Conducting scientific research in forests won't be easy anymore

Conducting scientific research in forests won't be easy anymore

Govt imposes several restrictions aimed at curbing the threat of biopiracy

Conducting scientific research in forests won't be easy anymore

The State government has imposed several restrictions and conditions on conducting scientific research in forest areas, particularly in the Western Ghats.

The Forest, Ecology and Environment Department has come out with detailed guidelines that need to be followed while collecting biological materials from protected areas for scientific research.

The move is aimed at curbing the threat of  “biopiracy,” which involves using indigenous knowledge of Nature for profit without permission, the department officials said.

While there were restrictions on research activities in forest areas, as per the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, it is for the first time that guidelines have framed, the officials pointed out.

“The Western Ghats form one of the 25 bio-diversity hotspots of the world. Therefore, there is grave concern in the State about bio-piracy. In order to ward off chances of trespass in forest areas and bio-piracy, it has been decided to streamline the guidelines for collecting plant/ animal specimen and other information from forest areas,” the Government Order gazetted last week. The rules have come into effect from May 21.

University students, research scholars from various scientific institutions, research organisations usually venture into forest areas for research activities that include diversity studies and inventory of flora and fauna, among others.

Prior permission needed

From now on, they will have to seek permission for research in a prescribed proforma from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Head of forest force) in respect of forest areas and from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wild­life) in respect of wild life protected areas.

A security deposit of Rs 5,000 should be deposited with the department by researchers. Researchers have to provide details on the budget of their project, funding source and the objective of the research.

Only the principal investigator, co-investigator and a minimum number of assistants will be allowed to enter the forests for work. No permission will be granted to foreigners or international institutions unless the project is sanctioned and permission is issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

If photography is involved during the research activities, then copies of the photos should be sent to the divisional forest officer or the wildlife warden. The researchers will be held liable for any damage caused to the forest due to negligence, the order states.