India Biodiversity Awards 2012 go to six pioneers in biodiversity governance

These include three village panchayats, two tiger reserves and informal network of forest protection committees

By Jyotika Sood
Published: Thursday 18 October 2012

UNDPRecognising the models of biodiversity governance for the first time, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, in collaboration with Government of India and United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has awarded six pioneers in the field with India Biodiversity Awards 2012. ´╗┐

The winners include three village panchayats –Tanda panchayat in Wadala village and Shankarpur village gram panchayat in Maharashtra and Pir Jahania Jungle Suraksha Committee in Gundlaba village of Odisha; two tiger reserves—Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala; and one informal network of forest protection committees—Van Utthan Sansthan in Rajasthan.

The awards were given at a ministerial reception by minister of state for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan and United Nations undersecretary general Rebeca Grynspan on October 17. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a citation and was given to institutions based in India that are engaged in the nominated biodiversity management activities for at least five years. 

The Indian biodiversity awards received 150 nominations from across the country; a six-member jury headed by scientist M S Swaminathan shortlisted 15 contestants through a desk review. The desk review was followed by on-site visits to assess individual models based on parameters like effectiveness of biodiversity conservation, benefits to local communities and institutional sustainability. The other jury members were Amita Baviskar (sociologist from Delhi University), National Biodiversity Authority chairperson Balakrishna Pisupati, former director of Wildlife Institute of India Vishwas B Sawarkar and J S Singh of Banaras Hindu University and Kailash C Malhotra (an anthropologist), both fellows of Indian National Science Academy and Indian Academy of Sciences.

The awardees shared their experience in conservation with media persons on October 18. Vinayak Bagade of Shakarpur village gram panchayat said decentralisation of local self-governance bodies and biodiversity management committees was the key to their success. “We used around Rs 1 crore from Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for forest conservation and we are demanding additional 1,500 hectares now for afforestation.”

Categories for award:
  1. COMMUNITY STEWARDSHIP: Biodiversity governance driven by community institutions

    WINNER: Tanda Panchayat in Wadala village of Maharashtra and Pir Jahania Jungle Suraksha Committee in Gundlaba village of Odisha
  2. DECENTRALIZED GOVERNANCE: Biodiversity governance practices led by local self-government

    WINNER: Shankarpur village gram panchayat in Maharashtra
  3. CO-MANAGEMENT: Biodiversity governance undertaken jointly by communities and the government

    WINNER: Van Utthan Sansthan in Rajasthan
  4. PROTECTED AREA: Effective and innovative biodiversity governance practices demonstrated by management agencies of designated protected areas

    WINNER: Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala

Another award winner Kirtan Kumar from Rajasthan said that the efforts in reviving forests around villages have not only helped people find a source of living but that they have also developed a feeling of ownership over the forests which is helpful in both conserving forests and protecting wildlife.  

“The winners of the India Biodiversity Awards represent innovative approaches that combine the basic needs of livelihoods, wellbeing and dignity while respecting biodiversity conservation and the earth’s limits. India has evolved a range of biodiversity governance models that demonstrated the importance of biodiversity strategies that create positive opportunities for development,” said Grynspan.

Natarajan said that conserving biodiversity and harnessing it on a sustainable basis is critical for realising development goals. “Biodiversity governance in India needs to enable this on a sustained and equitable basis,” she added. The minister also announced that the India Biodiversity Awards will now be an annual feature to mark International Biodiversity Day on May 22 each year.


Tanda panchayat: The Pradhi tribe in Wadala village in Akola district of Maharashtra set up the Tanda panchayat to monitor conservation activities of nearby forests. This has helped in improving and protecting local species of grasses and improved number of traditional endemic grasses. By 2011, hunting  reduced by 20 per cent

Pir Jahania Jungle Suraksha Committee: Following devastation by super cyclone in 1999, women of Gundlaba village near Devi river formed Pir Jahania Jungle Suraksha Committee and focused on conserving mangrove forests and nesting grounds of Olive Ridley turtles. In the past 12 years, the forest cover has grown by 63 per cent and fish catch has increased from 1 kg per family to 5 kg

Shankarpur village gram panchayat: Shankarpur village is one of the first villages in the state where people have secured community forest rights for 600 hectares of land under Forest Rights Act of 2006. Over the past decade, the gram panchayat has engaged in conserving biological diversity and generating local livelihoods

Van Utthan Sansthan: Started in 1997, Van Utthan Sansthan is an informal network of forest protection committees that manages 67,000 hectares of forestland in more than 240 villages. Families in these villages harvest about 40 to 45 lakh bundles of fodder from forests valued between US $270,000 to 300,000. Besides, women have been appointed as forest guards

Kanha Tiger Reserve: The reserve which is home to a school for orphaned tiger cubs has 167 eco-development committees that enabled villages in the buffer zone to develop village specific micro-plans on ecological and development activities. The park has made significant investments in water harvesting facilities in villages, intensifying crop cultivation and supporting improvements in basic health, drinking water and primary schools

Periyar Tiger Reserve: The tiger reserve set up the Periyar Foundation to generate resources for and sustain eco-development initiatives and community-based conservation of tigers and biodiversity. Under the initiative, 40,000 people formed eco-development committees that have helped in detection of illegal activities, as a result of which density of tigers has increased from 3.88 per 100 sq km in 2008 to      5.41 per 100 sq km in 2011. Besides, community-based eco-tourism activities in the area in 2011-12 generated revenue of Rs 1.5 crore



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