Introducing biosphere reserves:
Under the initiative of UNESCO’S Man and Biosphere (MAB), certain terrestrial and coastal ecosystems are labeled as biosphere reserves for enabling a better conservation of biodiversity. These reserves are internationally recognized and also include larger areas of land rather than just a national park or a sanctuary. The idea came into existence in 1974, and its objective was to obtain international cooperation for the conservation of our ecosystem. So far, MAB has been very successful in pursuing its dream of protecting our natural resources. In this era of globalization and urbanization, through their initiative MAB has proved that if you deem it to be done, conserving the biodiversity of Mother Earth is not a difficult task.
All thanks to them that today many governments have joined hands with MAB to take the venture forward and to help in reaching out to the less known communities. They provide protection not just to the flora and fauna residing in the reserves but also to the human communities who live in the neighbourhood. “ Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as ‘living laboratories’ for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.” I suppose none of the revolutions against degradation of our environment that happened in the past few years were as successful as the Biosphere Reserve initiative of MAB. In fact, the 20th century India is already home to 18 biosphere reserves. Can you believe that? And of all countries that articulate the importance of keeping their surroundings clean and not do anything, India has finally started realizing the value of a natural environment.
The three objectives raised by MAB for initiating a biosphere reserve:
- In-situ conservation of biodiversity of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes.
- Contribution to the sustainable economic development of the human population living within and around the Biosphere Reserve.
- Provide facilities for long-term ecological studies, environmental education and training and research and monitoring.
It is the Ministry of Environment and Forest that provides financial assistance to all those State governments that have shown interest in opening a biosphere reserve. In fact there are about 500 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries. However MAB has also kept some criteria’s in selecting an area as a biosphere reserve. Firstly, in order to fulfill the objectives aimed at by a biosphere reserve, they have included the process of dividing into zones a biosphere reserve to make the job easier. Core areas (dedicated to the conservation of the ecosystem), Buffer areas for sustainable use and Transition areas for the equitable sharing of benefits are the three broadly classified zones of a biosphere reserve.
To effectively protect the core area of a reserve along with the protection of land and water needed for research and management is the primary criteria in nominating a patch of land as a potential biosphere reserve. The core area should also be representing “all tropic levels in the ecosystem.” The secondary criteria refer to the area under a biosphere reserve. It should be the home to rare and endangered species. Diversity of the soil and micro-climatic conditions and indigenous variety of biota is a necessity. And finally, the area should have the potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of environment.
Now here is a list of the names of the 18 Biosphere Reserves in India:
1. NILGIRI: Nilgiris was the first government designated biosphere reserve in India. I t was made a biosphere reserve in the year 1986 (1st August) and covers 5520 square kilometers in area.
2. NOKREK: Nokrek includes parts of the East, West and Southern Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Made a biosphere reserve in 1988, the Red Panda is the key fauna of the region.
3. NANDA DEVI: Both a national park and a biosphere reserve, Nanda Devi was also given the status of a biosphere reserve in 1988. Situated in Uttarakhand, the reserve is 5860 square kilometers long.
4. GULF OF MANNAR: The reserve at the Gulf of Mannar is shared by two countries, India and Sri Lanka. The Indian part extends from the Rameswaram Island in the North to Kanyakumari in the South. A coastal biosphere reserve, you can find Dugongs (Sea Cows) at Mannar.
5. SUNDARBANS: Covering the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra river valleys, the Royal Bengal Tiger is the chief attraction at Sunderbans. Located in West Bengal, Sunderbans was formed on the 29th of March, 1989.
6. MANAS: The biosphere reserve at Manas conserve parts of the major forest areas of Assam. An Eastern Himalayas type of reserve the Golden Langur and the Red Panda are the key fauna of this 2837 square kilometers long reserve.
7. GREAT NICOBAR: The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve is located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Though the reserve is only 885 square kilometers in area, you will find a lot of Saltwater Crocodiles in these islands.
8. SIMILIPAL: Similipal, located in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha was made a biosphere reserve on June 21st,1994. Wild elephants and Gaurs are the chief attractions of Similipal.
9. DIBRU-SAIKHOWA: Located in Assam, covering parts of the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts, Dibru-Saikhowa was made a biosphere reserve in 1997. The area comprises of almost all the forest types and is rich in both flora and fauna.
10. DIHANG-DIBANG: 2nd September 1998 was witness to designating Dihang-Dibang a biosphere reserve. Located in Arunachal Pradesh, the Reserve was “the last stronghold for many Himalayan species.”
11. PACHMARHI: Pachmarhi is a semi-arid biosphere reserve located in Madhya Pradesh. The reserve is home to over 510 villages and also has many endemic species like the Barasinga, Wild Buffalo, and the Red Jungle Fowl.
12. KHANGCHENDZONGA: The biosphere reserves of Khangchendzonga include parts of the North and Western districts of Sikkim.
13. AGASTHYAMALAI: Located in Kerala, this biosphere reserve harbors the most diverse ecosystems in Peninsular India.
14. ACHANAKAMAR – AMARKANTAK: Covering regions of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, the biosphere reserve at Achanakamar was formed in 2005.
15. KUTCH: The Great Rann of Kutch is located in Gujarat and is 7770 square kilometers long. The reserve at Kutch is also home to the almost extinct Snow Leopards.
16. COLD DESERT: Located in Himachal Pradesh, Cold Desert also includes national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
17. SESHACHALAM: The hills of Seshachalam, covering parts of Chittoor and Kadapa districts is located in Andhra Pradesh.
18. PANNA: Panna, located in Madhya Pradesh is the latest of the biosphere reserves in India. It was formed in 2011.