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A second biosphere reserve in the southern part of the state at Mahendragiri, Odisha

Mahendragiri, is a mountain in Rayagada subdivision of the district of Gajapati, Odisha, India.Mahendragiri is associated with the Ramayana as Mahendra Parvata (mountain). It is a ‘Kula Parvata’ along with Malaya, Sahyadri, Parijatra, Shaktiman, Vindhya and Malyavan. In the Puranas and Ramayana It is said that Parashurama was mediating on Mahendragiri when Lord Rama broke the sacred bow of Shiva.

Located in Gajapati and Ganjam districts, the proposed biosphere is located in the biodiversity-rich mountains of Mahendragiri which is spread over 4,70,955 hectares. The hill ecosystem acts as a transitional zone between the flora and fauna of southern India and the Himalayas, making the region an ecological estuary of genetic diversities.

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.

Several environmentalists had recently urged the Odisha government to send an urgent proposal to the Centre to declare Mahendragiri a biosphere reserve. They had done so at a workshop titled Integrated Development of Mahendragiri Hill Complex organised by the Orissa Environmental Society, a non-profit.

A biosphere reserve in Mahendragiri is urgently needed for the conservation of the landscape, ecosystems, rare and threatened plant species in the hill system, which is now under severe degradation.Mahendragiri is inhabited by the Soura people, a particularly vulnerable tribal group as well as the Kondh tribe.

The hills have diverse vegetation, according to the report of the proposed Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve. The rich flora in Mahendragiri represents 40 percent of the reported flora of Odisha, with around 1,358 species of plants.Twenty-nine of the 41 species of threatened medicinal plants found in Odisha.The faunal diversity of the hills consists of 388 species of animals, including 27 species of mammals, 165 species of birds, 23 species of snakes, 15 species of amphibians, three species of turtles and 19 lizards.

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.

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