Chhimi Dema 

The National Assembly yesterday passed the National Biodiversity Bill of Bhutan 2022 with 43 Members of Parliament voting “Yes”, and one abstained.

The Bill is expected to emphasise the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It ensures that people and communities have access to benefits from the use of genetic and biological resources available in the country.

The Bill was forwarded to the National Council (NC) in December last year, and NC after deliberation returned it to NA with 65 recommendations.

The Environment and Climate Change Committee’s chairperson, Gyem Dorji, said that the committee reviewed and accepted all their recommendations.

The House debated on amendment of Section 11 of the Act which states that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests is the competent national authority and shall discharge the functions conferred on it through the secretary of the ministry.

NC, after its review, recommended that the national authority shall be established with the seven members consisting of representatives from the National Environment Commission, National Biodiversity Centre, and the agriculture ministry including the minister.

The national authority as per the Bill is responsible to ensure enforcement of the Act; creating conditions and incentives fostering the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge; ensuring the protection of plant variety and the right of farmers and breeders, among others.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the NC’s recommendation on the national authority in Section 11 of the Act could delay public service delivery.

He said that decisions on procuring equipment, conducting studies or research related to the genetic resources if routed, as recommended, through the national authority with members from other agencies could impact service delivery.

“The involvement of other agencies in the national authority could prove challenging to make decisions,” he added.

Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that clarity is critical in legislation supporting the amendment in Section 11 recommended by NC.

“About 90 percent of the country’s laws have clarity [with specifications] in them and NC’s recommendation is similar to other laws,” he said.

The Bill will be submitted to His Majesty The King for Royal assent.

The Bill includes new sections which permit the use of research results and accessed biological resources for academic research within the country and publication purposes.

It also has new sections such as the National Focal Point to regulate access to and utilisation of genetic resources; strengthen national gene banks; and enhance plant taxonomic and systematic research.