Conservation of Ecological Resources by the Dudhai Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) and Facilitation of Access and Benefit Sharing, Uttarakhand
The Trans-Himalayan ecoregion, with its characteristic cold desert vegetation in North Sikkim, serves as the natural habitat for the Tibetan Highland Sheep, which is locally referred to as ‘Luk’ or ‘Bhyanglung’. Luk is known for medicinal properties in its meat, milk and its products, which is attributed to its grazing on a wide variety of medicinal plants in the Himalayan landscape. The fleece obtained from the breed is counted as among the best obtained from native bovine breeds of the Indian subcontinent. Luk shares its habitat with the yak and these are one of the limited sources of livelihood for the nomadic pastoralists, the ‘Drokpas’, in the region.
Need for the Initiative
The village forests boasted of rich biodiversity till 1990. However, unsustainable extraction of NTFPs combined with recurring forest fires, in the following two decades, led to a large-scale forest degradation. Indiscriminate sand mining at the bed of the Swarna River, flowing through the village, led to erosion of topsoil in agricultural lands in the vicinity and almost rendered the whole area unproductive. The communities resorted to uncontrolled extraction of floral species such as Giloy, (Tinospora cordifolia) and Kingore (Berberis aristata), Kali musli (Curculi goorchioides) and Kalihari (Gloriosa superba) for commercial purposes.
Conservation Initiatives and Impact
The Dudhai Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) was constituted in 2011, with 7 members, including a chairperson, secretary and representation from women and backward social classes. The State Biodiversity Board (SBB) provided training to the BMC members on good practices in conservation and management of biodiversity. The BMC then mobilized the local communities to put a halt to illegal sand mining from the beds of the Swarna River and maintain a strict vigil in the area to check mining activities. This has resulted in prevention of soil erosion from agricultural lands thus retaining the fertility of the lands for crop production. The river ecosystem now harbours several species of aquatic fauna. To facilitate implementation of Access and Benefit Sharing mechanism and protect their ecological resources, the BMC has documented its biological resources along with associated traditional knowledge in the People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) and has prepared the Bio-cultural Protocol (BCP), in line with the mandates of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and the Nagoya Protocol, respectively. It has formulated regulations, which prevent outsiders from accessing their biological resources for commercial purposes until necessary permissions are sought from the BMC and SBB. If allowed, the access may be granted as per the Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) formulated between the resource user and the provider. In a bid to raise financial resources for development projects and to ensure sustainable harvesting of resources, BMC has decided to levy a collection fee equivalent to 1% of the total market value of the biological resource being extracted from the forests. The BMC regularly organizes awareness campaigns on the prevention and management of forest fires. No incidence of forest fire has been reported from the village in the past five years. Regular patrolling is carried out by the BMC and the community members to keep a check on hunting and extraction NTFPs. As a result of these initiatives, considerable increase in forest covers has been observed in the past five years. There is a significant increase in the occurrence of floral species such as Adina cordifolia, Tectona grandis, Terminalia belerica, Toona ciliata, Shorea robusta, etc., has been noted. Increase in the population of wild animals, especially leopard (Panthera pardus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) has been observed. These forests provide ecological services such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water and air purification, and maintenance of wildlife habitat. A Medicinal Plant Garden spread across 5 hectares of land under Dudhai Gram Panchayat is being considered, where native species such as Harad (Terminalia chebula), Baheda (Terminalia bellirica) and Amla (Phyllanthus emblica)will be planted. Economic returns from this plantation are expected to add to the household incomes. The Dudhai Gram Panchayat hosted the exposure visits for trainees from Nepal in 2014 and representation of SAARC nations participating in the “Regional Experts workshop on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing in Hindu Kush Himalayan Region'' held on 25-27 November 2014 at Dehradun
Recognition in India Biodiversity AwardsBiodiversity Management Committee Dudhai, won the India Biodiversity Awards (IBA) under the category ‘Best Biodiversity Management Committee’ in 2016.
Kishor Nautiyal Email: email@example.com