India Biodiversity Awards, 2018

India is one of 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. With only 2.4 percent of the earth’s land area, it accounts for 7-8 percent of the world’s recorded species. Home to 96,000 species of animals, 47,000 species of plants and nearly half the world’s aquatic plants, India’s management of its natural resources is crucial to protecting global biodiversity.

What is the CBD?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the international legal instrument for "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources". The CBD has been ratified by 196 nations and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the CBD's entry into force. Since its entry into force, the CBD has been implemented through the vision and leadership displayed by countries, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities, the scientific community and individuals alike.

As a party to the CBD, India strives to meet and honour its international obligations and commitments under the convention. India has a firm belief in the conservation of biodiversity as a national priority and recognizes its crucial linkages with the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people.

What are the India Biodiversity Awards?

In 2012, the Government of India, in partnership with UNDP India, initiated the India Biodiversity Awards to recognize and honour outstanding models of biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and governance at the grassroots level.

The fourth edition of the India Biodiversity Awards on 22 May on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity recognizes the work of local communities committed towards biodiversity conservation in the areas of:
1. Conservation of Wild and Domesticated Species
2. Sustainable Use of Biological Resources
3. Replicable Mechanisms for Access and Benefit Sharing
4. Best Biodiversity Management Committees

Meet this year's Champions of Biodiversity.

Singchung Bugun Village Community Reserve Management Committee: Conservation of Wild Species (Institution)

It is only 22 cm in size but the Bugun Liocichla, a critically endangered bird, is hard to miss. It is an olive-grey bird with a golden streak beside both eyes, as well as golden and vibrant red patches on wings and tail. It also has a distinctive fluty call.

Just 14 to 20 of these birds are known to exist. They are found only in the Singchung village of Arunachal Pradesh, in the northeast of India. Over the years, activities like timber extraction, forest clearance and infrastructure development have threatened its habitat. The Singchung Bugun Village Community Reserve Management Committee, formed in 2012, is using its traditional knowledge to protect the bird and its habitat.

The committee makes sure that young people are involved in awareness generation, joint patrolling, rescue, rehabilitation and promoting ecotourism. Singchung is a great example of marrying the traditional and the modern to conserve and protect wild species.

Lemsachenlok Organization: Conservation of Wild Species (Institution)

The Lemsachenlok organization, set up in Nagaland in 2007, works towards the conservation and protection of wildlife, and for sustainable resource management. The organization has successfully created an 8-10 sq km Community Conserved Area to encourage coexistence and reduce human-wildlife conflict.

Local communities have stopped using guns and catapults and the organization has imposed a ban on logging, hunting, fishing and trapping. The village has now become a safe haven for 85 species of birds, including Amur Falcons. Though these little raptors are not endangered, hundreds of thousands of birds were found massacred earlier in the decade. 15 species of frogs, as well as the Indian Leopard, barking deer, sereow and otters are also protected by the community.

Kutch Unt Uchherak Maldhari Sangathan (KUUMS): Conservation of Domesticated Species (Institution)

In India, the Kharai camel -- unique for its ability to adapt well to both terrestrial and marine ecosystems -- is found only in the state of Gujarat. Increasing industrialization has become a serious threat. Since 2010, the Kutch Unt Uchherak Maldhari Sangathan (KUUMS) and Sahjeeevan organization have worked closely with the local community to breed, cure and protect these camels.

The organization achieved a milestone when the breed was registered with the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources in 2015. After several years of research on the nutritional and therapeutic characteristics of camel milk, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India recognized it as an edible product. This has led to increased demand for camels, and value-added products such as camel milk-based beverages, camel cheese and ice cream. KUUMS and Sahjeevan are presently the only organizations working to conserve the Kharai camel.

Kalden Singhi Bhutia: Conservation of Domesticated Species (Individual)

Kalden Singh Bhutia from Thangu village in north Sikkim is a herder of Tibetan sheep. He started herding at the age of 13. His first herd consisted of only 225 sheep. 

With deep traditional knowledge and an indomitable spirit, Mr. Bhutia took a number of steps to conserve and propagate the sheep. He conducted awareness and sensitization programmes, constructed a sheep farm to accommodate 550 sheep and documented its  genetic characteristics in collaboration with National Bureau of Animal and Genetic Resources.

Kalden Singhi Bhutia is the first Sikkimese to receive the Breed Conservation Award from the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources.

Sangham Women Farmers Group: Sustainable Use of Biological Resources (Institution)

The Sangham Women’s Farmer Group in the Medak district of Telangana has been working towards the conservation of agro-biodiversity for the past 15 years. The women cultivate and conserve traditional crops and have set up community and individual seed banks. Using traditional knowledge in their farming practices has not only helped sustain them through harsh droughts, it has also helped food security. Since their began, they have not faced a single instance of crop failure.

These women have also started the Millet Sisters Network to conserve and preserve different varieties of millets, with the produce organically certified and packaged for marketing in the urban areas. A millet café has also been set up by the group to sell millet muffins, cakes, snacks and sweets. They've also started a community radio that plays the traditional songs of sowing, harvest, health, nutrition representing a farmer’s life cycle.

Parvathi Nagarajan: Sustainable Use of Biological Resources (Individual)

Parvathi Nagarajan comes from a family of traditional healers in the Auroville region of Tamil Nadu, and works for environment protection, wellness and women's empowerment. 

She joined hands with the Sustainable Livelihood Institute (SLI) to take regular ‘Herbs for Health’ classes for women in her area. She has trained women in her community to set up herb gardens, test and prepare herbal remedies, cosmetics and organic foods for their livelihood. These women now tour villages, creating awareness about plants and their medicinal properties, as well as local health traditions. Select indigenous medicinal plant species are also planted to ensure long-term sustainability.

Parvathi Nagarajan has inspired many women in her region to join the cause.

Raipassa Biodiversity Management Committee, Tripura: Sustainable Use of Biological Resources

Raipassa is the second smallest and most remote village in the Dhalai district of Tripura. The community depends on the cultivation, collection and sale of broom grass for its livelihood. The villagers collect about 50 tonnes of broom grass per season, and sell it at Rs. 22/Kg.

Realizing the economic and ecological significance of the bio-resource, the Raipassa Biodiversity Management Committee signed an agreement with commercial users. According to the agreement, 5 percent of the total proceeds from the sale is  transferred to the Joint Forest Management Committee, responsible for collecting the resource. The BMC and the Local Biodiversity Fund share 2 percent of the proceeds, while 1 percent  is transferred to the state biodiversity fund.

The BMC ensures that bio-resources of the area are traded in a manner that is both commercially and environmentally viable.

Eraviperoor Grama Panchayat, Kerala: Biodiversity Management Committee

The Eraviperoor Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC), constituted in 2015, is an excellent model of a multi-stakeholder partnership in local biodiversity conservation, sustainable management of water resources, promotion of renewable energy and enhanced livelihoods.

The BMC has rejuvenated a tributary of the river Pampa, successfully recovered 13.5 acres of river bank and shown exemplary work in plastic waste management with support from the Government of India, agencies, civil society organizations and academic institutions. It has also successfully revived the traditional cultural practice of boat racing.

With innovative ideas and an optimistic vision, the BMC has also leveraged financial and technical resources, and plans to become carbon neutral by 2020.

Pithorabad Grama Panchayat,  Madhya Pradesh: Biodiversity Management Committee

The Pithorabad Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) was set up in 2013, and since then has made focused and sustained efforts towards the conservation and sustainable utilization of bio-resources. 

The BMC conserves around 115 traditional types of paddies, 32 varieties of vegetables, and medicinal plants. The committee has helped identify local flora and fauna and associated traditional knowledge, which have been documented in the People’s Biodiversity Register.

It has established a community seed bank and facilitated value addition in the form of marketing for select products like organic wheat. Varieties of traditional paddy collected by the BMC along the Narmada belt of Madhya Pradesh were distributed among the farmers for in-situ conservation.