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Munnar Biodiversity conservation project begins

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 A key biodiversity conservation project covering more than 3,000 sq km in Kerala’s Idukki district has begun, according to a top Kerala government official.

Titled the Munnar landscape project, it aims to put in place a collaborative framework for governance of multiple-use landscape with a view to achieving sustainable development and conservation goals.

Munnar in Idukki district is a picturesque hill station 1,450 metres above mean sea level.

The project intends to attempt a paradigm shift from current sector-based planning to an integrated approach for multiple-use management of mountain landscapes to deliver global environmental benefits.

The key players behind this project are the Global Environment Facility, UNDP (UN Development Programme) and the government of India, with the Kerala government taking up the responsibility of implementation. Top officials of all these agencies had a brain storming session in Dehradun last week.

“The thrust areas include biodiversity, habitat, GIS, legal and institutional knowledge, climate change, and expert agencies which have many years’ experience in these areas have been asked to submit their reports in a year’s time on the present situation in the project area,” P.K. Mohanty, additional chief secretary of Kerala, told IANS.

The partnering agencies for doing this include Kerala Forest Research Institute, French Institute at Puducherry, and two other agencies which will be doing the GIS mapping.

The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has the responsibility of establishing a resource management and eco-restoration centre besides documenting traditional ecological knowledge and conservation practices with the help of the Tropical Botanical Garden Research Institute.

The Wild Life Institute, Dehradun, will study the impact of cash crops on natural resources and changes in life styles.

Among other experts who will be chipping in for the study would be the Delhi-based Institute for Social Sciences, and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) in Anaikatty in Coimbatore district, and the Centre for Environment and Development in Thiruvannanthapuram district.

Other study areas include habitat studies, effect of pesticides, tourism in Munnar, biodiversity conservation and livelihood also would be studied by these agencies.

K.P.Laladhas, member-secretary of the KSBB who took part in the Dehradun meeting, said the basic aim of this project is to put in place an effective governance framework for management of the landscape in Munnar.

“Through this, it is expected to achieve ecological and livelihood security in Munnar and strengthening the capacities for community based sustainable use and conservation of natural resource. Around 34 village councils under which this project is coming up will also be taken into confidence,” said Laladhas.

Mohanty, who chaired the Dehradun meeting, said it has been decided to earmark jobs for the key players who are involved in this project.