Kerala seeks tighter laws to prevent bio-piracy

September 14th, 2011 - 11:34 am ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 14 (IANS) Kerala, which likes to call itself “God’s own country” and is home to a staggering 10,035 plant species and 4,600 flowering plants, has sought tighter laws to prevent bio-piracy of India’s rich and diverse resources. This should include stringent checks at airports and installation of CCTV cameras in critical areas in forests, an official said.

The transfer of genetic resources to foreign countries is not monitored properly in our country, Kerala State Biodiversity Board Member Secretary K.P. Laladhas said.

“A person visiting a national park in the US has to answer so many questions and is monitored and screened, but a foreigner visiting here as a tourist to the forests and preserved areas can just move freely. Thus the need for biodiversity screening at our airports is the need of the hour,” Laladhas told IANS in an interview.

“CCTV should be installed at critical areas in forests and those given access to hot spots and also forests should be properly screened, besides closely monitoring the frequent visits of such people to these areas,” said he added.

Under the Biological Diversity Act 2002 and the Biological Diversity Rules 2004 passed by parliament, all states were to form Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) to prepare People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR) in which every village is to list out the entire flora and fauna of its area.

According to Laladhas, Kerala was ahead of all other states in this exercise.

“The PBR is significant in the context of bio-piracy. By preparing PBRs, each local body establishes its ownership on the biodiversity and the traditional knowledge thereon and can utilize the bio resource equitably, ensuring sustainable development,” Laladhas said.

The Western Ghats region, where the state is situated, is one of the 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world. A total of 1,500 flowering plants are endemic to the state.

Professor emeritus Oommen V. Oommen and former dean of Zoology at Kerala University also endorsed the idea of a proper mechanism for protection of biodiversity, including research.

“Collaborative research with foreign experts has to take place and in every scientific institution in the country there are up to even three committees that closely monitor collaborative research. As a matter of abundant caution, it is always better to see that nothing happens to our genetic resources and hence a biodiversity screening would be a good idea,” said Oommen.

The BMC is an elected body and include experts from the panchayat (village council ) to be the custodians of biodiversity of their area. Its term is for three years.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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