Being a signatory of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), India has framed the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (BDA) for implementation of the three main objectives of the CBD, namely, Conservation of Biodiversity, Sustainable use of biodiversity, and Fair and equitable sharing of the natural biological resources arising out of the commercial use of such resources and knowledge. This objective is being met with through three tier institutional arrangements; the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, the State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) at the state level, and lastly the Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the grass root level where the biodiversity resources reside. While the first two objectives are being addressed through the BDA and the Rules of SBBs, it is the third objective that has mandated special efforts and tailor made provisions and guidelines to meet one of the toughest challenge to link biodiversity with its commercial utilization – commodification in other words.
A deep global concern on the implementation of the third CBD objective has led to the framing of the project on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) on behalf of Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the support from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ministry of Environment Forests & Climate Change (MOEFCC), Government of India and in collaboration with the UNEP-Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC), United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Initial phase has seen its implementation in few selected SBBs, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Sikkim, Telangana, West Bengal, and Tripura.
Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) revolutionizes the concept of biodiversity conservation and its sustainable utilization by introducing economic incentives. The ABS framework provides a formal guidance for the way in which biological or genetic resources are accessed and benefits shared between resource users for commercial purposes and resource providers, who are legally empowered through BDA and other guidelines to provide access, negotiate the benefits resulting from their commercial use. ABS balances the rights of the users of bio-resources with the rights of the providers of such resources. ABS manages biodiversity as a community asset and support biodiversity-based business in an effective and sustainable manner by adopting the provisions of prior informed consent (PIC) and mutually agreed terms (MAT) including provision for fair and equitable benefit sharing.
In Tripura, the ABS is being implemented through a project “Strengthening the Implementation of the Biological Diversity Act and Rules with focus on its Access and Benefit sharing Provisions” since December 2014 with funding and technical support from the NBA. This project facilitates create model BMCs showcasing successful implementation of the ABS mechanism. This project mandates empowering the BMCs to link natural biodiversity resources with economic incentives as one of the best livelihood means. The process documentation, capacity building, dissemination of nuances of its implementation, promoting more of non-monetary benefits to the BMCs for sustainability of mechanism, etc. are other highly valuable likely contributions of this ABS project. As of now, the Tripura Biodiversity Board has been able to facilitate its implementation in 33 BMCs. This first time historical economic empowerment of poor natural biological resource owners is sure to create a cascading effect on other BMCs to recognize it as one of the best tools of poverty alleviation in line with fulfilment of the sustainable development goals – a commitment to be honoured.