Residents of 20 villages in Andhra Pradesh’s Zaheerabad region are fighting a unique struggle to have their region declared a biodiversity heritage site under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The farmers are seeking to protect over 59,759 acres of farmland where they have been growing as many 100 varieties of crops annually. They are proposing the location as an Agro-Biodiversity Heritage Site “due to its location in a semi-arid region with richness in species and crop genetic diversity and the prevalence of traditional knowledge concerning sustainable management of fragile dry-land ecosystem and sustenance in such a resource scarce region”. This is seen as an opportunity for the community to protect both wild and cultivated biodiverse areas from external threats and land use conversion. While the Andhra Pradesh State Biodiversity Board has agreed, the eternal wait for the government nod continues. “The villagers had extensive discussions among themselves before sending their proposal to the Biodiversity Board. However, the declaration is still awaited even after 15 months,” says Kanchi Kohli, member of the Kalpavriskh Environment Action Group.
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