The Odisha state government has proposed a second biosphere reserve in the southern part of the state at Mahendragiri. It is a mountain in the Gajapati district of the state. It is at an altitude of 1,501 metres. Mahendragiri is also the second-highest peak in the state.
- The area of the proposed 2nd biosphere reserve of the state- Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve is approximately 470,955 hectares.
- As per a feasibility report prepared by the Biosphere Reserve Committee for the proposed project, the hill ecosystem is acting as a transitional zone between the flora and fauna of southern India and the Himalayas. This makes the region an ecological estuary of genetic diversity.
- The feasibility report has been submitted to the government which will now be taken up by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- Recently in a workshop titled Integrated Development of Mahendragiri Hill Complex, organised by the non-profit Orissa Environmental Society, many environmentalists urged the state government to send a proposal to centre for declaring Mahendragiri a biosphere reserve.
- At some time, the protected archeological remains of Mahendragiri were listed in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thus, it is easy to declare it as a biosphere reserve.
- Mahendragiri is inhabited by Soura tribe.Soura and Kandha are vulnerable tribal groups.
- As per the report of the proposed Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve, Mahendragiri has diverse vegetation.
- The rich flora in Mahendragiri represents 40 percent of the reported flora of Odisha, with around 1,358 species of plants.
- Also, out of the 41 species of threatened medicinal plants found in Odisha (as per the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), 29 are found in the biosphere reserve area.
- The faunal diversity of the hills consists of 388 species of animals, including 165 species of birds, 27 species of mammals, 23 species of snakes, three species of turtles, 15 species of amphibians, and 19 lizards.
Similipal Biosphere Reserve
Similipal Biosphere Reserve is the first biosphere reserve of Odisha. It was notified on May 20, 1996. It has an area of a 5,569-square kilometre.