Konkan to get village-level biodiversity action plans

UNDP and Maharasthra government to prepare plans in consultation with gram sabhas,panchayats

By Akshay Deshmane
Published: Monday 28 January 2013

Sindhudurg district's coastal villages will soon have local, village-level biodiversity action plans. As part of a joint initiative being undertaken by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Union and state governments, the Maharashtra Forest Department has roped in two voluntary organizations to conduct consultations with locals and recommend an action plan for each village.
Forest officials and members of the NGOs involved say the action plan will recommend integration of sustainable community livelihood activities with biodiversity conservation.

What UNDP proposes
The Sindhudurg Coastal and Marine Ecosystem (SCME), located on the west coast of India (Maharashtra) is one of the 11 ecologically and economically critical habitats identified along the Indian coast. There are 367 species of marine flora and fauna in the area, which include 73 species of marine algae, 18 species of mangroves, 11 species of corals, 73 species of molluscs, 47 species each of polychaetes and arthropods, 18 species of sea anemones and 74 species of fishes.

The UNDP intervention seeks to achieve the following: (a) cross-sectoral planning framework that mainstreams biodiversity conservation; (b) enhanced capacity of sector institutions for implementing biodiversity-friendly fisheries management plan, ecotourism management plan and Malvan Marine Sanctuary management plan; and (c) sustainable community livelihoods and natural resource use.

By the project end, it is envisioned that production activities in at least 6,327 sq. km of SCME mainstream biodiversity conservation objectives, in turn improving the conservation prospects of critical species and ecosystems, apart from contributing to the sustainable development of the region.
“Usually, the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) approach is adopted to make overall village-level development plan. However, for the first time, we are focusing this approach for biodiversity conservation and combining it with livelihood concerns to involve local people,” said Vasudevan Nair, chief conservator of forests (mangroves) for Maharashtra.
The 185 villages identified are in the coastal talukas of Devgad, Malvan and Vengurla. Work in 134 of these villages located in Devgad and Malvan talukas will be carried out by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the  remaining 51 villages in Vengurla taluka by the Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation. Forest officials in Sindhudurg informed that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the voluntary organizations and forest department is likely to be signed in early February and visits for consultations to each village will start soon after. The project cost is around Rs 40 lakh.

Anjali Parasnis, associate director (western region) for TERI, confirmed the institute’s participation in the project but refused to divulge details since the MoU is yet to be signed. Nair said the voluntary organizations would conduct extensive consultations with elected leaders of the gram panchayats and gram sabhas, fisher people’s co-operatives, farmers’ organisations and other institutionalised bodies before drafting the village-level biodiversity action plans. "This process should take about three to four months."

NGOs working in Konkan welcome the move. Bhau Katdare of the Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra, working to protect turtles, said it is good if biodiversity action plans are drafted after consulting local communities. “Sitting in Mumbai and Delhi, it is not possible to equal the knowledge of the conditions and requirements of local communities in Sindhudurg. So involving them in such processes is always good. However, it all depends on how the process is implemented on ground for it to succeed,” said Katdare.

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