CHENNAI: In a move that is expected to provide an impetus to the restoration and protection of the rich ecosystems, the Tamil Nadu State Biodiversity Board has initiated steps to identify and declare Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS).
The board has invited proposals and written to Collectors and various departmental heads to have a consultation with local bodies and identify the potential heritage sites. Board Secretary A Udhayan told Express that BHS are not like typical protected areas such as wildlife sanctuary or reserved forest. “The concept is very different. The primary objective is to strengthen the biodiversity conservation in traditionally managed areas. Such areas also often represent a positive interface between nature, culture, and society.”
Udhayan clarified that creation of BHS will not put any restriction on prevailing practices and usage of local communities, other than those voluntarily decided by them. “The purpose is to enhance the quality of life of the local communities through this conservation measure. It will be flagged in the tourism map of the area which will bring in additional revenue for the people. BHS would have a detailed management plan prepared by the community itself. It’s completely a voluntary exercise,” he said.
Some of the potential sites that are proposed by board members are Vagaikulam tank in Tirunelveli. Vagaikulam is an important nesting area for many migratory bird species. It attracts over 10,000 birds and about 90 species, including cormorants and herons. However, the place is facing a threat due to the rampant cutting down of trees. Veerasamuthiram panchayat has also requested the government to declare Vagaikulam tank as BHS. Another site is Arittapatti, a tiny village on the outskirts of Madurai, that has emerged as a hotspot for birding.
A large number of raptor (bird of prey) are spotted here. Highly Endangered Laggar Falcon, which is the only specimen recorded in South India, is found here. Close to 20 varieties of big and small raptor are found in the region. The village is also home for Pandiya period rock-cut cave temple and Tamil Brahmi inscriptions making it an ideal site for BHS tag. Udhayan said BHS need not necessarily be only rich in flora and fauna. “We considered sites that are endemic to native dog breeds and domesticated species.”
Geetha Nayak, Team Leader, Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) project, GIZ, said once the BHS is notified, the State Government may allocate some seed money to each BHS towards its effective management. “The National Biodiversity Board (NBA) may also support the initial establishment of BHS. The financial requirement of BHS may be included in the annual budget of the local bodies.”