement with the world’s leading international patent offices, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), the United Kingdom Trademark and Patent Office (UKPTO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office with the primary objective of protecting conventional knowledge from biopiracy and further giving access to the database of TKDL by the patent examiners at International Patent Offices for enabling the purpose of patent search and examinations.
    • Pangaea Labs Limited (a UK-based company) filed a patent for a product based on Turmeric, pinebark, and green tea to treat hair loss. TKDL objected to this and proved it to be part of the Indian system of medicines like Ayurveda and Unani. As a result, Pangaea Labs withdrew its application. 
    • US company Colgate Palmolive applied for a patent for a mouthwash formula containing the herb Jayaphal (Nutmeg). The TKDL submitted proof against this, and the company withdrew the claim. 

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

Before this Act, India had only 5 designated National parks. This was the first umbrella act that established schedules for plants & animals 

  • The act extends to the whole of India. 
  • Under the provisions of this law, hunting & harvesting of species were largely outlawed based on their names in Appendix.

Schedules of the Act

There are 6 schedules in this act, which give varying degrees of protection

Schedule 1 & Part 2 of Schedule 2

  • Absolute protection and the highest penalty.
  • Note: Animals in Schedule 1 cant be declared Vermin in any case. 

Schedule 3 & 4

  • Less penalties, but animals are protected.

Schedule 5

  • Schedule 5 is meant for vermin & pests.
  • No legal protection is provided to animals in Schedule 5. 
  • It includes rats, common crow, fruit-bat etc. 

Schedule 6

  • Schedule 6 includes the plants prohibited from plantation and cultivation. These include 
    1. Beddomes cycad 
    2. Blue Vanda 
    3. Kuth 
    4. Ladies slipper orchards 
    5. Red Vanda

Proposed Amendments

Amendment for the Wildlife (Protection) Act has been introduced, which seeks to rationalize the schedules from 6 to 4 by 

  • Reducing the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two (one for greater protection level)
  • Removing the schedule for vermin species (Wild animals to be declared as Vermin by way of notification by the Central Government for any area and for a specified period.)
  • Inserting a new schedule for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES
Wildlife (Protection) Act , 1972

Statutory Bodies under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

Statutory bodies under Wildlife Protection Act include 

1. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • NTCA works under the Environment Ministry.
  • It was made via amendment in 2006.
  • Its functions include strengthening tiger conservation. 
  • State Governments can declare any area to be a Tiger Reserve on the recommendation of NTCA. 

2. National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)

  • It was constituted in 2002 via an amendment in the act.
  • Its function includes 
    1. Advice Central Government on framing policies for the conservation of wildlife.
    2. Approve projects around Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks.
    3. Alteration in the boundaries of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries can be done only after the approval of NBWL.

3. Central Zoo Authority

  • Central Zoo Authority is the central body responsible for the oversight of zoos in India.

4. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)

  • It works under MoEFCC.
  • Its functions include 
    • Collection, collation of intelligence.
    • Establishment of Wildlife Crime data bank.
    • Advise the Indian Government on wildlife crimes.

Other notes regarding the Act

  • It protects the hunting rights of the Scheduled Tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Leave a Comment