Home Daily News Odisha’s Newest Biodiversity-Heritage Site…..

Odisha’s Newest Biodiversity-Heritage Site…..

by Nita Mishra

The Gupteswar Forest, situated adjacent to the Gupteswar Shiva temple, now holds the esteemed title of a Biodiversity-Heritage Site in Odisha. Covering an expansive area of 350 hectares, this site is not only known for its sacred groves, revered by the local community for generations, but also for its diverse range of flora and fauna.

The Odisha Biodiversity Board conducted a thorough biodiversity inventory and survey, revealing an impressive count of 608 faunal species within the Gupteswar Forest. This includes 28 mammal species, 188 bird species, 18 amphibian species, 48 reptile species, 45 fish species, 141 butterfly species, 43 moth species, 41 odonate species, 30 spider species, 6 scorpion species, and 20 lower invertebrate species.

Noteworthy faunal species documented here include the mugger crocodile, kanger valley rock gecko, sacred Grove Bush Frog, and avifauna such as the black baza, Jerdon’s baza, Malaber trogon, common hill myna, white-bellied woodpecker, and banded bay cuckoo, among others.

Unique Features of Gupteswar Forest

  • Bat Diversity: The limestone caves of Gupteswar are home to eight out of the 16 bat species found in southern Odisha, including two near-threatened species: Hipposideros galeritus and Rhinolophus rouxii.
  • Rich Floral Diversity: The forest boasts a diverse flora, with 182 tree species, 76 shrub species, 177 herb species, 69 climber species, and 14 orchid species. Notable among these are threatened medicinal plants like the Indian trumpet tree, Indian snakeroot, Cumbi gum tree, Garlic pear tree, Chinese fever vine, Rohituka tree, Jodpakli, Indian jointfir, as well as wild crop relatives of ginger and turmeric.
  • Micro-Organisms: The forest is also home to agriculturally and industrially important micro-organisms, adding to its ecological significance.

Conservation and Development Plans

The declaration of Gupteswar as a BHS not only enhances the cultural connection of the local populace with the forest but also aims at preserving its invaluable biodiversity. With this addition, Odisha now boasts four Biodiversity-Heritage Sites, including Mandasaru BHS in Kandhamala district, Mahendragiri BHS in Gajpati district, and Gandhamardan BHs in Bargarh and Bolangir districts.

The Odisha government has directed the Odisha Biodiversity Board to formulate a comprehensive plan for the intensive conservation and development of these sites, with direct involvement from local communities. An allocation of Rs 35 lakh has been made for the preparation of an action plan and awareness campaigns in the local areas.

Community and Expert Appreciation

Nature enthusiasts, intellectuals, and local residents have welcomed the government’s decision, foreseeing potential benefits for livelihoods through eco-tourism and minor forest produce. Meeta Biswal, Chairperson of the Board, and Nihar Ranjan Nayak, Member Secretary, congratulated the biodiversity management committee of Haladikunda (Gupteswar) Gram Panchayat, along with scientists and researchers of the board, for this significant achievement in conservation and biodiversity preservation.

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