Tamil Nadu’s First Biodiversity Heritage Site

The state government of Tamil Nadu recently issued a notification declaring Madurai district’s Arittapatti and Meenakshipuram villages as the state’s first biodiversity heritage site.

What are biodiversity heritage sites?

Biodiversity heritage sites (BHS) are notified areas that are unique and ecologically fragile ecosystems known for hosting one or more components like species richness, rare, endemic and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance, wild ancestors of domestic species etc. These areas are significant from a biodiversity point of view and cultural aspects like sacred groves/trees and sites or other larger community conserved areas.

About Arittapatti Biodiversity Heritage Site

  • The Arittapatti Biodiversity Heritage Site spans across two villages – Arittapatti village (Melur block) and Meenakshipuram village (Madurai East taluk).
  • Arittapatti village is known for its ecological and historical significance. It hosts some 250 bird species, including three important raptors (birds of prey) – the Laggar Falcon, the Shaheen Falcon and Bonelli’s Eagle. It also hosts Indian Pangolin, Slender Loris and pythons and others.
  • The area is surrounded by a chain of seven hillocks or inselbergs that are a source of water for 72 lakes, 200 natural springs and 3 check dams. The 16th century Anaikondan tank, which was built during the reign of the Pandiyan kings, is one of them.
  • This BHS is also historically significant because of the presence of several megalithic structures, rock-cut temples, Tamil Brahmi inscriptions and Jain beds.
  • Its notification as the BHS will further help prevent biodiversity loss and preserve the cultural and architectural heritage of the region.
  • The declaration of this site was made under Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

What is Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002?

This section empowers the state governments to notify BHS in consultation with the “local bodies”. Under subsection 2 of the Section 37, the state government, in consultation with the Central Government, may frame rules for the management and conservation of the BHS. Subsection 3 allows the state government to frame schemes for the compensation or rehabilitation of any individual or community that was economically affected by the notification of the BHS.

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