Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS) are well defined areas that are unique ecologically fragile ecosystems-terrestrial, freshwater or marine having rich biodiversity comprising of any one or more of the components such as; species richness, high endemism, presence of rare, endemic and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance, wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or land races or their varieties, past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds and having cultural or aesthetic values and are important for the maintenance of cultural diversity, with or without a long history of human association with them. (Source: NBA, India)
Significance and objectives of BHS
Biodiversity is closely linked to ecological security and therefore, human welfare. To strengthen the biodiversity conservation in traditionally managed areas and to stem the rapid loss of biodiversity in intensively managed areas, such areas need special attention. Such areas also often represent a positive interface between nature, culture, society, and technologies, such that both conservation and livelihood security are or can be achieved, and positive links between wild and domesticated biodiversity are enhanced. To have a BHS in or around a community should be a matter of pride and honour to such community and this virtuous act of community shall work as an example to the entire nation apart from ensuring availability of the resources to their own future generation. It is necessary to instill and nurture conservation ethics in all sections of the society. The creation of BHS will ensure bringing home these values in the society and thereby put an end to over exploitation of natural resources and avoid environmental degradation. The creation of BHS shall not put any restriction on the prevailing practices and usages of the local communities, other than those voluntarily decided by them. The purpose is to enhance the quality of life of the local communities through this conservation measure.
Declaration and Management of BHS
Under Section 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (BDA), the State Government in consultation with local bodies may notify in the official gazette, areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS). The State Government in consultation with the Central Government may frame rules for the management and conservation of BHS under sub section (2) of Section 37. Under sub section (3) of Section 37, the State Governments shall frame schemes for compensating or rehabilitating any person or section of people economically affected by such notification. Areas which have already been designated, identified or notified (for example as protected area, biosphere reserve, etc) under other Acts or programmes may not be considered under this provision. The idea is to identify those areas important from Biodiversity point of view which do not enjoy protection/support under any other Act or programme.
Biodiversity Heritage Sites in Punjab
Punjab Biodiversity Board has identified the following two sites for the declaration of BHS and State Heritage Tree, respectively:-
Punjab Biodiversity Board (PBB) has identified “Inami Baag”( (a mango orchard), at Village Bassi Umar Khan, Block Bhunga, District Hoshiarpur as a biological rich site with large diversity of native mango species. The site was earlier spread in 16 acre land with 256 mango trees of sucking type belonging to 43 native varieties/ land races The site was studied jointly by Punjab Biodiversity Board and Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana for 29 native elite varieties of mango. Presently, it comprises 165 trees of (29 varieties/ land races) of mango. The site was earlier spread in 16 acre land with 256 mango trees of sucking type belonging to 43 native varieties/ land races. The 6 acre land of their orchard has been already lost due to the fragmentation caused by passing of ‘kandi canal’, an irrigation channel, from the middle of the site.
Several varieties are presently represented by a single tree. Thus, the site is under threat. These native mango varieties/land races need to be conserved for the benefit of posterity. In view of its importance due to rich biological diversity, the Board has initiated actions to conserve it for in-situ preservation as Biodiversity Heritage Site (u/s 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002). Besides conservation, the activities will help mainly for carrying out selection of desirable traits for evolving new varieties of mangoes. A proposal has been prepared and submitted to Govt. of Punjab in this regard. Village level Biodiversity Management Committee has been constituted u/s 41 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 in village Bassi Umar Khan, District Hoshiarpur. Village level People’s Biodiversity Register is also being prepared.
Kaya Kalp Vriksh
District Fatehgarh Sahib has one of the largest Banyan Tree (Ficus bengalensis) in the state. The tree stands amidst lush fields at village Cholti Kheri, Block Khera Mandal of district Fatehgarh Sahib. The canopy of the tree spreads over 3 to 4 acres of land. According to local information, the tree is a few hundred years old and known as ‘Kaya Kalp Vriksh’. The local belief is that nobody can stop the relentless spread of the tree. As the tree is surrounded by private land, the adjoining land owners not dare to cut any branch which may grow and cover their land. It is believed that any person in the past who tried to stop the spread of the tree had to face grave misfortunes. The usage of waste wood or fallen leaves of the tree is considered equally unpropitious. Thus, the great banyan tree continues to grow undisturbed.
A village Biodiversity Management Committee has been constituted at village Cholti Kheri by PBB as per provisions of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (u/s 22) with the help of District Administraion Fathegarh Sahib. Now the PBB are taking up the matter with National Biodiversity Authority regarding the declaration of Kaya Kalp Vriksh as State’s 1st Heritage Tree. Punjab Heritage Tree status would also facilitate PBB to formulate special projects to avail financial assistance from various funding bodies for conservation, promotion of eco-educational potential of `Kaya Kalp Vriksh`.
Village level Biodiversity Management Committee of village Cholti Kheri, District Fatehgarh Sahib has been constituted u/s 41 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Village level People’s Biodiversity Register has also been prepared. Further, the site has been selected by Paris based production house “Camera Lucida” for preparation of documentary film under a series titled ‘Tree Stories: Most Remarkable Trees of the World’. The documentary will be broadcasted worldwide on the European TV Channel ARTE in the year 2017.
Chatpatt-Bani, District Pathankot
Chatpatt-Bani is a sacred groove, situated at village Kataru Chak, Block Pathankot, District Pathankot. The site is spread in 30 acres covered under thick forest having unrecorded flora and fauna. The site is persevered and managed by local community due to their sacred and cultural beliefs. A historical temple also exists in the site and the same being managed and maintained by a Trust. The preliminary survey of the site has been already conducted by the Punjab Biodiversity Board in collaboration with the experts from Punjab State Council for Science & Technology and Institute of Ecology & Environment, Pathankot. The site has potential to be declared as a Biological Diversity Heritage Site.
Sacred Grove at Village Kartoli, Block Talwara, District Hoshiarpur
The site is known by locals as ‘Baba Sukhia Ji’. It is situated at Village Kartoli, Block Talwara, District Hoshiarpur. As informed by the locals, the site is around 200-250 years old. It is believed that Sidh Baba Sukhia Ji having spiritual powers worshiped below a giant Banyan tree at this site. It was informed that the village was cursed by Sidh Baba Sukhia due to disgraceful behaviour of a specific community to him. This village was again re-habitated when the people began to worship this place. The site is presently being preserved by the local residents as sacred grove and a Temple of Sidh Baba Sukhia Ji has been constructed by the Panchayat of Village Kartoli. One room and a verandha have also been constructed for the caretaker of the Shrine.
The site is spread in approximate 3-4 acres land and has rich floral and faunal diversity and is inhabited by some rare, important medicinal and timber plant species like Diospyros tomentosa (Keond), Holopetela integrifolia (Rajain), Bombax ceiba (Simal), Carrisa spinarum (Garna), Flacourtia indica (Kangu), Aegle marmelos (Bel), Bauhinia variegate (Kachnaar), Mallotus philippensis, Murraya koenigii (Curry patta), Adhatoda vasica (Vanaska) etc. The common fauna of the site comprises Monkey, Wild Boar, Phython, Cobra, Hare, Owl, Peafowl, Mongoose, Indian Squirrel, Indian Pangolin, Rats, Garden lizard, Red Jungle Fowl, House Sparrow, Fruit Bats, Red Munia, etc. and many insects, arthropods, millipedes and nematodes.
Sacred Grove at Village Tibba Taprian, Block Nurpur Bedi, District Rupnagar
The site is known by locals as ‘Dargah Peer Baba Majnu Shah Ji”. It is situated on the bank of river Sutlej at Village Tibba & Taparia, Block Nurpur Bedi, District Roopnagar. As informed by the locals, the site is around 300 years old. It is believed that Peer Baba Majnu Shah Ji having spiritual powers worshiped at the site for 200 years. He used to eat only fruit of Ficus racemosa (Gular). The site is un-disturbed and being preserved by the locals as sacred grove and a Dargah of Peer Baba Majnu Shah Ji has been constructed by the Panchayat of Village Tibba & Taparia. A 200 years old stone associated with the Peer Baba Majnu Shah Ji is also kept in the Dargah. One room and a verandha have also been constructed for the caretaker of the Shrine.
The site is spread in pristine and calm area of 7 acres approximate of Panchayat Land consisting naturally occurring cluster of lush green trees and shrubs. The local belief is that any harm to any tree of the area could lead to misfortune to the individual. Therefore, nobody dares to use any part of the trees. Local people neither use fallen dead wood/dried leaves nor graze cattle within the area due to associated religious beliefs. The local fishing contractor has also voluntarily stopped fishing in the adjoining stretch of the river Sutlej. The common flora of the site comprises of Dalbergia sisso, Acacia nilotica, Cordia dictoma, Ficus benghalensis, Phoenix sylvestlis, Prosopis cineraria (single tree), Aegle marmelos, Acacia modesta, Morus alba, Terminalia bellirica, Azadirachta indica, Acacia catechu, Ficus racemosa, Lawsonia inermis, Syzygium cumini, Mangifera indica, Carica papaya, Terminalia chebula, Ziziphus jujube, Psidium guajava, Capparis decidua (Della). The common fauna of the site comprises Monkey, Wild Boar, Phython, Cobra, Hare, Owl, Peafowl, Nilgai, Mongoose, Indian Squirrel, Indian Pangolin, Rats, Garden lizard, Red Jungle Fowl, House Sparrow, Barking Deer, Fruit Bats, Red Munia, etc. and many insects, arthropods, millipedes and nematodes.