Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Biodiversity Heritage Sites in Odisha & their significance – N.F Times

Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHSs) are well-defined areas having unique and fragile ecosystems in terms of biological and ecological significance.

They may spread over terrestrial, aquatic, coastal, inland and marine ecosystems having rich biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Heritage Sites are endowed with wild as well as endangered species.

Importance of Biodiversity Heritage Sites

Biodiversity is closely linked to ecological security. Loss of biodiversity and bio-resources may lead to ecological imbalance.

The biodiversity heritage site status entails long-term protection, conservation and management of species that are classified as endangered and endemic to the region.

BHS declaration marks the voluntary participation of communities in protection and conservation of biodiversity in a region.

As per Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, the state governments are empowered to notify areas with biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites.

The state governments, in consultation with local bodies as well as the Central government, may frame rules for the management and conservation of BHS.

Biodiversity Heritage Sites in Odisha

Odisha is home to four Biodiversity Heritage Sites. Till date, as many as 47 areas across India have been declared as the BHSs.

As per Odisha Biological Diversity Rules-2012, the Odisha Biodiversity Board under the department of Forest, Environment and Climate Change has notified the guidelines for the selection, management and other aspects of Biodiversity Heritage Sites in the state.

Mandasaru gorge

Mandasaru gorge (valley) under Phulbani Forest Division in Kandhamal district has been declared as the first Biodiversity Heritage Site in Odisha in 2019.

Spread over an area of 528 hectare, Mandasaru gorge is home to as many as 1,563 species of plants, animals and fungi. The valley has at least 41 species of medicinal plants and 23 species of threatened plants, including 3 endemic to that particular area.

The gorge provides congenial habitat for fishing cats and small clawed otters. Besides, it has a good population of golden geckos, endemic to the Eastern Ghats. The gorge is also a sacred site for local communities.

Mahendragiri Hills

Mahendragiri hills in Gajapati district had been declared as a Biodiversity Heritage Site by the state in 2022.

Spread over 4,250 hectares of land, Mahendragiri has 1,348 species of plants including two of gymnosperms, 1,042 of angiosperms, 60 species of bryophytes, 53 of lichens and 72 of macro fungi.

Besides, Mahendragiri is home to 388 species of animals, 27 species of mammals, 165 species of birds, 23 species of snakes, 15 species of amphibians, three species of turtles, 19 species of lizards, 100 species of butterflies and 36 species of moths.

The fragile ecosystem is also being treated as a critical habitat of Saora and Kondh tribe.

The ancient temples of Kunti, Arjun and Yudhistir at Mahendragiri have been declared as protected monuments under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 by the state government.

Gandhamardan range

Gandhamardan hill system, spread over Balangir and Bargarh districts of Odisha, had received the Biodiversity Heritage Site tag in 2023.

Spread over 18,963 hectares of land, Gandhamardan has 1,055 floral species including 849 angiosperms, 56 pteridophytes, 40 bryophytes,  45 lichens, 2 angiosperms and 63 macrofungi.

The hill system is home to 500 faunal species including 43 mammals, 161 birds, 16 amphibians, 118 butterflies, 27 dragonflies, seven damselflies and 83 species of spiders.

Two historical monuments, Nrusinghnath and Harisankar temples, located in the northern and southern slopes of the hill system respectively have immense cultural significance.

Gupteswar forest

A forest system adjacent to Gupteswar cave shrine in Koraput district of Odisha was accorded the fourth Biodiversity Heritage Site in the state this year.

The forest, spread over 350 hectares of land, is home to 608 faunal species including 28 species of mammals, 188 species of birds, 18 species of amphibians, 48 species of reptiles, 45 species of pisces, 141 species of butterflies, 43 species of moths, 41 species odonates, 30 species of spiders, six species of scorpions and 20 species of lower invertebrates.

Similarly, its floral diversity includes 182 species of trees, 76 species of shrubs, 177 species of herbs, 69 species of climbers and 14 species of orchids and threatened medicinal plants.

[This story is a part of ‘Punascha Pruthibi – One Earth. Unite for It’, an awareness campaign by Sambad Digital.]

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