India plans to play a larger role in protection of forests and biodiversity, especially in the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in Nagoya, Japan, in October this year.
The meet will discuss adoption of an international protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.
"The Nagoya meet, which will be attended by 193 members, is crucial for developing nations like India which are seeking a single legally-binding international pact to deal with access to and benefit from sharing of bio-resources, a move vehemently opposed by rich countries," Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said while addressing a national seminar on biodiversity organised by Energy and Resources Institute here today.
"The developed and developing nations have divergent views on various issues, such as sharing of biological resources, but we will work with the international community to minimise these differences at the meet.
"But, whatever we do, let us not link it with international negotiations. International leadership comes from domestic action and it is in our interest to do this," he added.
As a mark of its commitment to biodiversity conservation, India will host the eleventh COP to the CBD in October 2012 in New Delhi. Called 'Rio+20' CBD Conference, the COP will also commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.
In the context of climate change threats to biodiversity, Ramesh said, "There is a need to converge the two, as they can't be seen in different perspectives. We must take voluntary unilateral action for the welfare of our people."
Regarding India's actions to combat biopiracy, he said the nation was one of the first few countries in the world to enact a national legislation, the Biological Diversity Act in 2002, which contained provisions for access and benefit sharing. A National Biodiversity Authority was set up at Chennai in 2003.
Moreover, India has created a database of traditional knowledge -- the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library -- which is a computerised database of documented information available in published texts of the Indian systems of medicine.
The ministry is planning to set up a People's Register of Biodiversity, so that traditional knowledge which is not in texts but is passed down orally can also be documented and protected.
This will begin functioning in Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, among other states, under NBA. Ramesh said, so far, more than 2,00.000 formulations of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Yoga had been documented into TKDL.
These 34 million pages of information was prepared over eight years at an estimated cost of Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million).
On partnering with local communities for biodiversity protection, he said, "Forests can be protected though people and incentives and stakes in tribal communities for which the ministry will give resources and policy support. It is a grave threat if our bio-resources are taken away."
The government has also signed pacts with private companies exporting bio-products. For instance, under the pact between NBA and Pepsico, the latter has given Rs 37 lakh (Rs 3.7 million) royalty to be shared with the locals for seaweed exported from the Gulf of Mannar region to Indonesia and Malaysia.
"More such pacts are in pipeline with an aim to share the benefits of bio-diversity resources with the local community," said Ramesh.
Hence, a new National Bureau of Forest Genetics will be established in Dehradun in the next five years under Indian Council for Forest Research at an investment of Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million).
Ramesh said the ministry was in the final stages of drafting a document on the National Mission on Green India that would be put up on the ministry's website by Monday.