Tamil Nadu gets its first biodiversity heritage site

The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday issued a notification declaring Arittapatti and Meenakshipuram villages in Madurai district the first biodiversity heritage site in the State.

The site, comprising 139.63 hectares in Arittapatti village (in Melur taluk) and 53.58 hectares in Meenakshipuram village (Madurai East taluk), will be known as the Arittapatti Biodiversity Heritage Site, said a notification. Arittapatti, known for its ecological and historical significance, houses around 250 species of birds, including three important raptors — the Laggar Falcon, the Shaheen Falcon and Bonelli’s Eagle. It is also home to wildlife such as the Indian pangolin, slender loris and pythons. The area is surrounded by a chain of seven hillocks or inselbergs, that serve as a watershed, charging “72 lakes, 200 natural springs and three check-dams”, the notification said.

The Anaikondan tank, built during the reign of the Pandiyan kings in the 16th century, is one of them. Several megalithic structures, rock-cut temples, Tamil Brahmi inscriptions and Jain beds add to the historical significance of the region.

District Forest Officer S. Gurusamy Dabbala said that notifying an area a biodiversity heritage site would help in protecting its rich and exclusive ecosystem. “Through the steps to be initiated by the Forest Department soon, factors that may harm the biodiversity will be kept at bay.”

To prevent the loss of biodiversity and preserve the cultural and architectural heritage, the government, as recommended by the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board, has declared Arittapatti a biodiversity heritage site.