Kerala becomes first state in country to complete formation of biodiversity management committees

They will draw plans for conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biodiversity

 
By M Suchitra
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Kerala has added one more feather in its cap. It has become the first state in India to have completed the formation of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) in all local self-government institutions. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on October 10 formally declared the constitution of BMCs in all the 978 village panchayats, 60 municipalities, and five corporations in the state.

The committees were constituted in accordance with the national Biological Diversity Act 2002, the Biological Diversity Rules 2004 and the Kerala State Biological Diversity Rules, he said in a press briefing. The mandate of the committees includes conservation, sustainable use, and documentation of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilisation of bioresources. About 500 BMCs have completed preparing the mandatory People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR), a document on local biological resources and traditional knowledge.

The state started the process of forming BMCs in 2009. The first BMC was formed in the Malampuzha village panchayat in the same year and the process was completed last week with the Kochi municipal corporation giving its approval for the same. “The process was not easy even in a state like Kerala which has a strong system of self-government institutions,” points out Oommen V Oommen, the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) chairperson.

The BMCs are chaired by the president of the village panchayat, chairperson of the municipality, or Mayor of the corporation, while the secretary of the local body is the BMC’s ex-officio member-secretary. “This set up was planned to avoid possible conflicts between local bodies and BMCs,” says K P Laladhas, member-secretary of the KSBB.

Germplasm protection

According to the board officials, BMCs will be responsible for ensuring the protection of the knowledge recorded in the PBR, especially to regulate its access to outside agencies and individuals.  They have to develop a local biodiversity fund and devise strategies and action plans to conserve local biodiversity. It has another task, that of initiating proposals for declaring biodiversity heritage sites and establishing and maintaining germplasm bank and seed centres for promoting traditional varieties, says Oommen.

The Board has appointed a district-level coordinator in all the 14 districts in the state. Each district has around five junior research fellows, who are experts in botany, zoology and environmental science. Every research fellow has to take responsibility of at least 15 panchayats. Each local body has a coordinator to manage the work of BMC and PBR. From each ward, three to five members are selected for data collection for preparing the PBR.

The Board is in the process of making the system effective. Many of the BMC members have little idea about their roles and functions of the committees. “The BMCs are still in juvenile state and we are in the process of empowering them,” says Oommen.  The KSBB has completed one round of awareness programmes and has conducted 33 workshops.  Each local body allocates Rs 70,000 for preparing PBR. Some BMCs like Peringamala panchayat in Thiruvanathapuram has allotted over Rs 1 lakh for the register.

Laldhas highlights a few active initiatives by the BMCs: the tuber conservation project at Edavaka in Wayanad; the penstock aquaculture and mangrove conservation project at Atholi; and the river bio-fencing project at Perumanna (both in Kozhikode district).

“This is the international year of biodiversity and we wanted all the local bodies to complete forming BMCs before the year ends,” says Oommen. “The state is committed to protecting and conserving its biological resources.”


 

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