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Did you know we have A National Biodiversity Act?

Saturday, March 18, 2017
By Sonali Telang

National Biodiversity Act: A way to save Mumbai’s environment!

All this axing of trees and maddening illegal construction across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane could have been nipped in the bud, if only a 15-year-old National Biodiversity Act had actually taken root in the city and its suburbs. The Act that strictly forbids mindless construction in the name of development, is lost in the haze of smog and pollution. What’s even scarier than the mammoth dishevelled development of Mumbai, is the fact that even Tree Officers of the BMC have not heard of its existence!

Amidst the ongoing degradation of city's environment, activists urge the civic bodies to enable the 'National Biodiversity Act' to conserve the city's biodiversity

While Mumbai is grappling with lack of green spaces and degrading condition of water bodies, an existing Environmental Act which ensures the protection of the ecosystem still remains unimplemented by the civic bodies.

Green activists have pointed out that despite being in existence for fifteen years, the National Biodiversity Act is not followed by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation and CIDCO. Surprisingly, some senior tree officers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)are also unfamiliar with Act.

The National Biodiversity Act of 2002 aims at conserving the biological diversity of an area. It ensures sustainable use of its components while directing equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.  

“To obtain biological resources for commercial purpose, permission is needed from the National Biodiversity Authority. However, the NMMC does not even implement the Act in its jurisdiction. Nor does CIDCO. Navi Mumbai which has seen destruction of hill ranges and mountains and incessant razing of mangroves over years, This act forbids the mindless destruction of environment in the name of development,” said Arati Chauhan, an activist from Navi Mumbai.

Under the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF), the Government of India has directed the implementation of the provisions under the National Biodiversity Act in 28 states. “Plants, animals, micro-organisms, their genetic material, by-products and their actual or potential use is covered and protected under this Act.
NBA and Biological Management Committee (BMC) are the statutory authorities. Under Section 7 of the Act, Indian industries requires to give prior intimation to the NBB for commercial utilisation. The board has the power to prohibit or restrict the practices that violates objectives of the act,” added Arati Chauhan.

Due to rampant concretisation all over Navi Mumbai, thriving water bodies have been converted into concretised nullahs and fully grown trees have been left to die as a consequence of the same. Activists have claimed that since the Act is not considered by the civic authorities, it gives  builders and contractors flexibility to violate environmental norms in the state.

“As per the Act, a committee has to be formed in the civic bodies across the districts.  Municipal officials, NGOs and citizens are included in this committee to take decisions on such matters. However, our civic bodies have not even enabled the Act,” said Anarjit Chauhan, RTI activist from Navi Mumbai.

In the swathe of upcoming metro projects in the city, the Union Forest Ministry has informed the Lok Sabha that 231 mangroves on 1.69 hectare land will be hacked. Afternoon D&C inquired about it from the Tree Authority of BMC. “I don't have  any idea about a committee on National Biodiversity Authority here in the BMC. However the tree authority does not deal with the  mangroves in the city. The destruction of mangroves is prohibited by the state,” said Niranjan Shetty, Tree Authority Officer.

What is the National Biodiversity Act?
The National Biodiversity Act of 2002 aims at conserving the biological diversity of an area and ensures to make sustainable use of its components, while directing equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.

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