Academicians object proposed ABS bill, blame gov of undermining scientific community

Daynanda, former chancellor NAST
Professor Dayanada Bajracharya, former NAST vice-chancellor, file photo.

KATHMANDU, Nepal- Academicians and researchers expressed strong objection to some provisions on the proposed Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Bill, arguing that the bill has undermined the scientific community.

The ABS bill basically talks about biodiversity, genetic materials, bio-resources, genetic resources, their ownership, registration and documentation among others research activities.  They claimed that the bill weakened the scientific community and tried to restrict the scientific community from conducting research.

As per the bill, the individuals or institutions should take permission from the government before conducting research on genetic resources.

Professor Dayanada Bajracharya, former NAST vice-chancellor said science could not develop without academic freedom demanding that such a bill should either be amended or scrapped.

Bajracharya recalled that the then government had tried to bring a similar bill a decade ago with an aim to restricting academic freedom. Eventually, the government was forced to correct the move after protest from the academicians.

Likewise, Dr Dinesh Raj Bhuju, academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology said the provision of prior consent is against academic institutions’ right to research.

He argued that the prior permission provision for research on genetic resources is unscientific and impractical adding that the bill should allow academic institutions such as universities and research centres, which are non- profit institutions.

Dr Prem Budha, lecturer at the TU’s Zoology Department, said the ABS bill has weakened the scientific community despite of their key role in conserving genetic resources and biodiversity.

He suggested to  shape  National Reference Collection Centre to preserve Nepal’s flora and fauna, which are currently in the museum of European countries and the USA.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, which is giving final touches to the bill, said it did not intend to curtail the rights of Nepali researchers to conduct research on Nepali genetic resources.

The bill also envisages the formation of a National Genetic Resources Protection Council (NGRPC) under secretary at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC), it is learnt.

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