Access to biodiversity registers

The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is coming up with elaborate guidelines on access to Panchayat Biodiversity Registers (PBRs).

Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the National Biodiversity Congress which concluded here on Sunday, NBA Chairman Balakrishna Pisupati said State Biodiversity Boards would be required to maintain a log of who accessed the PBRs and for what purpose.

A legal document

“The PBR is not a catalogue of information, it is a legal document that can be presented in a court of law. It is the only proof we will have to deal with misappropriation and benefit sharing. In the past, we had a range of institutions and agencies developing PBRs in their own format and style. If there is no uniformity, clarity or authenticity, you will end up with thousands of PBRs and their authenticity will be called into question,” he said.

Framing rules

Dr. Pisupati said the Biological Diversity Act bestowed on States, the right to frame their own rules to suit local conditions. “The flexibility is limited to the extent that some basic information has to be provided in the suggested format. In Kerala, the panchayat-level Biodiversity Management Committees are required to submit PBRs to the State Biodiversity Board for authentication under the provisions of the State Biological Diversity Rules,” he said.

NBA, he said, was trying to address the critical element of what amount and what kind of PBR information needed to be kept confidential.

Concerns raised

“There are certain concerns raised that the PBR could be a potential source for misappropriation because it would reveal information about resources and traditional knowledge and where to find them. But we cannot afford to develop a PBR and keep it locked up in a cupboard. It is not only a document to be used in a court of law. It should also be used for development, better conservation, and empowerment of communities,” he said.

NBA was coming up with guidelines for control on access to PBRs while ensuring that they were used for development, he added.