Biodiversity and Wildlife Protection

Author- Adarsh Kumar, [City Academy Law College/University of Lucknow]

“People still do not understand that a live fish is more valuable than a dead one, and that destructive fishing techniques are taking a wreck ball to biodiversity.”

Biodiversity is one of the twelve mega-biodiversity countries of the world. Each of the ten biogeographic zones of the country has characteristic biota, and broadly represents similar climatic conditions and constitutes the habitat for diverse species of flora and fauna. Based on a survey of about two-third of the geographical area of the country, the Ministry of Forest and Environment reported that India have at present about 45,000 plants and 77,000 of animals species representing about 7% of the world flora and 6.5% of the world fauna respectively (GOI, 2000), representing about 6.5% of the global biodiversity.

A significant feature of the Indian flora is the confluence of floras from the surrounding countries like Malaya, China, Tibet, Japan, and Europe and even from distant countries like America, Africa and Australia.

India is also very rich in its crop biodiversity. It has repositories of over 50,000 varieties of rice,5,000 of sorghum, and 1,000 varieties of mango.


The term biodiversity was coined by Walter G. Rosen in 1985. It has been defined variously such as “the richness in variety and variability of species of all living organisms in a given region (habitat)”. A concise definition of biodiversity is “the totality of genes, species and ecosystems in a region (IUCN,UNEP, 1992).

According to the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (1987), biological diversity is “the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur”.

This concept can be subdivided at three levels as follows:-

  1. Genetic Diversity

At finer levels of organization, biodiversity  includes the genetic variation within species, both among  geographically separated populations and among individuals within single population.

  1. Species Diversity

Biodiversity at its most basic level includes the full range of species on earth, from microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and protists through the multi-cellular kingdoms of plants, animals and fungi.

  1. Community/Ecosystem Diversity

On a wider scale, biodiversity includes variations in the biological communities in which species live, the ecosystem in which communities exist, and the interactions among these levels.


India occupies a unique position among global biodiversity as a mega-biodiversity nation. A large number of species are native to India. It is stated among the top ten or fifteen nations of the world for its great diversity of plant life, especially flowering plants, a source of new drugs being discovered during recent past. About 5000 species of flowering plants belonging to 141 genera and 47 families had birth in India. We are equally rich in insect, amphibian, reptiles, bird and mammalian species of great economic potential. Many of these are endemic to India, found nowhere else in the world. India is a source of traditional crop varieties ranking first amongst the 12 regions of diversity of crop plants and seventh so far in his contribution of agricultural species. India is the origin place of about 175 species of crop plants, and about 350 species of wild relatives of cultivated crops.

Root Causes and main Threats

Three of the root causes of biodiversity impoverishment may be considered of greater impact than others in arid regions and will be dealt with by this review. These are population growth, inequity, and inadequate economic policies and institutional systems. In addition, four main direct threats are considered: habitat degradation and fragmentation, overexploitation of biological resources, introduction of alien species, and agricultural practices.


Several international treaties and conventions engaged in biodiversity are as follows:

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

The convention was signed in 1975 in Washington DC with the aim to put ban on international trade in wildlife. This treaty, till now signed by about 200 countries lists some 900 species that cannot be commercially treated as live specimens or wildlife product because they are in the danger o a number of extinction. It also restricts international trade of about 29,000 other species because they are at risk of becoming threatened. CITES has helped reduce international trade in many threatened animals, including elephant, crocodiles and chimpanzees. The secretariat of the convention is located in Switzerland. India became a party tp CITES in 1976.

  • World Conservation Union (IUCN)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources (IUCN), now known as World Conservation Union (WCU) was founded in 1948 with a partnership of states, governments and range of non-governmental organizations having Headquarter in Gland, Switzerland. The union seeks to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the diversity of natural resources and their sustainable use. IUCN helps also countries to formulate their own national conservation strategies. WCU builds on strength of its members, network and partners to enhance their capacity and to support global alliances to safeguard natural resources at local, regional and global levels.

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

(North and South Fall Apart)

  • The key factor behind a global treaty on biodiversity was loss of biodiversity around the globe at alarming rates during 1980s.
  • However, negotiations on such a treaty which later came to be known as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) began with sharp differences between countries in the North (developed, industrialised ones) and South (developing ones) on the principles behind the conservation and use of the world’s biodiversity.
  • Developing countries realised the fact that pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies from the North were making huge profits using their plant genetic resources and therefore, asserted their ownerships.
  • The North wanted the Southern countries to embark on conservation programmes on their genetic resources which fed its pharmaceutical and agro-business, while the Souii no longer wanted to provide such services free of cost. The Northern countries thus wanted to establish “global lists” of the biodiversity for the purpose of their protection and conservation.
  • The biodiversity hotspots are regions of significant diversity threatened with destruction through commercial exploitation. There are 34 hotspots in the world, according for just 1.4 percent of the world land. These regions support 60 percent of species on earth. A hotspot contain at least 1500 species of endemic vascular plants.

India is a country rich in biodiversity, and is one of the twelve mega-biodiversity countries in the world. The biological wealth of the country is relevant to the health of biosphere in general, and to agriculture and animal husbandry, fishery, forestry and pharmaceutical industry in particular. There is however, a growing threat to this natural wealth of the country and its needs conservation to check its loss.

Laws Related to biodiversity and wildlife

  1. Fisheries Act, 1897.
  2. Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914.
  3. The Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  4. Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act,1937.
  5. Indian Coffee Act, 1942
  6. Import and Export (Control) Act, 1947.
  7. Rubber (Production and Marketing) Act, 1947.
  8. Tea Act, 1953.
  9. Mining and Mineral Development (Regulation) Act,1957
  10. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  11. Cardamom Act, 1965.
  12. Seeds Act, 1966.
  13. The Patents Act, 1970.
  14. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  15. Marine Products Export Development Authority Act,1972.
  16. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  17. Tobacco Board Act, 1975.
  18. Territorial Water, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Maritime Zones Act, 1976.
  19. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977.
  20. Maritime Zones of India (Regulation and Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act. 1980.
  21. Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  22. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  23. Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act, 1985/1986.
  24. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  25. Spices Board Act, 1986.
  26. National Dairy Development Board, 1987.
  27. Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992.
  28. Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act, 2001
  29. Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  30. Biological Diversity Rules, 2004
  31. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Policies on environmental management include the National Forest Policy, the National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, and National Policy and Macrolevel Action Strategy on Biodiversity.

Some other sectoral policies (e.g. National Agriculture Policy and National Water Policy) have also contributed towards environmental management.


  • Kamla Kant Pandey Vs. Prabhagiya Van Adhikari and ors.
  • Halar Utkarsh Samiti Through Prakash H. Doshi Vs. State of Gujarat Through Chief Secreatry
  • Nature Park Walkers Association, Hyderabad and Another Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad & Others
  • Sheikh Tausif Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and anothers.
  • Indian Handicrafts Emporium and ors. Vs. Union of India (UoI) and ors.


India has made a framework regarding biodiversity which holds great significance in the protection of the environment. The present policy has some deficiencies which need to overcome. The solution is to make amendments and focus on implementation and adopt a stronger proactive community involvement. Through the creation of awareness, the citizens can be mobilized and change can be brought about in the current situation of biodiversity. Once the people are aware and know the consequences they can work towards protection and preservation of the environment. Awareness has to be created at the grass root level, the local communities need to be made aware of the Biological Diversity Act. Together we are stronger rather than few individuals trying to make a difference.



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