New Protected Area for Myristica in Sindhudurg

Sanctuary readers are familiar with Mud on Boots’ Project Leader Malhar Indulkar’s persistent efforts to protect and nurture a rare Myristica swamp known as Kanhalachi Rai in the midst of paddy fields in Hevale-Bambarde village in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra. Now in much welcome news, this 18,464 sq. m. Myristica swamp has been declared a Biological Heritage Site. The notification follows years of conservation efforts spearheaded by researchers, conservationists, local organisations, Forest Department officials, the state Mangrove Cell, Sindhudurg Wetland Committee, along with Malhar Indulkar under the mentorship of Gopakumar Menon, Executive Director of the Nityata River Otter Conservancy.

The Myristica swamps are life-giving low valleys in the Western Ghats that harbour threatened species of trees and act as a vital carbon sink in the region, and much of this habitat has been wiped out for paddy fields and monoculture plantations. Sindhudurg district is blessed with 1,499 sacred groves, the highest recorded number in the state. These groves were traditionally considered sacred by local communities across the Western Ghats. However, much of the cultural knowledge has been lost over time.

Malhar along with local conservationists Gayathri Sreedharan and Narayan Desai, and several other researchers documented this landscape and saw the pressing need for better management of this crucial habitat. They collaborated with one of the local farmers, Ramesh Thakur, to set up a small nursery of Myristica saplings. Farmers in this landscape now nurture these plants on their land and collect Myristica seeds they find in their fields instead of burning them and offer them to the nursery. They also encouraged farmers to pursue organic farming methods,and conducted workshops on natural pest control and pesticide runoff. Since then, the Sanctuary Nature Foundation, River Otter Conservancy, Malabar Nature Conservation Club and other organisations and individuals have been rallying for government protection for these swamps.

Watch this video to know more about this stunning ecosystem.