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Proud moment for Odisha as Gandhamardan hills becomes the State’s third biodiversity heritage site

Gandhamardan hills will be Odisha;s third biodiversity heritage site (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@GemsOfINDOLOGY)

Odisha’s scenic Gandhamardan hill range which is located between Balangir and Bargarh districts has been declared as biodiversity heritage site by the State Government. This is the third such site in Odisha, the other two being Mahendragiri hills and Mandasaru gorge in Gajapati and Kandhamal districts respectively.

As a treasure trove of medicinal plants, this biodiversity heritage site is known as the Ayurvedic paradise of Odisha and will encompass 18,963 hectares with more than 12,431 hectares in Bargarh and 6,532 hectares in Balangir. For years, practitioners of traditional knowledge have been collecting wild medicinal plants from the region for making medicines for different diseases and ailments.

Aiming at long-term protection, conservation and management of biological resources of the hills as it has wide-ranging ecological, biological and socio-economic significance, the Odisha Biodiversity Board had asked the State Government to declare this threatened and ecologically sensitive landscape as a biodiversity heritage site.

Following this a detailed inventory of the flora and fauna of the ecosystem in the hill range was done. It was found that it had 1,200 species of plants and 500 species of animals. The study also found 209 trees, 135 shrubs, 473 herbs, 77 climbers and 300 species of medicinal plants of which 18 species are threatened while one is endemic.

Apart from the rich flora and fauna, the hill also boasts of two historical monuments. These are Nrusinghanath temple which is located on its northern slope and Harishankar temple on the southern slope. Both these have immense cultural significance and value.

Due to human and climatic factors and also waning traditional knowledge about plants, it was deemed fit to declare the area as a biodiversity heritage site as per Odisha Biodiversity Rules, 2012. In 2022, Mahendragiri was notified while Mandasaru was in 2019.