India’s Rank Declines In Environmental Performance Index Despite Several Initiatives

India was classified last in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
2022 despite implementing Sashakt Bharat, Swachh Bharat and Sanatan Bharat. India is the least environmentally sustainable of 180 nations surveyed. India has the lowest EPI at 18.9, according to the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Yale University, Columbia University, and the McCall MacBain Foundation.

EPI is a data-driven perspective of global sustainability. It ranks 180 countries on climate change, environmental health and ecosystem vitality using 40 performance indicators in 11 domains. These measures demonstrate how close nations are to fulfilling national environmental targets. The EPI scorecard highlights environmental leaders and laggards and offers practical guidance for countries pursuing a more sustainable future.

In the category “Biodiversity and Habitat”, India ranked 179th. This category analyses a country’s efforts to protect natural ecosystems and biodiversity. Seven indicators are the Protected Areas Representativeness Index (177), Species Habitat Index (80), Species Protection Index (175), and Biodiversity Habitat Index (170). Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet. Human actions have caused habitat loss, ecological system deterioration, and extinctions or extinction threats.

The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) tackles these issues. It recognises sovereign rights over biological resources and lets nations govern access according to their own laws. Local and indigenous communities’ traditional knowledge, customs, and innovations are recognised. India joined CBD in 1994. The CBD endorsed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2003) and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (2005). (2014). India ratified Cartagena in 2003 and Nagoya in 2014. Parliament enacted the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 due to India’s CBD duties. The act regulates access to biological resources and traditional knowledge.

The bill of 2021 proposes to amend the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 to I encourage Indian medicine and the cultivation of wild medicinal plants, (ii) accelerate research, patent applications, and research results transfer, (iii) decriminalise offences, and (iv) attract international investment. A “foreign-controlled” Indian firm will require NBA approval for some acts, according to the law. Section 2(42) of the Companies Act, 2013 defines a “foreign-controlled enterprise” as a foreign corporation controlled by a foreigner. Section 2(42) of the Companies Act defines a foreign corporation as one founded outside India.

The measure contradicts itself by requiring NBA authorisation for an Indian-formed but foreign-incorporated corporation under Section 2[42] of the Companies Act. The measure substitutes judges with government adjudicators. Inquiries will replace open court debates in sentencing. Should government employees have such discretion? The 2002 legislation requires users of biological resources and knowledge to benefit local communities.

Bill exempts users of “codified traditional knowledge” Neither the law nor the CBD, Nagoya, or Cartagena Protocols define this word. Using a broad definition, almost all common knowledge might be exempt from benefit-sharing requirements. Local governments and welfare applicants will no longer define mutually agreed conditions. According to the statute, the NBA would set benefit-sharing standards for issuing licenses.

The applicant, local entities, and benefit claimants should agree on the conditions. Biological resource conservationists and bearers of traditional knowledge might claim advantages. The law requires approvals to be issued on mutually agreed-upon conditions between the applicant and the appropriate Biodiversity Management Committee, represented by the NBA. Benefit claimants and local residents won’t directly choose terms and conditions. The law requires immediate revision in light of the EPI rating. The blurry image is an alarm bell for our nation and compels us to evaluate legislation and policies carefully.