Home » Biosphere reserves: A perfect example of nature-life coexistence

Biosphere reserves: A perfect example of nature-life coexistence


A Biosphere Reserve (BR) refers to an international recognition granted by UNESCO to selected portions of natural and cultural landscapes, covering expansive regions of land or coastal/marine ecosystems, or sometimes a combination of both.

It aims to balance economic and social development with the preservation of nature and associated cultural values. They serve as special environments for both people and nature, demonstrating how humans and nature can coexist while respecting each other’s needs. In the words of UNESCO, it can be considered ‘learning places for sustainable development’.

Biosphere reserves play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable development. In India, these reserves serve as vital ecological hotspots, preserving unique ecosystems, protecting endangered species, and supporting the livelihoods of local communities. Let’s take a closer look at the Biosphere Reserves of India and their significance.

The Government of India has implemented a scheme called Biosphere Reserve since 1986. Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided in a ratio of 90:10 to North-eastern Region States and three Himalayan states, and in a ratio of 60:40 to other states for the maintenance, improvement, and development of certain aspects. A Management Action Plan is formulated by the state government which is further approved and monitored by the Central MAB Committee.

The designation of a Biosphere Reserve requires the following criteria:

1. Protected Core Area: The location should include a core area that is safeguarded and has limited disturbance, which holds great importance for the conservation of nature. This central area must be a bio-geographical entity of sufficient size to support viable populations representing all trophic levels.

2. Involvement of Local Communities: The participation of local communities and the utilization of their knowledge in biodiversity preservation is essential.

3. Preservation of Traditional Modes of Living: The area should have the potential to preserve traditional tribal or rural modes of living in harmony with the environment.

What are the Three Prime Areas of Biosphere Reserve?

1. Core Areas: This is the most protected region within a biosphere reserve, often designated as a National Park or Sanctuary under wildlife protection acts. It is free from human interference and preserves endemic plants, animals, and important genetic reservoirs.

2. Buffer Zones: Surrounding the core area, the buffer zone manages activities in a way that supports the protection of the core zone in its natural condition. Limited tourism, restoration efforts, fishing, grazing, and research and educational activities are permitted in this zone.

3. Transition Zones: Located on the outermost periphery of the biosphere reserve, the transition zone is the region where human activities and conservation efforts coexist in a harmonious manner. The transition zone comprises residential areas, cultivated lands, well-maintained forests, spaces designated for recreational activities, and other economic activities specific to the area.

What are the Functions of Biosphere Reserve?

Biosphere Reserves serve the following functions:

1. Conservation: They manage genetic resources, endemic species, ecosystems, and landscapes, including the protection of wildlife, culture, and customs of indigenous communities.

2. Development: Biosphere Reserves promote sustainable economic and human growth on social, cultural, and ecological levels, focusing on the pillars of sustainable development.

3. Logistic Support: They facilitate research activities, environmental education, training, and monitoring in the context of local, national, and international conservation and sustainable development efforts.

What is the Man and Biosphere Programme?

Launched in 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an intergovernmental scientific initiative that aims to establish a scientific foundation for improving the relationship between people and their environments. MAB integrates natural and social sciences, economics, and education to enhance human livelihoods, equitable sharing of benefits, and the conservation of natural and managed ecosystems. It promotes innovative approaches to economically sustainable development that are socially and culturally appropriate, as well as environmentally sustainable.

India currently boasts 18 designated Biosphere Reserves spread across different states and union territories. These reserves are recognized by UNESCO under its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program.

India’s 18 Biosphere Reserves includes:

1. Cold Desert, Himachal Pradesh

2. Nanda Devi, Uttarakhand

3. Khangchendzonga, Sikkim

4. Dehang-Debang, Arunachal Pradesh

5. Manas, Assam

6. Dibru-Saikhowa, Assam

7. Nokrek, Meghalaya

8. Panna, Madhya Pradesh

9. Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh

10. Achanakmar-Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh

11. Kachchh, Gujarat (Largest Area)

12. Similipal, Odisha

13. Sundarbans, West Bengal

14. Seshachalam, Andhra Pradesh

15. Agasthyamala, Karnataka-Tamil Nadu-Kerala

16. Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu-Kerala

17. Gulf of Mannar, Tamil Nadu

18. Great Nicobar, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

What can be the Way Forward?

To ensure the land rights of tribal communities that depend on forest resources in transition areas, it is crucial to secure their rights. Additionally, marketing resources like spices from Kerala’s reserves with “Biosphere Reserve Tags” can increase their value. It is advisable to give thought to the adoption of the Munnar declaration, which proposes the establishment of biosphere reserves in the biogeographic zones of deserts and the Gangetic plain. As the concept of biosphere reserves aims for sustainable development, finding a suitable alternative term for “reserve” is recommended. Moreover, the government needs to adopt strict measures to combat the intrusion of non-native species in different biosphere reserves, including the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

The Biosphere Reserves of India stand as testament to the country’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage. They serve as invaluable ecosystems that protect biodiversity, support local communities, and inspire future generations to appreciate and conserve the rich natural diversity of the nation.


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