Situated on the banks of the river Khowai in Tripura, from which it also takes its name, is the culturally rich district of Khowai. The district is bordered by Atharamura and Baramura ranges and flanked by Bangladesh to its north. In the Tulashikhar block of the district, is the Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) of Purba Badlabari. Constituted on June 16 in 2017, the BMC has set an extraordinary example of how development and sustainability can go hand in hand. About 687 families with diverse ethnic communities including Reang, Debbarma, and Tripuri inhabit the village. Most of the local community is dependent on forest resources for food and livelihood. The area has rich traditional resources including medicinal plants that have been used for healing and treatment. The villagers considerably depend on forests and therefore constitute an indispensable part of their lives. Taking this into account the BMC encourages locals to prevent overexploitation of these natural resources and use it in a sustainable manner. The BMC’s initiative along with community support has resulted in a plethora of positive changes including, restricted livestock grazing, conservation of indigenous rice varieties, bamboo plantation drives, protection of growing bamboo shoots, reduction in incidents of hunting and poaching, involvement of women in collection and selling of non-timber forest produce, and involvement of youth in the sustainable collection of biological resources in consultation with village elders.

Need for the Initiative

The BMC has been sensitizing the communities about the threat to these resources and were encouraged to control overexploitation to ensure sustainable use and conservation for future generations. Furthermore, integrated steps were taken to tackle some key issues. In order to address the issue of forest fires, the BMC, in collaboration with the Forest Department, organised workshops for generating awareness on the ways and methods to manage fires and mitigate the damages in the pre-fire season. BMC members meet twice a month, regularly organise family visits, and are in regular contact with the Forest Department as an outreach to encourage community involvement. An initiative was taken to check overgrazing and Jhum cultivation by restricting these activities in bamboo growing areas. Small scale bamboo plantation drives were undertaken, and artificial protection of bamboo shoots was done during growth periods. The local communities are aware of the declining bamboo resources due to increased pressure on them; hence they have taken measures to artificially protect the growing bamboo shoots by controlled extraction of the shoots, thus, combining conservation with livelihood generation opportunities. Livelihoods were secured while also addressing human-wildlife conflicts by avoiding bamboo extraction from migratory paths for elephants and their feeding areas. Holistic community involvement has been ensured by involving women, youth, and elderly people at the same time. While women and youth have been involved in the sustainable collection of NTFPs, fruits, bamboo shoots, etc. for their consumption and for selling in the local markets, the village elders are consulted for judicious collection of these resources.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

The path followed to tackle the challenges in a sustainable manner brought laurels to this BMC. The incidents of hunting and poaching of civet cats and leopards reduced after the establishment of the BMC as a result of their extensive awareness programmes. Along with sustainable management of the biological resources, the BMC successfully increased community involvement in conservation activities. Another initiative on conserving rice varieties as a genetic resource has led to the documentation of over 18 rice varieties in the People’s Biodiversity Register. Channelling the ABS earnings back into the community has secured livelihoods and strengthened conservation. The funds received through ABS have been used for the plantation of bio-resources. The work of planting some trees like bamboo, Sugandhmantri (an essential oil derived from it has a very good demand in the perfumery and cosmetic industry - traditionally used to deal with kidney meridians, joint discomfort, lower back, and knee pain or weakness) and other vegetation is in progress.
• Through their extensive awareness programmes, the BMC has successfully encouraged local communities to use natural resources in a sustainable manner by closely monitoring any overexploitation and also helped address the human-wildlife conflicts while also ensuring sustainable livelihoods.
• The BMC has successfully ensured inclusivity by the involvement of locals from all age groups. This community engagement has been an important factor in the acceptability of their interventions.
• The judicious utilization of ABS funds has ensured not only the conservation of bioresources but has also led to the enhancement of livelihood opportunities.

Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards