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REPORT ON THE BIODIVERSITY RALLY AT DELHI
 
 

A Rally was organized on the 8th of Dec 2004, in front of Paryavaran Bhavan (Office of Ministry of Environment and Forests) to highlight the issues regarding Biodiversity Act and Rules. This was co-organised by Kalpavriksh (Delhi and Pune), Deccan Development Society (Hyderabad), Beej Bachao Andolan (Jardhargaon), Centre for World Solidarity (Hyderabad), People's Alliance for Livelihood Rights (Raipur) and Delhi Forum (Delhi), Green Foundation (Bangalore) and Gene Campaign (Delhi). The Rally was coordinated by a team from Kalpavriksh, Delhi Forum and PALR.

Background


Following the Biodiversity Act (2002), the Biodiversity rules were notified in April 2004. It was felt that these Rules would affect communities' livelihoods as well as participation in conservation. The Rules were also seen as dilution of the Act. Prior to this Rally, a number of meetings and discussions took place and letters were written to concerned authorities. Letters were also written to Members of Parliament to intervene, as the notified rules have to be placed in the parliament for a period of thirty days during which period changes can be made. At a meeting in Hyderabad (9th Sept 2004), it was felt that a rally in Delhi would help highlight the issues related to the Act and Rules. Meanwhile, many village panchayats or gram sabhas (about 250) passed resolutions saying that they would not implement the Biodiversity rules unless changes were made.

Rally

About 300 people from Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Mahrashtra, took part in the rally. The majority of the participants were community representatives (including many sarpanches and mukhiyas) from Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka; others included community representatives and NGOs from various parts of India. Participants assembled on 8th morning at Bharatiyam scout ground (Nizamuddin), to discuss the issues relating to the Act and Rules, the Memorandum to be given to the MoEF, and the strategy for the Rally. Shalini Bhutani of GRAIN explained the background to the Act and Rules, including its international context. The pre-rally meeting lasted till lunch time.

Participants then walked to the Paryavaran Bhavan peacefully and assembled in front of the gate at 2.30 PM. A meeting that had been fixed with the Minister for 5 PM got postponed to the next day, leading to some amount of disappointment . At the Rally, leading activists (Dr B.D.Sharma, Dr Suman Sahai, Gautam Bandopadhyay) addressed the participants and enthused them to fight for amendment of the Rules and the Act.

On 9th Dec, about 10 people (including community representatives from Andhra, Uttaranchal, and Chattisgarh) met the Minister Mr. A. Raja, and submitted copies of the resolutions passed by various local bodies and a Memorandum on behalf of the communities and participating NGO's. The Minister did not seem convinced that there was a serious problem with the Rules, asserting that the Act provided space for communities and that it was the Act that was paramount, not the Rules. Nevertheless, on being further pressed by the delegates, he assured that a clarification in the form of additional Rules or a set of Guidelines would be issued to resolve the communities' issues. He accepted the need for these to be formulated in a participatory manner, but refused to say what kind of mechanism would be adopted for this.

Follow-up

After the meeting with the Minister, participants also committed to sending the resolutions to their respective CMs, release the Memorandum to the regional press, and expand the number of resolutions. There is also a proposal to have a national level meeting and discuss how to put pressure on MOEF and MP's.

Click to see the memorandum submitted to MoEF