Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government has been directed by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to cough up a fine of Rs 10 lakh every month for not complying with the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) directive.

The penalty has been imposed for the non-compliance of the NGT’s directive pertaining to the setting up of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) and Peoples’ Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) by the State government.

The Odisha government has been asked to pay the monthly fine amount to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as per the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) norms. The fund will be utilized for environmental conservation, sources said.

Meanwhile, several environmentalists have slammed the Odisha government for the callous attitude of the administrative officials for their failure in implementing the environmental tribunal’s directive.

“Odisha has been asked to pay a fine of Rs 10 lakh per month for non-compliance as the work for setting up of BMCs has taken a back seat. The concerned officials should have apprised the Chief Secretary about the issue,” said noted environmentalist, Pradip Tarai.

On March 30, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed the Chief Secretary of Odisha for setting up of a Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) and preparation of Peoples’ Biodiversity Registers (PBR).

As per the order issued in 2018, the dateline for the formation of BMC and preparation of PBR was January 31, 2020. As Odisha failed to comply with the directives, NBA has directed the State government to pay a fine of Rs 10 lakh per month to Central Pollution Control Board from February 2020 onwards.

Earlier, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had directed NBA for a time bound program for formation of BMCs and preparation of PBRs.

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 aims at preserving biological diversity and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge.

“There is a provision that no company, trader, manufacturer or individual when they collect any biodiversity products from panchayat level for commercial utilisation, they will have to take permission of the BMCs. The two-third profit will go directly to the committee,” said an environmentalist.

Though there is State Biodiversity Board in Odisha, the work for formation of BMCs at local level has not picked up speed due to several reasons.

As 12 States including Odisha (principal bench) had not complied with the directives, NGT had given two year’s deadline for setting up of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) and Peoples’ Biodiversity Registers (PBRs).

Meanwhile, the concerned officials have blamed COVID-19 pandemic situation and lack of adequate human resources for the non-compliance of the NGT order.

“The Biodiversity Board is under-staffed as we only have three personnel for which the work had slowed down. Gram Panchayats were given special tasks, but they got busy in handling COVID-19 situation and we also could not conduct field visits,” said Odisha Biodiversity Board chairman, Maloth Mohan.

The State Biodiversity Board, which had earlier submitted affidavits seeking time on two occasions, is now contemplating to move NGT for the waiver of fine.

Under such circumstances, the question remains why Odisha did not complete the necessary work for setting up of the BMCs and others even between August 2018 and February 2020?

Odisha government officials said that the State is committed to achieve 100 per cent formation of BMCs and preparation of dynamic PBRs at all levels till December 31, 2020 or after normalization of the present Covid-l9 pandemic situation.