Assam: Part of Borjuli Tea Estate gets Biodiversity Heritage site tag
Borjuli Wild Rice site’ and ‘Hajong Tortoise Lake’ (left to right)

Guwahati: About 0.41 hectares in Borjuli Tea Estate where wild rice: Oryza rufipogon, also known as brown beard rice was found was declared the second Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS) in Assam. 

In a gazette notification on August 10, the Assam government declared two new Biodiversity Heritage Sites – ‘Borjuli Wild Rice Site’ of Sonitpur district and ‘Hajong Tortoise Lake’ in the Dima Hasao district.

On November 2, 2021, EastMojo published a report that moves were afoot to declare Borjuli as the second Biodiversity Heritage Site in the state.

“With this declaration, Assam has now three Biodiversity Heritage Sites, the first one being ‘Majuli Biodiversity Heritage Site’ declared on March 29, 2017,” said KSPV Pavan Kumar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity and Climate Change and Member Secretary of Assam State Biodiversity Board (ASBB).

“The ‘Borjuli Wild Rice Biodiversity Heritage Site’ is located at Borjuli Gaon Panchayat in Sonitpur district inside a private tea estate. The total area is 0.41 ha. It holds a viable population of a unique, water-logging resistant, wild-rice variety (‘landrace of the rice) called ‘Oryza rufipogon’,” Kumar said.  

This site is also not part of any Protected Area (National Park / Sanctuary). The ‘No Objection Certificate’ for allotment of the said land for conservation of Wild rice germplasm was obtained from the Borjuli Tea Estate Management on July 7, /2021. 

“The proposal for declaring this site as a BHS was submitted by Borjuli Gaon Panchayat Biodiversity Management Committee on the recommendation of ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi for conservation of the concerned ‘Rice Variety’. The Borjuli Gaon Panchayat BMC will be responsible for the management of this BHS with assistance from Assam State Biodiversity Board,” he said.

“Under Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, the state government may, from time to time in consultation with the local bodies, notify in the official gazette, areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS),” Kumar said. 

Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS) are unique ecosystems having rich biodiversity comprising of the richness of wild as well as domesticated species or intra-specific categories, high endemism, presence of rare and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance, wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or their varieties, past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds and having significant cultural, ethical or aesthetic values and are important for the maintenance of cultural diversity, with or without a long history of human association with them. 

“The ‘Hajong Tortoise Lake Biodiversity Heritage Site’ is situated in the Langtang Mupa Reserved Forest of the Dima Hasao district. The total area covered is 526.78 ha, which also includes the surrounding area of the Lake. The ‘Hajong Tortoise Lake’ which is the natural lake habitat of freshwater turtles in Assam, where critically endangered species such as ‘Black Softshell turtle’ and endangered species like ‘Indian Peacock Softshell turtle’ breed naturally,” Kumar said.

“It is not part of any Protected Area (National Park/Wildlife Sanctuary). The proposal for declaring this Lake as a BHS was submitted by the Maibang Biodiversity Management Committee, who will be responsible for management of the Hajong Tortoise Lake Biodiversity Heritage Site with assistance from Assam State Biodiversity Board,” he added.

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