Kerala has become the first State to form biodiversity management committees in all panchayats.

The committee, chaired by the panchayat president, is to ensure conservation of biodiversity and use and equitable sharing of benefits from it.

The committee has been formed in all 978 grama panchayats by October and will come into being in 60 municipalities and five city corporations in two months. With this, Kerala would become the first State to have such committees in all local self-government institutions.

The State Biodiversity Board, the apex body at the State level, has completed the task of compiling the data on the biodiversity management committees. The compilation was released by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here on Wednesday night.

The development of biodiversity registers will be one the main tasks of the committees. The biodiversity registers to be developed by the people, of their biodiversity and knowledge of biodiversity conservation, will have inventories of biodiversity and people's knowledge that is associated with bioresources at the district, block, village, and municipality levels. They will include availability and knowledge of local biological resources, their medicinal or other uses, or any other traditional knowledge associated with them. The biodiversity committees are in charge of maintenance and updating of the registers. They are also to intervene in case of threat to biodiversity.

Besides the chairperson, the committees have more than six members nominated by the local body, of whom not less than one-third is women. Representation is also specified for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The nominees include herbalists, agriculturists, collectors, and traders of non-timber forest produce, fishers, representatives of user associations, community workers, academicians, and representatives of organisations that can contribute to the work of the committees.

Each committee has six special invitees from the Forest, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Livestock, Health, Fisheries, and Education departments. The secretary of the local body is the member-secretary of the committee, who will maintain the records. The tenure of the committees is three years.

Technical support groups, comprising experts in the field of biodiversity drawn from government agencies, non-governmental organisations, educational institutions and communities, have been established at the district level to aid the committees in their work.