Law on Biological Diversity
Organic Environmental Code

Law on Biological Diversity

On May 24 2000, the Law on Biological Diversity was published in the Official Gazette, Special Issue 5468. The purpose of this law is to establish the principles governing the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Although all individuals and corporations, whether public or private, are under an obligation to preserve the biological diversity that exists in Venezuela, it is the state that carries the burden and obligation to preserve and watch over biological diversity at a national level. The state must also be vigilant to prevent activities developed in other countries adversely affecting the ecological balance of Venezuela.

This law specifically sets forth the 'polluter pays' principle. To favour conservation, the prevention and mitigation of environmental damage must be considered, as well as the restoration of existing damage (among other methods).

The law recognizes the importance of cultural diversity and knowledge associated with the biological diversity, which are typical of local and native communities. The law states that such communities must be granted the rights deriving therefrom.

To reach the conservation goals stated in the law, a national strategy for biological diversity will be prepared. Policies, plans, programmes and projects at a national level for the development and use of sustainable development will be included. The National Office for Biological Diversity has been created, and will operate as a branch of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. Its purpose is to ensure compliance with the conservation provisions of the law.

The law provides for the promotion of environmental education through research and training, stressing the conservation of the biological diversity, so as to achieve sustainable development and a better quality of life for present and future generations.

Access to genetic resources, patents and the distribution of profits generated by the biological diversity are all regulated by the law. The National Office for Biological Diversity will be the agency in charge of approving applications for access to genetic resources and contracts to be entered into.

Organic Environmental Code

The proposed Organic Environmental Code contains all environmental legislation existing in Venezuela. It has not yet been approved, but once the National Executive enacts it, it will revoke all present laws. Those in charge of drafting the code attempted to have it in effect from June 5 2000 (world environment day), but failed to comply with the provision that requires public participation.

The code consists of 10 books, in which more than 1,000 articles address the issues of:

  • environmental quality;

  • air quality;

  • water bodies;

  • waste and hazardous materials;

  • radioactive materials;

  • electromagnetic radiation; and

  • noise and other environmental nuisances.

It also deals with administrative matters, such as:

  • the creation of an environmental police;

  • the permits required for the use of natural resources;

  • the studies on environmental impact;

  • plans of inspection; and

  • environmental audits.

The two last books of the code contain the provisions on administrative penalties and penal punishment, specifying which are crimes against the environment.

For further information on this topic please contact Maria Isabel Ponce or Angela C Antakly Heredia at Benson, Perez Matos, Antakly & Watts by telephone (+58 212 265 3801) or by fax (+58 212 265 9252) or by e-mail ([email protected]).

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