GUWAHATI: A rare species of wild rice – Oryza rufipogon – also known as brown beard rice, was found in 2 hectares of land near Borjuli Tea Estate in Assam’s Sonitpur district.

Soon after the discovery last year, the crop growing area was acquisitioned by the Assam government, which is now in the process of declaring it as a Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS).

“Rufipogon is a perennial, tufted grass which grows in shallow water. It is tolerant of flooding and acid soils,” said Assam State Biodiversity Board (ASBB) scientific officer Dr Oinam Sunanda Devi. 

“This rice species is flood resistant. Presently, a team of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) is conducting a study on the rice species. We have to wait up the study results for its preservation,” Devi said.

“This species of rice offers wide range of health benefits. Moreover, it is flood resistant. So we can use this variety for cultivation in flood-prone areas,” she added. 

The Assam government is all set to declare the area as a Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS) on the recommendation of ASBB.

Till date, Assam has only one BHS in Majuli, which was notified as the first Biodiversity Heritage Site on May 26, 2017 under Section- 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Rule 24(1) of the Assam Biodiversity Rules 2010.

Majuli, with its fertile floodplains and highly productive wetlands forms, an identical habitat for a variety of birds and animals. Majuli also produces about a hundred different varieties of rice. 

“Hajong Lake in remote Dima Hasao district is known as the habitat of century-old tortoises and will be the second Biodiversity Heritage Site of the state,” ASBB member secretary Pavan Kumar said. 

The ASBB has already recommended Hajong Lake as the third Biodiversity Heritage Site for the preservation of hundreds of Hill Terrapin tortoises that seem to have made this lake their home. It is the only natural tortoise habitat in the State, Kumar said.

The rare species of wild rice – oryzee rufopogn – also known as brown beard rice, was found in 2 hectares of land near Borjuli Tea Estate in Assam’s Sonitpur district

In addition to this, the ASBB is also implementing the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits resulting from the use of genetic resources to conserve biodiversity.

“Since the last year, we have issued notice to 33 companies to share information with the board on the genetic resources they use for medicines. More than 12 companies have come up with sharing such genetic resource with the board,” Kumar said.

“The ASBB has constituted 2,549 Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) under Biodiversity Act and Rules under the jurisdiction of Gaon Panchat, Anchalik Panchyat and Zila Parishad,” Kumar said.

There are 40 BMCs under three Autonomous Councils including Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) and North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC). The ASBB facilitates the constitution of BMCs at Forest Range Jurisdictions in the Autonomous Councils, he said. 

“These BMCs work to promote conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity including preservation of habitats, conservation of landraces, folk varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals and microorganisms and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity,” he added.

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