The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) informally known as the Biodiversity Convention, is a United Nations treaty that is responsible for the conservation of Biological Diversity around the world.

  • Biodiversity: Biodiversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are part and includes diversity within species or between species and of ecosystems
  • Biological Resources: The biological resources means plants, animals, and micro-organisms or parts thereof, their genetic material and by-products (excluding value-added products) with actual or potential use or value, but does not include human genetic material.

Convention on Biological Diversity

  • Biodiversity conservation is a collective responsibility of all nations.
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a step towards conserving biological diversity or biodiversity with the involvement of the entire world.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (a multilateral treaty) was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and entered into effect in 1993. It has two supplementary agreements, the Cartagena Protocol and Nagoya Protocol.
  • The CBD Secretariat is based in Montreal, Canada.
  •  It is a key document regarding sustainable development. It comes under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The convention called upon all nations to take appropriate measures for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable utilization of its benefits.
  • The Convention has three main goals:
    1. conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);
    2. sustainable use of its components; and
    3. fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
  • It is often seen as the key document regarding sustainable development.
  • The Convention is legally binding; countries that join it (‘Parties’) are obliged to implement its provisions.
  • 195 UN states and the European Union are parties to the convention.
  • All UN member states, with the exception of the United States, have ratified the treaty.
  • International Biological Diversity Day is observed on 22 May. The theme for 2018: “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity”.
  • United Nations General Assembly had declared the period 2011-2020 to be the “United Nations Decade on Biodiversity”.
  • India enacted Biological Diversity Act in 2002 for giving effect to the provisions of the CBD.
Convention on Biological Diversity

Cartagena Protocol

  • On 29 January 2000, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP5) adopted a supplementary agreement to the Convention known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. It came into force on 11 September 2003.
  • CBD covers the rapidly expanding field of biotechnology through its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
  • It addresses technology development and transfer, benefit-sharing, and biosafety issues.
  • The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.
  • It creates an advanced informed agreement (AIA) procedure that requires exporters to seek consent from importing countries before the first shipment of LMOs meant to be introduced into the environment (e.g. seeds for planting, fish for release, and microorganisms for bioremediation)
  • It establishes an internet-based “Biosafety Clearing-House” to help countries exchange scientific, technical, environmental, and legal information about LMOs.
  • The Protocol gives a precautionary approach to the issue of the transfer of LMOs from one country to another.
  • The Protocol includes a clause that makes clear the Parties’ intent that the agreement does not alter the rights and obligations of governments under the World Trade Organization (WTO) or other existing international agreements.

Nagoya Protocol

  • It is the second Protocol to the CBD; the first is the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
  • It is a 2010 supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • The Nagoya Protocol is about “Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization”, one of the three objectives of the CBD.
  • It not only applies to genetic resources that are covered by the CBD, and to the benefits arising from their utilization but also covers traditional knowledge (TK) associated with genetic resources that are covered by the CBD and the benefits arising from its utilization.
  • Along with Nagoya Protocol on Genetic Resources, the COP-10 also adopted a ten-year framework for action by all countries to save biodiversity.
  • Officially known as “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020”, provide a set of 20 ambitious yet achievable targets (divided into 5 sections: A to E), collectively known as the Aichi Targets for biodiversity.
  • The Aichi Biodiversity Targets are:
    • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
    • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
    • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity
    • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
    • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management, and capacity building.
  • India developed 12 National Biodiversity Targets in line with 20 global Aichi biodiversity targets. [According to the Sixth national report (NR6), 2018]

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA)

  • Popularly known as the International Seed Treaty.
  • An international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • 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.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)

  • It is an international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity.
  • In 2007, environment ministers from the G8+5 countries meeting in Germany proposed TEEB to initiate the process of
    • analyzing the global economic benefit of biological diversity,
    • the costs of the loss of biodiversity and
    • the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation.
  • In response to TEED, a global study was initiated in 2017 and was led by Pavan Sukhdev.
    • Pavan Sukhdev is an Indian environmental economist whose fields of studies include green economy and international finance.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a statutory body constituted under the ‘Rules for the Manufacture, Use /Import /Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineering Organisms or Cells, 1989’ notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

  • It was formed as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee and was renamed to its current name in 2010.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.
  • The GEAC is the apex biotech regulatory body in India.
  • The body regulates the use, manufacture, storage, import, and export of hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms and cells in India.

GEAC Functions

  • It is responsible for the appraisal of activities that involve the large-scale use of hazardous microbes and recombinants in research and industrial production from the point of view of the environment.
  • The GEAC also assesses proposals regarding the release of genetically engineered products and organisms into the environment, and this includes experimental field trials as well.
  • The body also looks into proposals regarding the use of living modified organism that comes in the risk category III and above in the import/manufacture of recombinant pharma products, or where the end-product of the recombinant pharma product is a modified living organism.
  • The Committee has the power to take punitive action against people/body under the Environment (Protection) Act.
  • The approval of the GEAC is mandatory before genetically modified organisms and products derived from them can be used commercially.

Biological Diversity Act in 2002

  • The act was enacted in 2002, it aims at the conservation of biological resources, managing its sustainable use, and enabling fair and equitable sharing benefits arising out of the use and knowledge of biological resources with the local communities.

Salient Features of the Act

  • It gives a legal basis to Nagoya and Cartegana Protocol in India.
  • The Act prohibits the following activities without prior approval from the National Biodiversity Authority:
    • Any person or organization (either based in India or not) obtaining any biological resource occurring in India for its research or commercial utilization.
    • The transfer of the results of any research relating to any biological resources occurring in, or obtained from, India.
    • The claim of any intellectual property rights on any invention based on the research made on the biological resources obtained from India.
  • The act envisaged a three-tier structure to regulate the access to biological resources:
    • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
    • The State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
    • The Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) (at the local level)
  • The Act provides these authorities with special funds and a separate budget in order to carry out any research project dealing with the biological natural resources of the country.
    • It shall supervise any use of biological resources and the sustainable use of them and shall take control over the financial investments and their return and dispose of those capitals as correct.
  • Under this act, the Central Government in consultation with the NBA:
    • Shall notify threatened species and prohibit or regulate their collection, rehabilitation, and conservation
    • Designate institutions as repositories for different categories of biological resources
  • The act stipulates all offenses under it as cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Any grievances related to the determination of benefit sharing or order of the National Biodiversity Authority or a State Biodiversity Board under this Act shall be taken to theNational Green Tribunal (NGT).
    • The other laws that NGT deals with, include:
      • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974,
      • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977,
      • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,
      • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,
      • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,
      • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  • The Government can declare Biodiversity Heritage Sites under the act.
    • Ameenpur lake of Telangana is the first such site.

Exemptions from the Act

  • The Act excludes Indian biological resources that are normally traded as commodities.
    • Such exemption holds only so far the biological resources are used as commodities and for no other purpose.
  • The act also excludes traditional uses of Indian biological resources and associated knowledge and when they are used in collaborative research projects between Indian and foreign institutions with the approval of the central government.
  • Uses by cultivators and breeds, e.g. farmers, livestock keepers, and beekeepers, and traditional healers e.g.vaids and hakims are also exempted.

The National Biodiversity Authority

  • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established in 2003 by the Central Government to implement India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002).
  • It is a Statutory body that performs facilitative, regulatory, and advisory functions for the Government of India on the issue of Conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.
  • The NBA has its Headquarters in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • Foreigner doing research on the biological resources of India need the permission of the National Biodiversity Authority.
  • There is mention of the National Biodiversity Fund for the implementation of the act.

Structure of the NBA

  • The National Biodiversity Authority consists of the following members to be appointed by the central government, namely:
    • A Chairperson.
    • Three ex officio members, one representing the Ministry dealing with Tribal Affairs and two representing the Ministry dealing with Environment and Forests.
    • Seven ex-officio members to represent respectively the Ministries of the Central Government dealing with:
      • Agricultural Research and Education
      • Biotechnology
      • Ocean Development
      • Agriculture and Cooperation
      • Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy
      • Science and Technology
      • Scientific and Industrial Research;
    • Five non-official members to be appointed from amongst specialists and scientists having special knowledge and experience in the required matters.

Functions of the NBA

  • Creating an enabling environment, as appropriate, to promote conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
  • Advising the central government, regulating activities and issuing guidelines for access to biological resources and for fair and equitable benefit sharing in accordance with the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • Taking necessary measures to oppose the grant of intellectual property rights in any country outside India on any biological resource obtained from India or knowledge associated with such biological resources derived from India illegally.
  • Advising the State Governments in the selection of areas of biodiversity importance to be notified as heritage sites and suggest measures for their management.

State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)

  • The SBBs are established by the State Governments in accordance with Section 22 of the Act.
  • Structure: The State Biodiversity Board consists of the following members:
    • A Chairperson
    • Not more than five ex officio members to represent the concerned Departments of the State Government
    • Not more than five members from amongst experts in matters relating to conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of biological resources and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.
    • All the members of the SBB are appointed by the respective State Governments.

Functions of SBBs

  • Advise the State Government, subject to any guidelines issued by the Central Government, on matters relating to the conservation, sustainable use, or sharing equitable benefits.
  • Regulate by granting approvals or otherwise requests for commercial utilization or bio-survey and bio-utilization of any biological resource by people.


  • There are no State Biodiversity Boards constituted for Union territories.
  • The National Biodiversity Authority exercises the powers and performs the functions of a State Biodiversity Board for the UTs.

Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)

  • According to Section 41 of the Act, every local body shall constitute the BMC within its area for the purpose of promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity including:
    • Preservation of habitats
    • Conservation of Landraces
    • Folk varieties and cultivars
    • Domesticated stocks And breeds of animals
    • Microorganisms And Chronicling Of Knowledge Relating To Biological Diversity


  • It shall consist of a chair person and not more than six persons nominated by the local body.
    • Out of total members of a BMC, not less than one third should be women and not less than 18% should belong to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Chairperson of the Biodiversity Management Committee shall be elected from amongst the members of the committee in a meeting to be chaired by the Chairperson of the local body.
  • The chairperson of the local body shall have the casting votes in case of a tie.


  • The main function of the BMC is to prepare the People’s Biodiversity Register in consultation with the local people.
  • The register shall contain comprehensive information on availability and knowledge of local biological resources, their medicinal or any other use or any other.

People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR):

  • The PBRs focus on participatory documentation of local biodiversity, traditional knowledge and practices.
    • The register shall contain comprehensive information on the availability and knowledge of local biological resources, their medicinal or any other use or any other traditional knowledge associated with them.
  • They are seen as key legal documents in ascertaining the rights of local people over the biological resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS)

  • Under Section 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 the State Government in consultation with local bodies may notify the areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites.
  • The Biodiversity Heritage Sites are thewell-defined areas that are unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems – terrestrial, coastal, and inland waters and, marine having rich biodiversity comprising of any one or more of the following components:
    • the richness of wild as well as domesticated species or intra-specific categories
    • high endemism
    • presence of rare and threatened species
    • keystone species
    • species of evolutionary significance
    • wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or their varieties
    • past preeminence of biological components represented by fossil beds
    • having significant cultural, ethical, or aesthetic values; important for the maintenance of cultural diversity (with or without a long history of human association with them)
  • Areas having any of the following characteristics may qualify for inclusion as BHS.
Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS)District/State
Nallur Tamarind GroveBangalore, Karnataka
HogrekanChikmagalur, Karnataka
University of Agricultural Sciences, BengaluruKarnataka
Glory of AllapalliMaharashtra
Tonglu BHS and Dhotrey BHS under the Darjeeling Forest DivisionDarjeeling, West Bengal
Dialong VillageManipur
Khlaw Kur Syiem KmieIngMeghalaya
Ameenpur lakeTelangana
Gharial Rehabilitation CentreLucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Chilkigarh Kanak DurgaWest Bengal
Purvatali RaiGoa
Naro HillsMadhya Pradesh
PatalkotMadhya Pradesh

Ameenpur Lake

  • First water body to be recognized as a Biodiversity Heritage Site, Ameenpur Lake is a man-made lake dating more than 300 years old.
  • The lake is home to many residents and migratory birds, such as flamingos, egrets, herons, cormorants, kingfishers, and river terns, to name a few.
  • And because of a high number of migratory species, Ameenpur Lake earned the status of a BHS. The site is every birdwatcher’s delight.

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