The government has formally declared the constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees in all the 978 grama panchayats, 60 municipalities, and the five Corporations in Kerala, signalling the shift to a broad-based system for the conservation of biological resources.

Addressing the media after a Cabinet meeting here on Wednesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Kerala had become the first State to have completed the formation of BMCs in all local-self government institutions. The committees have been set up under Section 41 of the Biological Diversity Act 2002; Section 22 of the Biological Diversity Rules 2004; and Section 20(1) of the Kerala State Biological Diversity Rules 2008.

Primary function

The primary function of the BMC is to prepare and maintain a Panchayat Biodiversity Register (PBR) — a document on local biological resources and associated traditional knowledge. Its mandate also includes the conservation, sustainable use, and documentation of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits arising from its use.

The BMC will be responsible for ensuring the protection of the knowledge recorded in the PBR, especially to regulate its access to outside agencies and individuals. It has to develop a local biodiversity fund and devise strategies and action plans to conserve local biodiversity. It is also tasked with initiating proposals for declaring biodiversity heritage sites and establishing and maintaining germplasm bank and seed centres for promoting traditional varieties. The BMC will be chaired by the president of the grama panchayat, chairperson of the municipality, or Mayor of the Corporation while the secretary of the local body will be its ex-officio member-secretary.

Urban biodiversity

“We have come a long way since the Malampuzha panchayat in Palakkad district formed the first BMC in 2009. The exercise was completed last week with the Kochi Corporation constituting a BMC,” Kerala State Biodiveristy Board (KSBB) chairman Oommen V. Oommen told The Hindu. KSBB member-secretary K.P. Laladhas said some of the BMCs had registered significant achievements in biodiversity conservation. “The tuber conservation project at Edavaka in Wayanad; the penstock aquaculture and mangrove conservation project at Atholi; and the river bio-fencing project at Perumanna (both in Kozhikode) were activities taken up by BMCs,” he said. The KSBB had organised 33 training camps for BMC members, he added.