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Maharashtra may have most biodiversity heritage sites in India by year-end

These are locations that have rich biological, ethnic, historical value and fragile ecosystems; two proposed sites in Vidarbha and Jalgaon will bring the tally to six.

mumbai Updated: Jul 26, 2018 16:06 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Mumbai,biodiversity heritage sites
Once declared a biodiversity heritage site, the area be better protected, say experts; (above) Anjarle beach in Ratnagiri.(Photo: State forest departmentA)

By the end of 2018, Maharashtra may become the only state in India to have the highest number of biodiversity heritage sites (BHS) to its name. The Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB) has proposed two more biodiversity heritage sites – an eight-hectare area in Vidarbha and 266 acres of the Landorkhori Reserve Forest in Jalgaon district. Once these are approved by the Centre, there will be six BHS in Maharashtra.

BHS are locations with biological, ethnic and historical value that have fragile ecosystems. To strengthen biodiversity conservation, these areas are marked as heritage sites under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. BHS are first approved by the state and then the Centre. The first and only BHS in Maharashtra at present is the six-hectare forest patch, Glory of Allapalli, in Gadchiroli district. It was notified in July 2014, a little more than a year after the state had approved it as a BHS.

In July 2017, MSBB proposed Anjarle and Velas beaches in Ratnagiri district, and Ganeshkhind in Pune be given the status of BHS. While all three locations have received nods from the state, the Centre is yet to clear the proposals.

The proposed BHS in Vidarbha is in the Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district. Archaeologists recently discovered fossils a few kilometres away from this patch. “The eight-hectare site holds many more hidden secrets from at least 150 million years ago, which are yet to be excavated. Thus, more protection is need for this site as it has the ability to become a global heritage zone,” said Tushar Chavan, deputy conservator of forest, Sironcha, who submitted the BHS proposal to MSBB.

In Landorkhori Reserve Forest, the proposed BHS is around Meharun Lake and Chhatrapati Shivaji Park.

Vilas Bardekar, chairman of MSBB, said, “This area has created its own microclimate making it very suitable for wild animals to survive and is an important bird habitat. However, there have been very few efforts to document the biodiversity of this region. Once declared a BHS, threats such as water holding capacity of the lake, encroachment, water pollution due to untreated waste, and deforestation will all be addressed and the area will be better protected.”

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 12:23 IST