Down To Earth(may16-31 2022)


Prelims FOCUS

Irula: It is a community living around North and Western districts of Tamil Nadu, which specializes in catching reptiles, especially Snakes.

The extracted snake venom is used for preparation of Pharmaceutical products, including antidotes for snake bites.

Big Four: These are the four types of Snakes which are responsible for most snake bites in India. The four species are Cobra, Common Krait, Saw-scaled Viper and Russell’s Viper.


Benefits Withheld

Topics covered from the syllabus:

GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment Disaster and disaster management.

GS-3: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.


Prelims FACTS

National Green Tribunal: It is a statutory body tasked with providing expeditious judicial redressal in the case of Environmental issues.

It was established in 2010 under the NGT Act, 2010, with New Delhi as the Principal place of sitting and circuit courts at Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai.

The Tribunal is not bound by any code. It follows the Principles of Natural Justice.


Context: Convention on Biological Diversity and Nagoya Protocol provide for Benefit sharing with the local communities in case of access to local resources. However, there are various challenges in the implementation of the provisions.

Legal Framework of Benefit Sharing

Convention on Biological Diversity: It is a result of Rio Earth Summit held in Brazil in 1992. The objective of CBD is to conserve Biological diversity, along with the traditional knowledge associated with such diversity. It also seeks to ensure that if any biological resources are used, then it should be done in a sustainable manner, while providing for Fair and Equitable Benefit sharing at the same time.

Nagoya Protocol: The negotiations for Nagoya Protocol started during the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. It was finally agreed upon in 2010 at Nagoya, Japan. The Protocol stipulates a legally binding framework for ‘Access and Benefit Sharing’ (ABS) and Prior Informed Consent (PIC) for accessing the resources located within a particular area.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002: India ratified CBD in 1994. Also, it enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002. Biological Diversity Act, 2002 provides for setting up a 3-tier decentralized system of administration of Biological Diversity at the Union level, State level and Village level, as illustrated below:

National Biodiversity Authority (NBA): The Authority works at the level of Centre. Its functions include advising the government on the use of biological resources, regulation of activities related to access to the biological resources, opposing grant of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) outside India of Indian resources, advising the State governments on selection of heritage areas and so on.

State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs): The Authority works in tandem with the State government and advises it on matters related to conservation, sustainable use and sharing of benefits coming out of the use of biological resources. It also regulates the requests for commercial utilization of biological resources.

Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs): It works at the level of Villages. Its functions include preparing the People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) and maintaining data on local vaidyas and medical practitioners using the biological resources.

People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs): PBRs are the registers maintained by BMCs under the provisions of Biodiversity Act, 2002. They contain the list of entities seeking access to biological resources and the way benefits will be shared with the local communities out of the arrangement.

2011 Amendment to Biological Diversity Act, 2002: The Government has brought in a Proposal to amend the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, in order to encourage cultivation of the Medicinal Plants, increase Research Opportunities and Patent Application process, and revise the Powers and Functions of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to align it with the evolving situation.

Benefits of CBD and Nagoya Protocol

Benefit Sharing: The protocol provides for sharing of benefits with the local community. The formula provides a choice for the traders and manufacturers in the form of payment with respect to either the Purchase price of the herbs or Sale Price of the herbal products. Also, it has a provision for retaining 5% of the payment with the National and State Biodiversity Boards.

Conservation of Resources: The protocol promotes responsible and sustainable use of the resources. This is especially relevant for the poor communities like Irula (see inset) which are dependent on Biological Resources for their livelihood. For e.g., Irulas mark the snakes after extracting venom and before releasing them back into the wild, so that they are not repeatedly exploited.

Profit to Corporates: Media reports indicate that most Corporates are amenable to the idea of Benefit sharing as the survival of their Business idea and Factories depends upon the sustainability of the Biological resources and it is the locals who have the basic understanding of the Environment and conditions required for ensuring continuity of the Biological resources.

Protection of Traditional Knowledge: CBD and Nagoya Protocol ensure that foreign companies are not granted patents for traditional knowledge in other countries. This is critical for the sustainable usage and Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing as the local people lack access to resources for a legal fight with big Corporates.

People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs): PBRs can serve as evidence and storehouse of information in case of proposals of forest diversion as well as during the conduct of Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs). Both the Executive and the Judiciary will benefit from a ready database of important biological resources in a particular region, especially in the cases related to determining the value of such resources.

Challenges Associated with Implementation

Identification of Beneficiaries: Many a time, it is difficult to identify the beneficiaries in a particular area as there are multiple claimants to the resources or a total absence of any community in the region from which the herbs are accessed. Though the ABS regulations provide for usage of funds to support conservation and promotion of livelihoods in the area, in case direct beneficiaries are not identified.

Lax Implementation: It was only after an order of National Green Tribunal (see inset) in 2019, that the States rushed to create BMCs and PBRs. From 9,700 BMCs, the number of BMCs rose to 2.7 Lakhs by April 2022. However, the quality of PBRs greatly varies from region to region and leaves much to desire. Similarly, Boards have complained of lack of manpower in tracking and maintaining the list of Companies benefiting from such resources.

Unused Funds: Media reports claim that in some cases, where actually funds have been collected from the corporates, the utilization of such funds is minimal. For e.g., Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board has collected Rs 8.07 Crore out of the 152 agreements it has signed with traders and manufacturers. However, the funds are lying unused with the Biodiversity Board as the beneficiaries could not be identified. Similar situation exists with the Kerala Biodiversity Board.

Fund Crunch: On one hand, funds are lying unused with the State Boards. At the same time, the BMCs at the Village level are facing a cash crunch in preparing and managing the PBR. Experts agree that gathering and storing the information in Registers is a time-consuming job, which needs meticulous cataloguing of Resources. However, the BMCs are unable to engage relevant Experts due to the unavailability of Funds.

Reluctance of Corporates: Media reports have indicated that some of the Corporates are reluctant to share part of their revenues with the Boards as stipulated under ABS regulations. Even after receiving Notices from the relevant authorities, many of them have resorted to Judicial intervention in order to avoid paying up revenues under ‘Fair and Equitable Sharing’ clause.


Biological Diversity Act, 2002 is an important piece of legislation in the path of Conservation of Biological Resources and ensuring Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising out of the use of Traditional Knowledge of the Local Communities. However, the need of the hour is to fulfill the lacunae in the Act with well-intentioned Proposals and to see that the provisions of the Act are implemented in both letter and spirit.

Practice Question

Discuss the structure of Biodiversity Management created in the Federal Units of the Country, highlighting the functions and responsibilities at each level. Also, throw light on the challenges faced in the implementation of Biological Diversity Act, 2002.


Define the concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for sustainable development of a region. (GS3 – 2019)

How does biodiversity vary in India? How is the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 helpful in conservation of flora and fauna? (GS3 – 2018)

Stockholm + 50

Topics covered from the syllabus:

GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment Disaster and disaster management.

GS-3: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.


Prelims FACTS

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): It was signed in 1992 with the objective of decreasing carbon emissions and ensuring that global warming and climate change can be arrested and reversed to the extent possible.

It was a result of Earth Summit, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

It resulted in major agreements like Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement.


Prelims FACTS

Minamata Convention: It is an international treaty designed to protect human health from harmful effects of Mercury and its compounds.

The treaty was signed in 2013 at Kumamoto, Japan.

The convention is named after the Bay of Minamata in Japan, which experienced severe Mercury Poisoning.

Artisanal and Small scale gold mining is the single largest contributor of Mercury poisoning globally.


Context: Global Community is gathering again to celebrate 50 years of Stockholm Conference, which was held in June 1972. The Conference is expected to throw light on the efforts taken in the direction of Environment Conservation in the previous 50 years, apart from highlighting the global priorities in the fast-evolving world.

Stockholm Conference

Origin of Environmental Activism: Most experts point to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring as one of the first books pointing to the anthropological pollution and its harmful effects on the Environment. The book, originally published in 1962, shed light on the indiscriminate use of Pesticides in Agriculture and the harm caused by such usage.

Stockholm Conference: The conference took place in Stockholm, Sweden in June 1972, with ‘Only One Earth’ as its theme and was officially called ‘United Nations Conference on Environment’. The Conference was first suggested by Sweden to UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1968 with the idea of uniting global community in discussions on human interaction with the Environment.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): UNEP was born as a result of the Stockholm Conference. The developing countries supported the idea of UNEP, majorly because it was one of the first international organizations, with its headquarters in the Third World, viz. Nairobi, in Kenya.

India at Stockholm Conference: Indian PM Indira Gandhi had the distinction of being the only head of Government being present at the Conference, except the host nation Sweden. She reminded the world about the entitlement of Developing Nations to their share of development. She also argued that Poverty was the greatest Polluter and Rich nations must support the Poor ones in their journey towards alleviation of Poverty.

Aftermath of Stockholm Conference

Pooled Sovereignty: Environmental Conservation has created a situation where the nations need to take decisions which may not be directly in their self-interest at a given instant. However, the need for sustainable development dictates making decisions in favour of collective good and following up on them. This is referred to as Pooled Sovereignty.

Ministries of Environment: Stockholm Conference was a critical juncture in Environment conscience as it led to the growth of environmental institutions. For e.g., till 1972, no country had an Environment Ministry. After the Conference, Norway was the first country which set up the same. India followed up in 1985 by setting up of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Ozone Hole: The emergence of Ozone Hole over the Antarctic was one of the first triggers of global environmental governance. It was the first time the nations realized the importance of Global Commons and recognized the fact that just like degradation, restoration of the Environment cannot be an individual effort. It can only be accomplished when the whole community of Nations came together and pledged for a collective effort to conserve the Environment.

Prominence of Environmental Issues: The importance of Stockholm Conference lies in mainstreaming the Environmental conservation issues like Acid Rain, Extinction of Species, and other region-specific issues like Mercury Poisoning in Minamata Bay in Japan (which ultimately led to the Minamata Convention (see inset).

Rio Conference: Rio Conference of 1992 was officially titled ‘UN Conference on Environment and Development’ (UNCED), but is mostly referred to as Rio Summit or Earth Summit. It was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. It was a watershed moment in Global Environment Conservation.

Outcomes of Rio Conference: Rio Conference led to opening up of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC – see inset) and Convention on Biological Diversity for signature, and paved further development of Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. It also resulted in Agenda 21 and Forest Principles.

Division of Global Community: One of the major challenges in Environment Conservation is the division of nations on the basis of the level of prosperity. Rich nations have already consumed most of the world’s carbon space for Development since industrialization and have the luxury to preach the tenets of Sustainable Development. On the other hand, their Poor counterparts have time and again pleaded for sharing of finance and technology for a less-polluting path to development.

East-West Divide: Stockholm Conference turned out to be another theatre of Cold war over the issue of non-inclusion of East Germany. This led the Socialist bloc led by USSR to boycott the Conference.


Stockholm 2022: Stockholm+50 is scheduled to be held in the same city in June this year. The Conference aims to take a stock of the gains garnered in the last 50 years of Environmental governance. But, more importantly, the goal of the Conference would be to list the challenges faced in the implementation of international agreements and to find out possible ways to address such challenges.

Theme: The Conference has been themed ‘Stockholm+50: A healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity’. The theme points to the need for collaboration in the matters of Environmental governance. It must be noted here that as per UNEP’s ‘Inclusive Wealth Report 2018’, produced capital and human capital grew at a rate of 3.8% and 2.1% during 1990-2014, while natural capital decreased at the rate of 0.7% during the same period.

Overburdened Resources: Since the Stockholm Conference happened in 1972, the world has more than doubled in population, five times in Economy and ten times in trade. As heartening as it may sound, the expansion has been fuelled majorly by a tripling of the extraction of natural resources, energy production and food production and consumption, which has put a strain on the carrying capacity of the Earth.

Missing the Targets: As per the UNEP’s ‘Making Peace with Nature’ Report, the world is on course to reach a temperature rise of 3°C by 2100 with reference to the pre-industrialization levels, missing the target of 1.5°C by a huge margin. To reach the latter, there needs to be a 45% cut in global emissions by 2030. Otherwise, the implications of temperature rise would be catastrophic for human survival.

Inhospitable Conditions: The disturbance in Climate would lead to the shift of Earth’s ‘Climatic Envelope’ characterized by a temperature in the annual range of -11°C to 15°C. This would result in the temperature rise of presently comfortable places like North America and Europe in such a way that their climate would resemble the hot conditions of Africa’s Sahara Desert.

Way Forward

Meeting SDG targets: The 17 Sustainable Development Goals define the contemporary global priorities. It is important to take policy actions keeping these goals in mind, while keeping an eye on the region-specific requirements. At the same time, there needs to be a balance in seemingly conflicting goals like Elimination of Poverty (SDG 1) and Climate Action (SDG 13), which seems to be an extension of Development Vs Environment debate.

Build Back Better: Though the global community is working in the direction of Environment Conservation, it is critical to build infrastructure in such a way that the Construction is adaptable to the changing Climate and Mitigates the changes associated with such Shifts. Similarly, a faster increase in GDP can be accomplished by heavier extraction and faster depletion of Natural Resources. However, it is critical to understand that there needs to be an equivalent focus on the underlying assets, which produce this short-term income flow.

Sustainable Development: The pandemic has shown the adverse effects of tampering with Nature. Experts have blamed the destruction of biodiversity, illegal trade in wildlife and Climate Change as the primary factors inducing the Pandemic. At the same time, we have also been warned that if we continue with the present path of development, this pandemic won’t be the last one.

Setting the Priorities: To improve upon a present deficiency, it is important to first measure it accurately. In the same way, if Environment conscience needs to be incorporated in Policy-making process, the initial requirement is accurate measurement of the Environmental degradation. Therefore, substantial investment is required in data collection, including greater funding for the Statistical Offices. Similarly, funding is required in methods of data collection by incorporating remote sensing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other such technologies.


Stockholm+50 is a perfect opportunity to take stock of the present developmental path taken by the world. However, it is important that the global leaders forget their narrow self-interests in favor of arriving at a common plan for global good, while keeping the needs of the developing countries in mind.

Practice Question

Discuss the impact of Stockholm Conference of 1972 on the collective global conscience with reference to Environment Conservation. What are the current issues being faced by the world in the run-up to Stockholm+50?


“The long-sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalised Nations has disappeared on account of its new found role in the emerging global order”. Elaborate. (GS2 – 2019)

Should the pursuit of carbon credit and clean development mechanism set up under UNFCCC be maintained even through there has been a massive slide in the value of carbon credit? Discuss with respect to India’s energy needs for economic growth. (GS3 – 2014)