Sending out a warning message to about 250 industries that exploit the bio-resources like medicinal plants, but have consistently evaded paying 0.1% to 0.5% of their revenue towards community development, the Karnataka Biodiversity Board has field cases against 10 such companies.
Under the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) rules notified by the Centre in 2014, a person/company that seeks to access bioresources should get the approval of the Board. While companies with a turnover of Rs 1 crore pay 0.1%, those making up to Rs 3 crore and above Rs 5 crore pay 0.2% and 0.5%, respectively. However, most of the Ayurveda, herbal and pharma companies that use the rich bioresource of the state have not paid the pittance of ABS contribution. After failing to elicit a response from the companies and serving multiple show-cause notices, the company filed cases against five companies last year. Last month, the 44th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court disposed of the case against Pradhan Herbal Company after it agreed to pay the money. “It has come as a shot in the arm for the Board to take action against recalcitrant companies which make crores of rupees but refuse to contribute to the development of the communities that ultimately protect and conserve the rich bioresources,” sources in the board said. However, officials refused to provide names of the 10 companies facing charges. “They know who they are. We want them to fall in line. If it has to happen through the courts, so be it,” an official said. The Board is getting negligible amounts as ABS contributions. In 2017-18, it received only Rs 4 lakh from 49 applications. Sources said the companies have been adopting various strategies to escape accountability. “According to rule, they have to take the approval of the board for accessing and exploiting the bioresources. This also allows the board to maintain a balance and take up conservation works. But hardly any company cooperates though we are not asking them to reveal business secrets like a formula for the preparation of a particular product,” an official said.
Officials said 16 plants had entered the list of threatened species due to over-exploitation. “The list is only going to grow if not monitored,” they said.