November 9, 2020

November 4, 2020

Nigiri Tahrs for the future

It started with a view of the Tahr’s  home and not the anticipation of watching the Tahr close and personal. 

Discounting an opportunity to visit the Mukurthi National park is not a choice but an eagerly awaited stroke of fortune, as people would testify to the difficulties of permissions and prohibitive costs involved in visiting this pristine zone. I have visited the park twice for very short durations and the very abundance of nature at its best compels me to look at the westward sky, every time I pass Ooty.

Mukurthi is infact a jewel in the hill district's crown and its very existence till today speaks volumes of the conservation efforts undertaken by past conservationists in enforcing policy decisions that led to the creation of the park.

Mukurthi is located in the western crescent of the Nilgiri district, looking over the expanse of the state of Kerala and almost appears as a wall like impenetrable fortress when seen from Nilambur region of Kerala. The park is covered by grasslands and sholas and some stretches of the invasive tree, wattle.


October 24, 2020

Not just a question of weather anomalies, Climate Change will thrive in poorly planned urban sprawls in the coming years

Residents of Hyderabad are in a state of shock. Not one but twice within a week, the city has been swamped under unprecedented downpours and there is no clear answer to this outburst of nature that has left the city administration helpless. Figures of 160 mm to 320 mm rainfall in a day has left large parts of the city waterlogged and marooned and as every rise of water level adds to the toll of dead lives and damaged infrastructure, even current public health issues such as the covid pandemic takes an unfortunate backseat.

Though every incident of severe rainfall cannot be directly attributable to climate change, this unnaturally high rainfall is the result of a deep depression that originated in the Andaman seas and turned towards a north-northwest alignment and finally turned towards the Andhra coast in the past week. Though such depressions tend to dissipate quickly after touching land, the intensity of the present depression has magnified with the sheer amount of moisture contained within it. Augmenting this cocktail is the comparatively warm air prevalent in the atmosphere and what we had was the perfect storm that Telengana, North Karnataka and Hyderabad were least prepared for.

Singapur, a township within the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation witnessed 320 mm on rainfall on October 13th while as many as 11 stations received upto 200 mm of rain in a day. To compare, Agumbe, with its history of extremely high rainfall events, in the Malnad region of the Western Ghats of Karnataka records relatively few days of more than 200 mm in a day even in the peak of the monsoons in a good rainfall year. The number recorded in Hyderabad brings to light an increasingly ominous future where sudden downpours will become the normal and increased quantity of rainfall in a short period of time will devastate cities and states in an increasingly erratic pattern.

What makes this particular rainfall event even more devastating is that Singapur township again received 157.3 mm of rainfall on 17th October, a mere four days after the record breaking rains of 13th October. Such massive amounts of rainfall can overwhelm a well-planned nation and Hyderabad with its moderate infrastructure currently seems to have no answer to the deluge of the past few days.

Unfortunately, the city has received ample warnings about its infrastructure in the past. As recently as November, 2019, Srinivas Chary from the Centre of Urban Governance at the Administrative Staff College of India had spoken about the lack of infrastructural readiness and added that ‘Resistance to vagaries is high but Day-0 is a 365 day reality’. These grim warnings continue to be ignored and even when faced with sufficient data that extreme climate events have the potential to turn cities into flood traps, not enough action is taken to address the lacunae.

Some of the apparent causes of the immense flooding are easy to enumerate and even less surprisingly, most common people of Hyderabad can list the reasons with remarkable accurateness as would an expert. The state of the Musi river, poor drainage and unplanned construction holds true for the city but what stands as a grim reminder is by replacing the river Musi with Mithi, Ganga, Adyar, Saryu or any of the several stressed river systems in the country, incidents at Chennai, Mumbai or Hyderabad are but a precursor of the threats that most urban conglomerates in the country face.

While this particular incident happened in Hyderabad, the memories of the Chennai flood cannot be any longer dismissed as a once in a hundred-year event. While Hyderabad lost more than 3000 hectares of wetlands in a matter of years, Mumbai lost more than 71% of its wetlands, Bangalore lost 56%, Delhi and National Capital region lost about 38% and India as a nation has lost more than a third of its natural wetlands that have the unique capacity of managing excess water flow.

Added to the virtual vanishing of wetlands, India’s rivers starting from Badrinath where the Alaknanda gushes in its infant stage to the Yamuna in Delhi, Hooghly in Kolkata, Jhelum in Srinagar, Cauvery in Trichy and the unfortunate Mithi in Mumbai, the rivers in the country are dying a collective death. Massive encroachment, unauthorized construction, dumping of waste and the sheer inconvenience of some of these rivers have led to planners often shifting their natural flow in order to make space for an airport or a high-rise building. A country that was proud of its traditional water harvesting structures is audacious enough to foolhardily believe that rivers can be moved or trampled without any fear of consequences.

With the city flooded for a second time, administrators have estimated a cumulative loss of 6000 crores. In layman’s terms, the six feet deep hole in the Falaknuma railway bridge or the loss of lives or the very expensive breach in lakes is temporary as the city will soon get back at its feet and begin reconstruction on a warpath. Soon, in a few months, the memories of the floods would at best be recorded in slick documentaries or in the tales of the ‘dadis’ talking about that dreadful day in October. Just like Chennai or Mumbai or Assam, the unrelenting visage of continuous floods in the monsoon season of the year 2020 would be relegated to a faint memory in the flood fatigued TV viewer. The city would definitely stand up but would climate change jumping piggy-back upon a less than satisfactory urban infrastructure hold back now. Will climate change accelerate the cycle of disasters that increases each year and force urban planners to take stock and incorporate more resilience in their urban planning approach. We hope it happens before the next Hyderabad or Mumbai strikes again.

October 21, 2020

A Guide to Surviving Covid in an Increasing Complacent Nation

 There was a deliberate smashing of pots; people making a clamor. This may be an illustration of a population experiencing traumatic shock. It might have been done in panic but also might have been done to somehow disturb and clear the air.” Hays wrote about a supposed act of an angry god when he described the plague in his book “Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impact on Human History”. But he could have been writing about us in the present day and our initial attempts to hush away a disease that has yet not been properly understood.

‘The Mask is a tool to make us weak’. Our attention turned towards the driver as he went off on an extempore detailing the complex inter-relationship between Carbon Dioxide and the mask. His logic was as we exhale carbon dioxide, the mask forces us to inhale it all in, thereby weakening our body’s immune system. This was a novel conspiracy theory in a world filled with absurd theories on the covid pandemic.

Seven months into the pandemic, the inventory of rumours related to the covid outbreak have managed to transcend boundaries - creative and the inane, and such stories multiply as the pandemic refuses to reduce its grip. While in the early days, most conversations veered around the potency of the virus and the multitude of ways to cure oneself of this dreaded pandemic, most conservations now tend to dismiss the disease as ‘Just another flu’. The apparent casualness flies in the eyes of a conventional analysis as awareness about the disease is immense and Indians who lived through the difficult times of the lockdown are cognizant of its life-threatening effects.

However, the current predilection of not wearing masks also comes associated with the sense of fatality and fatigue, having undergone painful job losses and social stigma for the past few months. Varying from “It is all god’s will” to “Nothing will happen to me” to “We have all caught the disease” to “God cannot kill all the poor” to “If it happens, it happens” to “We don’t have money to buy a mask” to a multitude of reasons, the almost universal lack of an interest to wear masks also hides an important detail about our social lives. Communities have been the hardest hit by the economic impacts of the crisis and have no other option but to step out. They cannot stay in and worry about wearing a mask or maintaining distance but rather about securing food into their stomach. In many ways, the fear of the pandemic, coupled with the spread of fake news in this modern era has led to calls of revisionist theories that at once declares impacts of the coronavirus as a hoax while also pandering fear of its supposed impacts.

With millions falling prey, there is a wail that this generation is paying for its sins. However, William Dunbar said it best when he wrote that “The fear of death disturbs me” in the ‘Lament for the Makers’, suggesting perhaps that the human race has faced such threats throughout history and those dark moments were unique as the human race did not have an answer then as they don’t have now. People in those dark days were prone to succumb to fear, the rise of a disease cutting through society without any discrimination invokes helplessness amongst the rich and the poor. This causal relationship between disease and sin is seen also in Greek literary texts, such as Homer’s Iliad and Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Homer’s Iliad opens with a plague visited upon the Greek camp at Troy to punish the Greeks for Agamemnon’s enslavement of Chryseis.

Humankind has time and again let this fear turn into panic overwhelming traces of rationality. This facilitates easier propagation of fake news into the community. The feedbacks surrounding myths and legends that have cropped up around the issue managing covid also border on the absurd. Just as the carbon dioxide theory propounded by the driver, more such theories abound in the markets of Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and Delhi ranging from guzzling copious amounts of alcohol to holding your breath to “We are safe as long as we are in our locality” to stopping the consumption of fruits as fruits are known to carry the virus. The list is endless, and each country, state, city and locality have added a twist to these stories. The challenge for people working in the frontline is to sift through the rumours and convey basic truths about the pandemic and its causes.

However, as we see more complacency creep in, it would do good to understand the underlying fear and weariness that communities are suffering from. From the moment, they face a gun-shaped thermal scanner and oximeter to the endless surveys that have fatigued them to the unfortunate spread of stigma of an uncommon but not unmanageable disease and the mishandling of dissemination in this very real public health crisis.

The need of the hour is to aggressively push for an overarching campaign that involves all stakeholders and myriad activities such as posters, stickers, banners, wall paintings, murals, street theatre, songs, tableaus, announcement from mosques, churches, temples and gurdwaras, radio campaigns, television ads and as many creative outlets as possible.

As we learn from this ongoing pandemic, it will bode well to recall that literature has been humanity’s constant companion though long periods of uncertainty. And often, when a pandemic hit humankind, there was not much that could be done then as it is now, the only effective measure back then was what is known today as social distancing and quarantine of the sick which, according to Procopius, the principal Byzantine historian, was done voluntarily by individuals. In this current age, we can strive to be a step ahead and promote distancing, wearing of masks and better hygiene in a manner that was not possible in ancient times.

October 19, 2020

We Stand at an Eerily Similar Phase as the Spanish Flu

In a pandemic that stretched for almost 30 long months, the Spanish Flu was unprecedented for its high mortality rates and a lethal silent demeanour. The pandemic spread, slowly at first, in waves, peaking and falling at different times and at different places. By the time it was done, the pandemic picked up a body count of more than 50 million individuals across the still largely unconnected world of that era.

The covid flu has now completed more than six months in a world that is infinitely more connected than the distant times of 1918. And unknowingly, we are at the doorsteps of inviting hell all over. Just as the first wave of the Spanish flu led to a flurry of fatigue and an abandonment of social distancing and following medically sound advice, the protests against masks or social distancing have taken a bewildering life of its own and is now an animal that refuses to follow the essential rules of managing a life-threatening pandemic.

In many ways, we have done better than the hapless administrators of 1918 where mask-wearing sermons were hardly adhered to and international communication on the disease had inexplicably turned silent after the first wave. The governments of the day, after an initial spell of publicizing safety measures took to cautionary advisories when the much more deadly second wave hit the world. Initial shoutouts soon spun into prophylactic messaging which in turn evolved into neglect and often disdain for the disease. The apparent casualness of managing a rampaging pandemic as bodies piled was intricately linked to the intent behind the messaging shared with the larger population.

We are standing in a similar quagmire today. From an inordinately loud messaging that invoked covid management to stigma and set the tone for the coming months, the memo was simple and unidirectional in the initial weeks. Just as the Spanish Flu, most governments went ahead with a war-like approach with the onus squarely upon winning over the enemy. As realization crept in that it is not a war with definite winners or losers, the narrative slowly shifted towards managing the disease. Now, seven months into the pandemic, silence appears to have become the official communication strategy of most governments. Silence coupled with a lack of standing upto rumours that in the age of social media has magnified several times over when compared to the comparatively isolated communities of 1918.

The India of today sits at the cusp of losing control over the communication war on covid. As covid coverage loses credibility in media and communities panic over lost livelihood opportunities, average citizens have nowhere to turn too. The unlock process accentuated the sentiment that things are coming back to normal and fatigue over following rules have met with a strong resistance. Memories of the early weeks of strong-arm tactics and the loss of credibility of civic authorities have brought the entire nation to a Catch-22 situation where covid is feared and yet fatalism predominates the discourse. The yet seemingly insurmountable challenge that the virus has posed before science and the crippling inability to find a cure is also a factor accounting for the generation of fear among the masses. The two strange bedfellows - fear and fatality - have an ally in the form of increased miscommunication about the vitality of the pandemic. Too many people in positions of influence have tried to normalize the disease which has the potential of catching fire and spreading deep into the crevices of a vulnerable society.

We have inadvertently pushed for a communication strategy that put too much credibility into a lockdown while not pushing enough for the relatively boring strategy of ‘wearing masks’ or ‘keeping a distance’. Now, as the country unlocked amidst abounding cases, the communication flounders as it seeks to tear itself away from the ‘lock-unlock” worldview. Meanwhile, the society is tearing at its seams as cases increase and the number of sick stay away from productive work. We are witnessing the beginnings of a societal transformation where deflated demand and a depressed economy gains strength inspite of frequent calls of an economic revival.

We have an opportunity to learn from the Spanish Flu of 1918 and enough to fear from it. For all the calls of covid being relatively harmless, the Spanish Flu had the wherewithal to incubate within 3-4 days and could spread fast through communities extinguishing rapidly in the process. Covid on the other hand, as we know now, moves at a languid pace and in the fourteen or so days, it takes to incubate within a body, the disease has the potential of infecting a much larger population than was fathomable during the worst months of the Spanish Flu. Governments of an earlier era did not take the Spanish Flu seriously and governments of the day have taken to a cycle of reassurance and silence to counter covid. For naysayers, several people in the preliminary days of the Spanish Flu had taken to terming the pandemic as a seasonal flu, eerily akin to the common discourse of the past few weeks. In between both the pandemics lies the truth that the society wants to hear.

Uncomfortably, it appears that the wisdom of quarantining, wearing masks and distancing gained from managing ancient diseases holds true today as well. The Italian writer and poet Giovanni Boccaccio (l. 1313-1375 CE), author of “The Decameron” which recounts the tales of a group of ten individuals trying to escape the plague by seclusion, describes in his introduction the main ways in which people reacted to the pestilence( Black Death): “There were some people who thought that living moderately and avoiding any excess might help a great deal in resisting this disease, and so they gathered in small groups and lived entirely apart from everyone else. They shut themselves up in those houses where there were no sick people.”

Notwithstanding the potential mortality rate of the coronavirus or its needless comparisons to road accidents, the Ebola virus, deaths due to cancer and AIDS or even vague analogies such ‘Life is temporary and we all die one day’, the communication strategy must stand steadfast to its commitment on informing the society of the need to take basic precautions. Neither is this pandemic ordinary nor is it a rumour, it is real and deserves not the fear but the respect it deserves. Any communication, currently or in the forthcoming second or third wave will need to stand true to its moral prerogative and convey the truth about the disease, unblemished and removed of greasepaint. And lest we forget, the second wave of the Spanish Flu spread in the fall of 1918.

When the Volunteer does not want to Volunteer any more

With the covid crisis stretching into months now, there is hardly any slice of the society that can claim to be untouched by the effects of this unfolding tragedy. Volunteers who made up the first wall of defence when the crisis began are among the latest to seek for askance and relief. As it did with doctors, nurses and the medical safety workforce, the crisis has tested the limits of scores of volunteers who had taken the first tentative steps in April to become frontline corona warriors.

Recently, when our team tried to elicit a conversation with a group of prospective volunteers In East Bengaluru, the reactions made us comprehend how ill-equipped we are while dealing with the tragedies facing frontline warriors. Discussions on the urgent need to re-focus attention to the escalating medical and societal effects of the covid crisis and the role of volunteers in obtaining firsthand information from within the society was met with one stoic but direct question. ‘How much will we be paid’, followed closely by, ‘Is it a regular job?’ and followed painfully by the third query – ‘We do not have jobs. Can we be assisted with jobs?’

The volunteer has grown tired. The individual risked his life and safety in a scenario with several unknowns and jumped into the field when the first lockdown was announced. The individual went door to door distributing masks and passionately implored them to maintain social distancing in April. The volunteers pooled their meagre resources together and distributed rations to the needy in the month of May. Some of them were recognized by larger partners, the government or donor agencies and were involved in the screening and tracing of covid positive cases in the months of June and July. The volunteer, if for the lack of a better word, did yeoman service in the fight against the corona virus. But the volunteer has now grown tired. Several of them have remained jobless for the past months. For those working presently, payment is woefully distractive and many feel that their present condition is no different from the victims of the migrant crisis from the now distant month of May.

The volunteer is irritable, and an underlying feeling is that the individual does not feel appreciated. Neither by the government, nor by his local community and if not for their underlying passion, they would not have even attended the meeting. They feel that they are an invisible face of this fight and no one has stepped back and stopped for a moment to appreciate them. The bucket of passion that filled their energy levels have now depleted and all they want is the safety of a real job.

This bring us to a strange conclusion. Perhaps an aberration, but a majority of the prospective volunteers we meet regularly are from a low-income community. There were maids who are juggling working in upto three houses in a day, there were salaried employees who come together with their ward members every evening to discuss matters of local and national importance, there were college students who believe in volunteering as a higher cause. However, across the larger tapestry, most volunteers have come from simple backgrounds who aspire to fight the threat of the corona virus but are being pulled back by their family and financial commitments.

Tellingly, John mentioned that as jobs have only just begun opening, most people are scrambling to strive for whatever is for offer. People across the locality are travelling far or engaging in opportunities which would be scoffed at earlier. There is thus, a complete loss of time management and many people are unable to afford a spare moment for community service or volunteerism. He mentioned that the overall pool of volunteers was already miniscule and now with the lack of time in the hands of most residents, people would rather service their family needs than worry about the community.

What is worth considering amid the all-pervasive corona crisis is the stigma and fear attached with the disease. Though personal safety measures are faltering across large parts of the city with mask wearing decreasing, a parallel drama unfolds every day with the attrition rate of volunteers increasing. Whether out of fear or out of stigma, the young inexplicably drop out, perhaps pushing the spirit of volunteerism away from their systems, and never to return again.

Not that the spirit has died. Farzana who used to work in Benson Town or Nishath who is sitting at home with her college closed have observed the work of civil society organisations in East Bengaluru and have taken up volunteerism with a fiery zeal. The empowerment they experience in contributing towards society and discovering themselves in the process is a sign that the spirit of volunteerism has a timeless quality about it. They are the new volunteers who will fight the threat of the virus and hopefully win.

Emergencies and crisis evoke far reaching emotions in humankind and time and again, we have seen volunteers stepping up to save the unfortunate tsunami struck victim or helping an injured stuck beneath a fallen building. However, in an experience as prolonged as the present crisis with few parallels in modern post-war history, the idea of volunteerism is up for change. As NGOs and agencies search for people who can spare their time to help the needy, perhaps it would be wise to spare a thought for these selfless giants and consider providing material assistance to them as well, so that they can tide safely over the tough times along with the rest of us.


October 4, 2020

It was never about Pangong Tso

 It was always about Depsang.

All the posturing, all the skirmishes, the wails and the meetings. 

I felt it then and feel it now The entire posturing is to secure protection for its North Karokaram highway.

And the best way to do it is to cut of Dault Beg Oldie from the rest of Ladakh, somewhere north of the Galwan River on the DS-DBO road.

I think that the Chinese are going to cut off Depsang by November

October 1, 2020

Article in Deccan Herald - When the volunteer does not want to volunteer any more

September 25, 2020

Feedback on Partnering with Community Organizations in the Midst of the Covid Pandemic

While the immediate impact of the covid induced crisis led to a severe resource crunch amongst millions of individuals and most donors as well as NGOs worked under a crisis management mode to alleviate the conditions of millions of needy and the poor, the focus upon managing the crisis has shifted significantly in the past three months on the specific management of disease through a litany of measures.

The foundation is currently working on a multi-pronged multi partner cooperation across all the wards of Bengaluru and it is in the DJ Halli region of East Bangalore that the organisation’s efforts are being directed towards providing adequate precautions to the residents of the region.

Most blocks in DJ Halli are ill-equipped and some of the denser slums often suffer from poor sanitation facilities, closely cramped housing, unreliable provision of running water and above all, are often congested in nature. With four adjacent wards converging upon a single vegetable market, the region in and around the PHC at DJ Halli is often teeming with people. Physical distancing is a fancied dream as people live in close quarters indoors and interact with each other in equally cramped outdoors.

Community Feedback on Managing Covid

In addition to all the above mentioned causes lies the underlying issue of a lack of recognition of the disease’s effects. The lack of recognition flies in the eyes of the conventional analyst for awareness about the disease is immense and all the residents who lived through the difficult times of the lockdown are well aware of the possible effects of the disease and also the measures required to prevent it.

However, the current predilection of not wearing masks also comes associated with the sense of fatality and fatigue, having undergone painful job losses and social stigma for the past few months. Residents come up with creative replies when enquired about the reasons for not wearing a mask.

Varying from “It is all god’s will” to “Nothing will happen to me” to “We have all caught the disease” to “God cannot kill all the poor” to “If it happens, it happens” to “We don’t have money to buy a mask” to a multitude of reasons, the almost universal lack of an interest to wear masks also hides an important detail about their social lives. The communities here have been the hardest hit by the economic impacts of the crisis and have no other option but to step out and work in the nearby regions. They cannot step back and worry about wearing a mask or maintaining distance but rather about getting food into their stomach.

The feedbacks surrounding myths and legends that have cropped up around the issue managing covid also border on the absurd. For example, the ola driver today mentioned eloquently that these masks are the government’s strategy to confuse the public and went on to add that Masks store carbon dioxide and this goes back to the body and makes us weak. The government ultimately wants us to be all weak so that our focus remains on treating ourselves rather than worrying about the country. More such theories abound in the markets of Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and Delhi ranging from guzzling copious amounts of alcohol to holding your breath to “We are safe as long as we are in our locality” to stopping the consumption of fruits as fruits are known to carry the virus. The list is endless, and each country, state, city and locality have added a twist to these stories. The challenge for people working in the frontline is to sift through the rumours and convey basic truths about the pandemic and its causes.

Partner Approaches to the Communication Campaign

The task before the volunteers of Sama Foundation as it approaches each door and explains the benefits of preventive measures is immense and multi-layered. In a way, the communication strategy being developed in the form of a smiley campaign is targeting at these foundational issues being faced by locals. While the NGO works diligently in the slums, its volunteers are attempting to convey the importance of being aware of the disease. Simple measures such as a temperature check or use of oximeter is shared with the household to convey a message that the status of the family is currently healthy. The volunteers also share critical contact details of the local BBMP war zone which has been setup for the express purpose of providing right information to the needy communities.

The volunteers trained to work with Sama start with an advantage of being from the same locality as the respondents. Besides being trained in conducting simple health checks, filling up data sheets, responding to queries, sharing phone numbers for emergency calls and even preparing a street play, the volunteers have their hands full. In between, they also find time to stick posters and banners at various critical locations in the locality. The volunteers have come up with interesting preliminary feedback from their interactions with community members. Some of their key observations were that respondents are usually scared when they the gun-shaped thermal scanner and oximeter.

Secondly, survey fatigue has crept into most people after several months of data collection and locals are usually sceptical is sharing information. In some cases, respondents are reluctant to answer and in extremely rare circumstances, respondents have refused to answer or even tore the sheets. However, this behaviour is countered by the use of local volunteers and most respondents do share information freely when volunteers explain about the importance of such data collection.

Thirdly, as observed in places like Eidgah Mohalla, most respondents have responded well and offered detailed information about their health. The response is more detailed when the person being interview is suffering from Blood Pressure or Diabetes. These respondents have also requested for medicinal support as well. Volunteers have been trained to exhaustively interact with people who suffer from co-morbidities and this data is being captured in detail.

In the midst of communicating on the effects of the disease, the foundation is working closely to ensure that potential side-effects of the disease is kept within tolerable limits. Through its partner, Mercy mission, several fever clinics have been set up in these wards which are designed as a walk-in facility for community members to receive an update on their health status. These booths are non-intrusive in nature and responds to community members who wish to get themselves checked voluntarily. Though, there was an initial apprehension amongst several community members about the purpose of these booths, a sustained communication campaign has led to a steady walk of upto 80-100 everyday who get themselves checked on parameters such as temperature, Blood Pressure and oxygen level.

These efforts are still in a nascent stage and the coming weeks and possibly months will unfold a clear image of the impact of the foundation’s community level communication campaign. Posters, stickers, banners, wall paintings, murals, street theatre, songs, tableaus, announcement from mosques and more activities are planned as part of the campaign. Till then, the foundation and its partners such as Sama and Mercy Mission are determined to carry on spreading the message of managing the covid crisis.

Vijayshree G.R. and Kunal S.

September 20, 2020

Convention of Biological Diversity, Biological Diversity Act and ABS - 3 decades of Biodiversity Governance


Extensive biodiversity loss in the past decades has spared neither developed nor developing countries. Species extinction, over-harvesting, introduction of exotic species, habitat loss, pollution and climate change has led to an increased risk portfolio for marginalised communities. This in turn has led to fears that the existence of life on earth cannot be taken for granted. These concerns on biodiversity loss led to the gradual revaluation of integrating resource availability with that of development needs of mankind. The need for ecosystem stability and habitat heterogeneity has slowly taken credence over conventional economic standards such as Gross Domestic Product.

Rapidly accelerating biodiversity loss led to a series of introspections and eventually to a worldwide catharsis amongst nations that resulted in countries coming together at the Rio Summit in 1992, where major legally binding conventions for the protection of nature and life itself were adopted including the adoption of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).Now, as more than 25 years have passed since 197 countries became party to the Convention of Biological Diversity, countries worldwide have taken significant steps to protect their biodiversity.

India, as a key mega-biodiversity country adopted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 to halt and reverse the effects of diversity loss. The act was hailed as an important step towards preserving our vast biodiversity and the government took immediate steps in forming the National Biodiversity Authority, State Biodiversity Boards as well as local level Biodiversity Management Committees.

The Biological Diversity Act (BD Act) was considered a pioneer legislation as it recognized the sovereign right of nations over their natural resources and put in restrictions on the access of bioresources by user countries. CBD determines that access to genetic resources rests with the national government and is subject to national legislation. This decision shifted the balance of power of utilising bio-resources from the user countries to the provider countries. Significantly, while most of the world’s biotechnology-based patents are owned by developed countries and most of these resources are sourced from mega-diverse country like India, the BD act came as a game changer to ensure that conservation and sustainable use of resources led to proper sharing of benefits for local populations. The message that the use of genetic resources should not bypass the poor people went a long way in correcting the historical injustice that provider countries have suffered for centuries.

The CBD in its very spirit laid the foundation for ethics taking priorities over mindless exploitation and constantly sounded a nagging reminder to the international community in the form of Article 15 and Article 8 (j)[1]. Article 15 of the CBD recognizes the right of states to their genetic resources and Article 8 (j) recognizes the rights of communities to their traditional knowledge.

With these guidelines in mind, most countries that had signed the CBD met again at Nagoya in Japan in 2010 and adopted the Nagoya Protocol that aimed to give effect to the fair and equitable sharing provisions of the CBD.

The Nagoya Protocol in its simplest interpretation sought to ensure that any commercial and research utilization of genetic resources that belong to a state and associated traditional knowledge that belongs to the communities holding this traditional knowledge shares the benefit of such utilization with the government and the community that have conserved such resources as well as knowledge since time immemorial.

Biological Diversity Act in Action

Under the Biological Diversity Act promulgated by the Government of India in 2002, an important regulatory mechanism was the emphasis provided for Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) to local populations. Having integrated ABS within a decade of the Convention of Biological Diversity, India has come to be regarded as a pioneer country as only 105 out of 197 countries that signed the Convention on Biological Diversity have formed a national legislation for regulatory use of bio-resources. This initial initiative taken by the Indian government will go a long way in strengthening the case of securing benefits for its rightful owners in the future coming decades.

The Biological Diversity (BD) Act is a complex multi-layered legislation that seeks to address the issues of managing bio-resources in the most decentralized manner possible without compromising upon the sovereignty of the nation or community’s rights over these resources.

The BD act which became operational after the adoption of the Biological Diversity Rules in 2004 lists the conditions under which persons, commercial firms and other institutions can access biological resources occurring within India and the knowledge associated with the biological resource, for either research or for commercial utilization or for bio-survey or for bio-utilization.

Essentially, these elaborate conditions and guidelines were instituted to ensure that the basic tenets of the Convention of Biological Diversity which are sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the commercial utilisation of bioresources and associated knowledge are well protected.

The act in combination with various other policies and laws such as the National Biodiversity Action Plan, National Forest Policy, National Wildlife Action Plan, National Forestry Action Programme, National Environment Policy, National Action Plan on Climate Change are being continuously strengthened to protect, conserve and sustainably use the country’s bio-resources.

The act assumes significance as it imposed prohibitions on the transfer of genetic material originating from India without specific approval from competent authorities. The act also strengthened the country’s stand with respect to anyone claiming an intellectual property right over biodiversity related knowledge.

Adopting Access and Benefit Sharing Mechanism

With the adoption of the Biological Diversity Act in India, focus shifted on actualising the tenets of the Convention of Biological Diversity. Internationally, too, it was felt that an efficient mechanism needs to be adopted that is acceptable to all countries and becomes a reference point for all bioresources related issues.

Thus, for a process that began in 1992 with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the detailed action points were adopted under the Nagoya Protocol in 2010 which focuses on the equity provision of the Convention of Biological Diversity and specifically on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable utilization sharing of benefits resulting from their utilization.

Almost immediately, countries began the process of implementing national legislations to adopt the regulatory frameworks and India again took a lead and adopted the Access and Benefit Sharing guidelines in 2014.

India’s stand leading up to the negotiations that finally led to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol was that of intense negotiations and in the words of the then Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, he said that India has been a victim of misappropriation or biopiracy of our genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, which have been patented in other countries (well known examples include neem and haldi). It is expected that the Nagoya Protocol on ABS which is a key missing pillar of the CBD, would address this concern.[2] India and other developing countries had fought hard in various international negotiations to correct the historical wrong of being victims of biopiracy and succeeded in scoring a major victory.

The Nagoya Protocol provides an international framework for implementing and advancing the third objective of the CBD, which is “the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding”.

The Nagoya Protocol provides a certain degree of flexibility to parties to take domestic legislative, administrative or policy measures to implement its various articles, but nonetheless also imposes a number of obligations on parties, geared towards ensuring that benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge are shared fairly and equitably between users and providers, taking into account all rights over resources and technologies.

At the core of the protocol are obligations related to access to genetic resources, to the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilization, as well as to compliance with prior informed consent (PIC) and mutually agreed terms (MAT) provisions. To support compliance, parties are obliged to take measures to monitor the utilization of genetic resources, including through the designation of checkpoints and reporting requirements. As evidence that genetic resources have been accessed in accordance with PIC and that MAT have been established, a permit or its equivalent has to be granted by the provider country at the time of access. Once this permit or its equivalent is made available to the Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing House of the Protocol, it becomes an “internationally recognized certificate of compliance” which can be used to prove legal access.

Nagoya Protocol parties also have a set of additional obligations towards indigenous and local communities (ILCs) regarding ILC rights over traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and, in certain instances, over genetic resources held by these communities. These include obligations to take measures to ensure that genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge held by ILCs are accessed with their prior informed consent or approval and involvement, and that MAT have been established.

In implementing their obligations under the Protocol, parties are further required, in accordance with domestic law, to take into consideration ILCs’ customary laws, community protocols and procedures and, as far as possible, not to restrict the customary use and exchange of genetic resources and associated knowledge within and amongst ILCs.[3]

It is being observed that more requests for permits and various mandatory benefit sharing agreements with a commercial intent is being inquired by prospectors. Infact, data suggests that the greatest demand for access to Genetic Resources is in the agriculture sector followed by forest areas. A key agreement, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was signed which seeks to establish an international ABS regime for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and was the first such legally binding operational international instrument for access and benefit sharing for genetic resources. Another key focus area for the ABS regime is the integration of Sustainable Forest Management with ABS provisions so that more mutually beneficial agreements can occur in the coming few years.

After the entry into force of the CBD, many developing countries adopted legislation on the bio-prospecting of genetic resources, to ensure that access to such resources would be granted on mutually agreed terms and subject to prior informed consent, often also involving indigenous and local communities. However, user countries of genetic resources have largely failed to enact and implement compatible legislation, so important measures to ensure benefit sharing once the genetic resources had left the providing countries, were missing.

As a result, bio prospecting has been met with wide mistrust, and in many countries achieving access to genetic resources has proven difficult, involving lengthy and complicated processes. India has evolved a decentralized mechanism that essentially operates as independent structures and has specific roles for the implementation of the Biological Diversity Act.

The three structures were the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) at the state level and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the local level. These three bodies are statutory and autonomous in nature while NBA and SBBs are body corporate. To ensure that independent autonomy exists, there is no overlap of NBA and SBBs on issues of Access and Benefit Sharing.[4]

“Grant of approval “which is a key regulatory mechanism and forms the key of the ABS system has been demarcated between NBA and SBBs. Foreign individuals, companies or institutions and non-resident Indians are required to seek prior approval of the NBA to obtain any biological resources and associated knowledge occurring in India.

Further, prior authorisation of the NBA is required to transfer the results of any research relating to any biological resources occurring in, or obtained from, India to any foreign individual, company or institution, and also for applying for Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) for any invention based on any research or information on a biological resource obtained from India. Indian citizens or firms registered in India can obtain any biological resource for commercial utilization or bio survey and bio utilization for commercial utilization after giving prior intimation to the State Biodiversity Board only.

However, the benefit sharing (BS) guidelines are to be issued by NBA. NBA may take any measure necessary to oppose the grant of IPRs in any country on any biological resource or associated knowledge obtained from India, on behalf of the Central Government[5].

The BMC is a powerful statutory body which is an integral part of the legislative system setup by the BD Act. BMCs are being constituted at various local levels throughout the country and have been set up at the block level in the state of Tamil Nadu. Still in its initial stages of formation, the functioning of BMCs has been plagued with a lack of interest in implementation agencies, lack of clarity amongst beneficiaries and confusion amongst existing local bodies that BMCs would usurp some of their existing powers. BMCs still have a long road ahead before it sheds the tag of a data collection agency and asserts its authority as a constitutionally mandated statutory body that can play a vital role in protecting the biodiversity of the land while sharing benefits amongst its constituents.

ABS and its implications on Forest Based Resources

The issue of forests and its relationship with the ABS regime[6]is complex in nature with concurrent interest expected to increase in the coming few years. Forests are closely linked with biodiversity use and provide a myriad variety of valuable products for commercial as well as research purposes. Forests are covered under the first objective of Convention of Biological Diversity as conservation of resources has a direct impact on protection of resources. At the same time, efficient forest management is intricately linked with providing benefits to communities which have been living in forest landscapes for generations. 

Thus, the ABS regime is expected to be increasingly exercised with respect to benefit sharing of forest-based resources with local communities. The challenge is to integrate traditional knowledge associated with biological resources within forests with that of conventional forest management systems in India. Most policies and regulations related to conservation of forest resources gives scant attention to traditional knowledge and as a result making it even more difficult for managers of the ABS regime to integrate this traditional knowledge when it comes to sharing of benefits that accrue from forests. Hence, the challenge in this regard is to establish linkages of traditional knowledge with mainstream forest management practices especially with regard to the ABS regime.

The Intergovernmental Forum on Forests in its report dated 2000, reached the conclusion that traditional systems significantly contribute to the effective management, conservation and sustainable use of forest resources, in accordance with Article 8 (j) and other provisions of the Convention and IPF/IFF proposals for action.  With this report and contiguous subsequent developments, the role of traditional knowledge as an important repository for effective forest management has increased over the years. However, as discussed above, the main hindrance to incorporating traditional knowledge into forest management is the absence of recognition to traditional knowledge combined with a lack of legal protection against usurping the knowledge of indigenous communities. Here, the role of the People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) gains prominence and perhaps presents a roadmap for future forest management prescriptions.

The narrative of changing perceptions has led to more integration of ABS regimes with the interest of local communities in matters pertaining to bioresources. The most significant change has occurred in the change of narrative from “Consulting” to ‘Consent”[7]. This has provided clear guidelines to policy makers that the role of the indigenous and local communities over access of genetic and bioresources cannot be ignored. People’s Biodiversity Register as a repository of information that can be legally verified will go a long way to provide local communities with rights on their resources.

People’s Biodiversity Register aims to document folk knowledge of status, uses, history, ongoing changes and forces driving changes in biodiversity resources, gainers and losers in these processes and people’s perceptions of how these resources should be managed[8]. PBRs are useful in many ways to strengthen the claims of the local communities over their resources while at the same time mapping the change in resources as a result of harvesting practises. These documents have the potential to carve out a role in the international discourse on conservation and sustainable use of bioresources as they help identify the right benefit claimer. Additionally, PBRs provide geographical identity to the bioresources and can be useful in providing a tool for clarification when disputes over biopiracy and Intellectual property rights arise.        

However, it must be noted that linking traditional knowledge with traditional forest management systems is a challenging task. Though PBRs provide rights over traditional knowledge associated with the forest region in question, the proprietary right of the communities over land is more often than not, a matter of dispute. In India, most forests are owned by the government and though communities may be given access in some cases as bonafide users of the resources, they are most often than not allowed to commercially trade these resources. In view of these complications, the role of communities and traditional knowledge in forest management systems must be further analysed as well as incorporated in future discourses. A simple suggestion put forth by a traditional healer in Dindigul district of the state of Tamil Nadu was that while the proprietary rights of forest areas remain as the unquestionable property of the forest department, the rights over associated knowledge of bioresources must squarely be with the community which is the holder of the knowledge. Sharing of benefit from genetic resources can be under the custodianship of the state in the forms of one of its bodies such as the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board in the case of Tamil Nadu.

ABS and its implications on Agriculture Based Resources

The CBD was created with wild biodiversity in mind, especially medicinal plants where the source of a particular genetic resource and associated traditional knowledge can often be established easily. The situation is different with respect to genetic resources for food and agriculture, including crops and livestock, as humans have modified these in an incremental manner and in many different geographical locations far from where they were originally domesticated. In recognition of this situation, a special instrument has been developed for access to crop genetic resources, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This treaty establishes a multi-lateral ABS - system for a common pool of 64 of the most important food crops and forage crops which are held in ex-situ collections worldwide (Santilli 2012).[9]

The practice of agriculture is an extremely dynamic process. Since the start of agriculture, humankind has continuously modified plant genetic resources to suit the special nature of agricultural biodiversity, its distinctive features and problems needing distinctive solutions which was acknowledged by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD at its fifth meeting in 2002. The COP considered to include the following:

1. Agricultural biodiversity is essential to satisfy basic human needs for food and livelihood security;

2. Agricultural biodiversity is managed by farmers; many components of agricultural biodiversity depend on this human influence; indigenous knowledge and culture are integral parts of the management of agricultural biodiversity;

3. There is a great interdependence between countries for the genetic resources for food and agriculture;

4. For crops and domestic animals, diversity within species is at least as important as diversity between species and has been greatly expanded through agriculture;

5. Because of the degree of human management of agricultural biodiversity, its conservation in production systems is inherently linked to sustainable use

6. Nonetheless, much biological diversity is now conserved ex situ in gene banks or breeders’ materials;

7. The interaction between the environment, genetic resources and management practices that occurs in situ within agro-ecosystems often contributes to maintaining a dynamic portfolio of agricultural biodiversity.[10]

It is to be noted that traditional agriculture and conventional practises are exempted from the purview of benefit sharing[11]. However, there are various aspects related to agriculture such as the use of genetic resources and making commercially distinct products for medicinal use that can come under the purview of the ABS regime.

There are numerous cases of local initiatives that can help protect genetic resources. Rahibai Soma Popere of Kombhalne village in Maharasthra has helped created a seed bank that distributes up to 122 varieties of 22 crops and has even applied for registration in Protection of Plant varieties and farmers right authority, India (PPV and FRA) under farmer’s variety thus helping preserve several varieties.[12]Several NGOs in India have worked towards protection of seed based genetic resources. Navdanya is an internationally renowned organisation that has collected more than 5000 crop varieties and has helped preserve several native species. Traditionally, most agricultural societies in India integrated preservation of crop species into the social and religious milieu, an act that has helped preserve hundreds of species which would have been lost otherwise with the rise of commercial agriculture.

Accordingly, ABS implementation cannot work in isolation and must be commensurate with other international treaties. Integration between ABS and ITPGRFA needs to consider the legislative, administrative and policy measures that cross each other’s path.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, is a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), as well as the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from its use.

It also recognises farmers' rights, subject to national laws to: a) the protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; b) the right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilisation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture; and c) the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The treaty establishes the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing to facilitate plant germplasm exchanges and benefit sharing through standard material transfer agreement (SMTA)[13].

The Nagoya Protocol[14] in the development and implementation of its access and benefit sharing legislation or regulatory requirement noted that each party shall: consider the importance of genetic resources for food and agriculture and their special role for food security (Article 8c). It is envisaged that though conventional agriculture does not fall under the Nagoya Protocol, however if any plant material be used for its genetic material, it should be done only after prior informed consent is approved by the provider of the material.

The key interlinkage between them is again with respect to the rights of the traditional communities and of farmer-bred and traditional varieties which may be in the danger of misappropriation or extinction. The challenge would be to protect the intellectual property rights of the traditional farmer who is under constant threat from external agencies.

India for its part has taken the right measures with the legislation on Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ right Act that recognises farmers’ right to save and sell seed that has been produced on farm as they have been done traditionally.                

There is an opportunity to link People’s Biodiversity Register with farmer’s rights over their traditional knowledge. Not only are PBRs useful for documenting forest-based resources, they can be extremely useful in documenting genetic and bioresources related to agriculture as the PBR formats encompasses several elements of agri-diversity based data. Under the ITPGRFA, the concept of Plant variety protection or the Plant breeders right is a form of an intellectual property right granted to the breeder of a new variety. Similarly, PBRs can be useful to preserve the rights of farmers or communities over the traditional knowledge they may hold over a particular variety.

The need to explore the linkage of PBRs and implementation of ITPGFRA will be further investigated in the coming years as the role of implementing farmer’s rights gains prominence and ITGRFA takes concrete steps to adopt a precise definition of Famer’s rights so that they are protected from future rights violations. 

ABS and its implications on Animal Husbandry Based Resources

Traditional indigenous breeds of animals are considered by many to be ideally suited to harsh tropical countries like India. Traditional breeds were raised by farmers throughout history as a result of an intimate study of local conditions. Most traditional breeds are known to be genetically close to their wild relatives as the breeding selection process considered the harsh environmental conditions for development of subsequent breeds. However, raising traditional breeds is under sustained onslaught by modern processes of breed selection that is currently predominant in the entire world.

As industrialisation advanced, so did commercial agriculture and the need for more efficient breeds. This led to a gradual reduction of traditional breeding systems and a consequent loss of agro biodiversity. There was a steady loss of traditional knowledge associated with ancient breeding systems.

In addition to that, cases of biopiracy also severely affected traditional systems of breeding. It took several decades before the international community acknowledged and took steps to protect and preserve these traditional systems. Animal genetic resources which are composed of breeds and strains of domesticated animals that humans have developed out of 40 wild species in the past 10000 years were placed under the purview of the Nagoya Protocol.

While access to crop genetic resources is protected under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, for animal genetic resources (AnGR), an equivalent instrument is absent. The impending and on-going implementation of the Nagoya Protocol at national levels therefore creates some urgency for the animal genetic resource sector to engage with these questions.[15]India which a key repository of genetic resources related to animals holds a rich diversity of distinct livestock breeds. It is thus essential that these breeds be protected and any utilisation of knowledge of these breeds has a direct benefit to the communities that holds the knowledge over these breeds.

The Nagoya Protocol recognizes the importance of genetic resources to food security, public health, biodiversity conservation and mitigation of and adaption to effects of climate change. While there is no direct reference to animal genetic resources in the protocol, the protocol attempts to ensure that any user of genetic resources and traditional knowledge pertaining to genetic resources must comply with the ABS regulation by declaring the so-called due diligence. The user therefore must ensure and prove that the genetic material used was in accordance with the applicable legislation of the provider country. Also, the benefits must be distributed in a fair and equitable manner in accordance with the agreed terms and conditions.

Linking ABS to crop resources and animal husbandry is fraught with challenges. While commercial application of animal genetic resources may be limited, application of traditional knowledge for commercial purpose is a possibility. For example, it would be interesting for an industry to infuse elements of traditional knowledge into modern breeds of cattle to make them more resilient in harsh conditions.

In India, the lack of a suitable instrument was noted and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) initiated a mechanism for “Registration of Animal Germplasm” by giving temporary authority to National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal. Subsequently in 2008, ICAR constituted a Breed Registration Committee (BRC) under the chairmanship of Deputy Director General (Animal Science), ICAR and having members from National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and Dept. of Animal Husbandry Dairying & Fisheries, Govt. of India for registration of new breeds. This mechanism is the sole recognised process for registration of livestock and poultry breeds at national level.[16]

Currently, People’s Biodiversity Registers must take into account the rights of traditional breeders who may be spread over a larger area as opposed to the geographical limit that a PBR mandates. While the document may not provide a complete legal protection from any case of theft of traditional knowledge of breeders, a bio-cultural protocol can be inserted in those geographical regions which have high density of traditional breeders. This can supplement and strengthen claims submitted to the Breed Registration Committee in the future.



The Future Outlook for Access and Benefit Sharing in India

While users are to share benefits as mandated under the BD act, an often-ignored aspect of ABS is the link with industries that have a strong social commitment towards accessing resources and wish to contribute benefits equitably. These actions of such industries are largely driven by market perceptions and the desire for more accountability on the part of the final customers. The silver lining is that the trend of companies voluntarily taking steps to pay for benefits accrued has increased significantly. Certifications, associations and a need for a unique identity are leading companies to adopt measures that identify them as socially responsible and use appropriate benefit sharing to develop a high brand reputation.

While biodiversity-based business from the natural oil, fragrances, timber, plantation crops and crop sectors continuously strengthen their credibility, they have an intrinsic desire to build their brand. They may not be required to share benefits, falling as they may outside the purview of the BD Act; however the possible integration of legislations such as Corporate Social Responsibility with ABS can be beneficial to industries who wish to closely share benefits accrued from use of biological resources. However, without mandatory compliance mechanisms, the onus still lies upon the voluntary acceptance of the ABS mechanism by companies involved in bio-trade. Industries are likely to be more comfortable in sharing non-monetary benefits, as this serves as a good source of advertisement for the companies and the value of benefits derived from the use of non-monetary benefits would have more significance than sharing mere monetary benefits.

The concept of Access and Benefit Sharing has been highly debated and vigorously researched, especially in pioneer developing countries like India. There have been several suggestions made to improve the structure of implementing ABS within the framework of the existing laws. However, in the midst of much amplified noise and use of jargons, it is to be remembered that the Convention of Biological Diversity was set up to conserve biodiversity and provide benefits to providers. The Indian Biological Diversity Act was constituted in the same lines and so was the Nagoya Protocol which attempted to provide definite guidelines for access of resources.

However, the paradigm needs to be reiterated that not only is benefit supposed to be shared but biodiversity needs to be protected along with reversal of fast-paced biodiversity loss. This remains the core objective of all the acts related to biodiversity. The resource providers are not yet been acknowledged and even if they are, consent is largely ignored. Additionally, actual monetary benefits are usually too paltry to be considered. Concepts such as Bio-cultural protocols and People’s Biodiversity Registers can serve as enablers in accelerating the acceptance of ABS provisions, however the road ahead is fraught with risks as the full implication of the act has not yet been actualised to its full potential in India. 





[2] Press Information Bureau, July 2014, India facilitates entry into force of Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. New Delhi, Government of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

[3]AU-IBAR, 2016, Into animal genetic resources development in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for the Nagoya Protocol. AU-IBAR Reports

[4] Research and Information System for Developing Countries, National Study on ABS implementation in India, New Delhi, ABS Capacity Development Initiative

[5] Section 3, 4, 6, 7, 21(2) and 18(4) of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002

[6] Jose Cabrera, Olivier Rukundo and Frederic Perron-Welch, The interface between sustainable forest management and access and benefit sharing outlining potential areas of synergy, Quebec, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law Biodiversity and Biosafety Law Programme.

[7] Balakrishna Pisupati, 2015,The Ten Questions to be Addressed while Developing National ABS Frameworks. FLEDGE, India. Pp: 34.

[8]Madhav Gadgil, 2000, People's Biodiversity Registers: Lessons Learnt. Environment, Development and Sustainability, Volume 2, Number 3-4, Page 323

[9]Santilli, 2012, Agrobiodiversity and the law. Regulating genetic resources, food security and cultural diversity. Earthscan, Oxford and New York

[10]COP 5 Decision V/5, Appendix, paragraph 2

[11] Balakrishna Pisupati, 2015, The Ten Questions to be Addressed while Developing National ABS Frameworks. FLEDGE, India. Pp: 34.




[15] Ilse Koehler-Rollefson and Hartmut Meyer, 2014, Access and Benefit-sharing of Animal Genetic Resources Using the Nagoya Protocol as a Framework for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Locally Adapted Livestock Breeds, League for Pastoral People and Endogenous Livestock Development, The ABS Capacity Development Initiative


An article from my friend Shalini