KSBB sounds a note of caution on biopiracy
‘Curb access to resources’
The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has written to the government seeking steps to prevent local self-government institutions from providing unauthorised access to biological resources for foreign nationals.
On Monday, KSBB member secretary K.P. Laladhas wrote to the Principal Secretary, Department of Environment, stressing the need to ensure that local bodies in Kerala followed the national and State-level regulations governing access to biodiversity and related information. The letter said local bodies had the responsibility to prevent biopiracy.
Mr. Laladhas said the KSBB had sought an explanation from the Peringamala grama panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram following reports that it had permitted a team of officials from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) to examine the Panchayat Biodiversity Register (PBR). “If true, it amounts to a violation of protocol and a serious lapse on the part of the local body.”
Citing the relevant provisions of the Biological Diversity Act 2002, Biological Diversity Rules 2004, and the State Biodiversity Rules 2008, Dr. Laladhas said it was the responsibility of local bodies and the Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) to secure the information related to biodiversity and traditional knowledge contained in the PBRs. “The KSBB has the responsibility to ensure that this information is not misused by foreign nationals or agencies.”
He said the reports about the Peringamala panchayat allowing the UNDP officials to access the PBR had surfaced before the register was submitted to the KSBB for formal approval. “By doing so, the panchayat could have compromised the precious biological assets that were painstakingly documented by the BMC. At a time when biopiracy has become a matter of grave concern for countries across the world, this issue has proved to be an eye-opener for us.”
KSBB chairman Oommen V. Oommen said the board was all for regulated access to biological resources. “A dog-in-the-manger attitude is not desirable. Using genetic material for taxonomy and research can be encouraged. But commercial utilisation has to follow certain protocols for sustainability. We also have a mandate to ensure that local communities benefit from their role as custodians of the resources. That is the basis of the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanism that the KSBB is working on.”
Prof. Oommen said applications seeking access to biological information had to be submitted to the National Biodiversity Authority. “The NBA, in turn, refers it to the State biodiversity board for approval. If the reports are true, the Peringamala panchayat erred in allowing the UNDP team comprising foreign nationals to examine the PBR without authorisation.”
He said the KSBB would take steps to sensitise local bodies to the need to protect their biological resources and ensure sustainable utilisation.
(Source: The Hindu)