Located in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, the village of Dudhai has been in the news lately for all the right reasons. Local residents got together to put an end to illegal and rampant mining on the Swarna riverbed, which was destroying the region’s ecological balance
The community initiatives have made Dudhai the first village in India to receive financial benefits from the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
According to Times of India, the prospect of confronting the mining mafia seemed unthinkable until villagers and forest officers in Dudhai decided to invoke the Biodiversity Act.
The miners were engaged in large-scale extraction of stones and sand for construction work, and locals realised that it was destroying forests and eroding agricultural lands.
Rajesh Mall, chairman of the Dudhai Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC), which the villagers revived three years ago, said “We started night patrols and warned the miners that we would invoke the provisions of the Act, and they could end up behind bars. The forest department also helped us.”
This move has ensured that the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board has issued notices to 600 industries, and collected a little over ₹1crore so far. Of this, it has shared ₹1 lakh with the Dudhai BMC, which has started developing a medicinal garden.
As a ratified member, India took lead in introducing a substantive legislation in conformance with the objectives of the CBD.
The Act clarifies that bio-resources cannot be extracted without the permission of BMC and its violation is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years. The BMC members of Dudhai organised meetings with the miners and continued patrols for months till the illegal mining ceased. Villagers too have been barred from extracting minerals from the river for construction.
Dudhai has long been at the forefront of biodiversity conservation. In 2016, it became the first village to receive an award for the best Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) in the country.
One hopes that many more concerned communities come forward to protect our rich biodiversity and use the Biological Diversity Act to its optimum potential.