Saturday, 11 July 2015

Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC)

Why in news?
  • 'Glory of Allapalli', a dense forest patch in Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district, has been notified as first biodiversity heritage site in Maharashtra under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  • Tonglu and Dhotrey forests in Darjeeling have been declared Bio-diversity Heritage Sites (BHS) by the state government and the West Bengal Bio-diversity Board. 
    • Tonglu and Dhotrey were known for medicinal herbs (aconitum, berberis, taxus baccata and podophyllum among others.)
  • Kerala may be the first State to have Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) in all local self-government institutions, but most of the committees are not functional and remain only on paper, mainly due to the lack of awareness about its mandate and responsibilities.

Details about BHS:
  • “Biodiversity Heritage Sites” (BHS) are well defined areas that are unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems - terrestrial, coastal and inland waters and, marine having rich biodiversity comprising of any one or more of the following components: richness of wild as well as domesticated species or intra-specific categories, high endemism, presence of rare and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance, wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or their varieties, past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds and having significant cultural, ethical or aesthetic values and are important for the maintenance of cultural diversity, with or without a long history of human association with them
  • Section 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002, empowers state government to notify areas of biodiversity importance as biodiversity heritage sites (BHS) in consultation with local bodies.
  • PROCESS:
    • State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) may invite suggestion (or consider those already coming from communities) for declaration of BHSs, through Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) and other relevant community institutions including gram sabhas, panchayats, urban wards, forest protection committees, tribal councils. 
    • SBB may undertake widespread dissemination of information related to the proposed BHS among rural communities, NGOs, farmer/fishermen/adivasi associations, urban groups, research institutions, government agencies, and other organizations, regarding the provision of BHSs, through locally appropriate means. 
      • These could include local language newspapers, radio, holding meetings with the communities, letters to line departments, gram panchayats, local bodies and others. 
    • Consultations, studies follow
    • Then state declares it.
    • Following the declaration of the BHS, collection of plants, animals and microbes gets strictly regulated
  • Total 7 so far
    • Across India, there were only five BHS before. They are 
      • Nallur Tamarind Grove, 
      • Hogrekan, University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore and Ambaraguda, all in Karnataka, and 
      • Glory of Allapalli in Maharashtha.
        • Now, Tonglu/Dhotrey and Allapalli added
Role of BMCs:
  • The primary function of the BMC is to maintain a Panchayat Biodiversity Register (PBR) — a document on local biological resources and associated traditional knowledge.
  • Its mandate also includes the conservation, sustainable use, and documentation of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits arising from its use.
  • The BMC is tasked with regulating access to bio-resources for commercial and research purposes. 
  • It has to develop a local biodiversity fund and devise strategies to conserve local biodiversity. 
  • It is also tasked with initiating proposals for declaring biodiversity heritage sites and maintaining germplasm bank and seed centres for promoting traditional plant varieties and animal breeds.
[Sources: The Telegraph, The Hindu, NBA website, Times of India]

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