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Biodiversity Heritage Sites: A Step to Sustain Livelihoods through Biological Diversity Conservation

Hitul Awasthi
Hitul Awasthi

“Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS)” are well defined areas that are unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems, having rich biodiversity comprising of any one or 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. 

As per section 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 the State Government in consultation with local bodies may notify in the official gazette, areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS). 

Objectives of Biodiversity Heritage Sites

  1. To strengthen the biodiversity conservation in traditionally managed areas and avoid rapid loss of biodiversity in intensively managed areas
  2. To attain dual goal of conservation and livelihood security
  3. To generate a feeling of honour among community members, by notifying their area as BHS
  4. To avoid environmental degradation and over-exploitation of natural resources
  5. To promote sustainable use of resources, for enhancing quality of life

 Process for notifying an areas as BHS

  • To notify an area as BHS, suggestions are invited from Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) and other relevant community institutions by the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
  • NGOs and Community institutions can initiate the proposals for setting a site as  BHS
  • SBB undertakes widespread dissemination of information, so that every stakeholder becomes aware about the declaration of area as BHS
  • Public discussions are organised amongst the local bodies, gram sabhas, urban ward committees, and other relevant local institutions, regarding proposals for declaring BHSs, in their area, including the implications such as possible restrictions on resource use
  • After getting approval from the public, the SBB should specify the boundaries and restrictions in the management of BHS 
  • Based on suggestions and objections from the public, a team should be constituted from the community, to gain clear understanding of BHS
  • The team will conduct a study in consultation with concerned community and will make use of various tools like people biodiversity register/ participatory rural appraisal approach, to enhance productivity of exercise
  • The study report will be submitted to BMCs or other local institutions, along with proposal to declare an area as BHS
  • SBB reviews the study report, and makes a final decision in joint sitting of all stakeholders, at the proposed site
  • Information about the draft notification in this regard is disseminated through various media  
  • After 30 days of draft notification, a public hearing is conducted to spread awareness on the BHS
  • After declaration of the site as BHS, the SBB may write to all the concerned departments, announcing it’sestablishment 

Monitoring of the BHS 

The State-level Monitoring Committee shall monitor the implementation of management plan periodically and submit a report to the SBB indicating clearly the extent of achievement under each component and recommendations for improvement.  

The management plan should consist of following components – 

  1. Map of the BHS with clear administrative boundaries as notified 
  2. Status of ownership 
  3. Current land-use pattern, conservation related practices and beliefs, and the dependence of local communities 
  4. Major biodiversity in the area and their status 
  5. Whether a waterfowl refuge during winter, breeding place for water birds or corridor for any wild animals 
  6. Resources being used by the local community and their importance in the domestic economy 
  7. Reason for any shift in the pattern of utilisation of resources during the past 10 years, if any
  8. Authentic data on the flora, fauna and natural resources in the area 
  9. Details of projects, if any, in the area under any government/ international schemes
  10. The suggestions, if any, for the improved conservation of biodiversity
  11. Present and potential risks to the BHS
  12. Rough projection of the expected outcomes of setting up the BHS
  13. Estimated time frame for completion of each component of the plan, and rough indicators to judge success of each component

It should also not be considered absolutely necessary to formulate a management plan, if the community has other adequate means of sustaining the effort and if thereby, conservation and sustainable management is taking place.  

The SBB on receipt of the Management Plan may constitute an expert committee to evaluate the same. The Management Plan may also be integrated into the district level planning process, to enable optimum facilitation and funding by relevant government agencies. 

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