Biosphere Reserves in India - List of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in India

By Durga Prashanna Mishra|Updated : July 29th, 2022

Biosphere Reserves in India are defined as the widespread areas of biodiversity in which flora and fauna are protected. There are a total of 18 Biosphere Reserves in India, and 12  are a part of the UNESCO List of Man & Biosphere Reserves Programme. Biosphere Reserves are areas of coastal and terrestrial or marine ecosystems or their amalgamation.

An area of land or water certified by UNESCO as having exceptional universal importance due to its natural traits is known as a biosphere reserve. Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC Notes discuss facts and other related information to BR that would be important from the UPSC exam point of view. 

  • Latest News- Odisha Government has taken the initiative to give the status of Biosphere Reserve to Mahendragiri Hill Complex. If this happens, Odisha will have its second Biosphere Reserves after Similipal.
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What are Biosphere Reserves in India?

The biosphere can be defined as water, atmosphere, and land that provide life to the planet. The word “reserve” implies that this is a special area that is designated to maintain a balance between sustainable use and conservation.

  • As mentioned above, Biosphere Reserves is designated by UNESCO, and the main goal behind it is to create a special environment for both people and nature. It simply teaches how human beings and nature can co-exist and fulfill each other’s needs.
  • UNESCO biosphere reserve in India is a great initiative toward protecting nature and ensuring the local economy's healthy growth at the same time. Biosphere Reserves include one or more sanctuaries and National Parks. Here protection is provided to all the living organisms around the boundaries.

History of Biosphere Reserves in India 

UNESCO released the biosphere reserve network in 1971, two years after the initiation of the biosphere program and MAB- Man. According to the law, these regions are related to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

  • Biosphere Reserves also aim to balance social development, economic and maintenance of cultural values, and nature preservation. However, the Biosphere Reserve is not covered under any law.
  • The first Biosphere Reserves was established in 1979, and now there are 701 Total Biosphere Reserves across 124 countries, and among them are 21 transboundary sites.

Structure of Biosphere Reserves 

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in India has three zones: core area, buffer zone, and transition area.

Core Areas:

The Core Area is the safest area of a Biosphere Reserve and may include endemic animals and plants. It is the most suitable area for numerous animal species and plants and may include centers of endemism. Core areas of a Biosphere Reserve often conserve the wild relatives of the economic species. A core area is a sanctuary or national park regulated/protected under the Wildlife Act, 1972.

Buffer Zone:

To simply put, the buffer zone surrounds or adjoins the core zone. Here the activities and uses are managed in such a way that helps protect the natural condition of the core zones. Here the activities and uses include demonstration, restoration sites to increase the value of the resources, tourism, limited recreation, grazing, fishing, etc., which are permitted to reduce their impact on the core zone.

Transition Zone:

This area is the outermost part of the Biosphere Reserve. In this zone greatest activity is permitted to increase human and economic development that is sustainable. This includes croplands, settlements, and managed forests for economic uses.

Biosphere Reserves in India

List of Biosphere Reserves in India

There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India. Biosphere Reserves are announced by the central or state government, and the government can nominate them under the UNESCO’s MAB Programme after its establishment as Biosphere Reserves.

Number of Biosphere Reserves in India

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in India

Year of Notification

Location (States)

Nilgiri

1986

Part of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Madumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley, and Siruvani hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka).

Nanda Devi

1988

Part of Chamoli, Pithoragarh, and Bageshwar districts (Uttarakhand).

Nokrek

1988

Part of Garo Hills (Meghalaya).

Great Nicobar

1989

Southernmost islands of Andaman And Nicobar (A&N Islands).

Gulf of Mannar

1989

The Indian part of the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka (Tamil Nadu).

Manas

1989

Part of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamprup, and Darang districts (Assam).

Sunderbans

1989

Part of the delta of Ganges and Brahmaputra river system

(West Bengal).

Simlipal

1994

Part of the Mayurbhanj district (Orissa).

Dibru-Saikhowa

1997

Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts (Assam).

Dehang-Dibang

1998

Part of Siang and Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.

Pachmarhi

1999

Parts of Betul, Hoshangabad, and Chindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh.

Khangchendzonga

2000

Parts of Khangchendzonga hills and Sikkim.

Agasthyamalai

2001

Neyyar, Peppara, and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuaries and their adjoining areas in Kerala.

Achanakamar – Amarkantak

2005

Covers parts of Anupur and Dindori districts of M.P. and parts of Bilaspur districts of Chhattishgarh State.

Kachchh

2008

Part of Kachchh, Rajkot, Surendra Nagar, and Patan Civil Districts of Gujarat State.

Cold Desert

2009

Pin Valley National Park and surroundings; Chandratal and Sarchu & Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh.

Seshachalam Hills

2010

Seshachalam Hill Ranges covering parts of Chittoor and Kadapa districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Panna

2011

Part of Panna and Chhattarpur districts in Madhya Pradesh.

Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC

MAB Biosphere Reserves in India 

The government nominates Biosphere Reserves that meet the minimal criteria and conditions for inclusion in the world network of Biosphere Reserves under UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Reserve. According to UNESCO, as of July 2021, there are 714 Biosphere Reserves across 129 countries in the world.

  • Man and Biosphere Programme- It was launched in 1971. It is an intergovernmental scientific program that tries to establish a scientific basis for the betterment of relations between environments and people. MAB combines economics, social sciences, and education to better human livelihoods and protect natural and managed ecosystems. The national government nominates Biosphere Reserves for inclusion in the world network of biospheres. Then the committee of the MAB program recognizes the Biosphere Reserve after fulfilling the criteria.

Panna Biosphere Reserve got the international status of UNESCO protected Biosphere Reserve in 2020. With this, 12 out of 18 Biosphere Reserves in India have become a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. They are as follows.

  1. Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
  2. Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve
  3. Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve
  4. Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve
  5. Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve
  6. Nokrek Biosphere Reserve
  7. Simlipal Biosphere Reserve
  8. Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve
  9. Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
  10. Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve
  11. Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve
  12. Panna Biosphere Reserve

The WNBP ( World Network of Biosphere Reserves) includes globally chosen areas. It has an interactive and vibrant network of sites. The main goal is to promote the harmonious assimilation of people and nature. If the government declares one area as Biosphere Reserve, it can be nominated for UNESCO’s MAB program. If UNESCO accepts it, the Biosphere Reserve will be a part of the WNBR or World Network of Biosphere Reserves. 

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Criteria for Designation of Biosphere Reserves

Certain conditions must be met to meet the criteria for the designation of Biosphere Reserves. Following are some conditions that a site must have.

  • A site must have a minimally disturbed and effectively protected core area of nature conservation value.
  • The core area must be typical of a biogeographical unit and be large enough to support viable populations representing all the ecosystem's trophic levels.
  • Here the management authorities need to coordinate local communities to get knowledge and experiences to link socio-economic development and biodiversity conversion while managing all the issues.
  • Areas potential for keeping rural modes of living or traditional tribes for proper use of the environment.

Functions of Biosphere Reserves 

Each Biosphere Reserves in India fulfill these three functions as

Conservation Function

  • To conserve genetic species, landscapes, resources, and ecosystems.
  • Prevent the man-animal conflict
  • Apart from the wildlife, customs and culture of trials are also protected

Logistic Support Function

  • To provide support for analyzing conservation issues and promote environmental education, research activities, and training for the establishment of sustainable development.

Development Function

  • to promote sustainable economic and human development that is sustainable on an ecological and sociocultural ecological level. It aims to strengthen the three pillars of development: economic, social, and protection of the environment.

Distribution of Biosphere Reserves in the World

Here is the distribution of Biosphere Reserves across the world

  • 85 sites in 31 countries in Africa
  • 302 sites in 38 countries in Europe and North America
  • 157 sites in 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific
  • 33 sites in 12 countries in the Arab States
  • 130 sites in 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

National Parks Wildlife Sanctuaries and Biosphere Reserves in India

Biosphere Reserves:

The ICC ( International Coordination Council) of UNESCO’s designation of Biosphere Reserves for natural areas came to life in November 1971. Biosphere Reserves are areas covering land which include multiple sanctuaries, national parks, and reserves. There are three zones in the Biosphere Reserves- Core, Transition, and Buffer. Here no species from outside are allowed. It is also used for research and conservation purposes.

National Park:

National parks are home to birds, animals, and species which are marked by state and central governments. The government owns the land, and this area is safe from human exploitation and pollution. Here grazing, cutting, and outside species are not allowed.

Wildlife Sanctuary:

In this area, endangered species are kept, and it is protected from any activity that might harm the animals. This area is protected by a private or governmental agency and designed to protect the wild fauna. Outside activities are strictly prohibited here.

Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC

The topic of Biosphere Reserves in India is important and can be asked about in terms of Geography or Environment. The topic can be asked in both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. To ensure you can answer all questions from Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC, you must learn all the names and their locations on the map. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in India is an important topic as few questions have been asked in the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers. Download the UPSC Prelims Papers to check if you can solve them. 

Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC Notes PDF

Candidates can download the PDF file below, including all the notes mentioned above on Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC. It would help the candidates to tackle all the questions asked from this section in the UPSC Exams. 

>> Download Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC Notes PDF

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FAQs on Biosphere Reserves in India

  • Biosphere Reserves in India are learning places for sustainable development. In simple words, they are areas for understanding and managing the interactions and changes between ecological and social systems. It comprises both coastal and terrestrial ecosystems.

  • Candidates can download the Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC notes directly from Here. It will help the candidates to strengthen their preparation and attempt all the questions successfully from the Biosphere Reserves in India.

  • The Biosphere Reserves in India are declared by the central or state government by notification. Once the Biosphere Reserve is established, the government can nominate them under the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme which was launched in 1971.

  • The smallest Biosphere Reserve in India is Dibru-Saikhowa. This Biosphere Reserve is located in Assam.

  • The largest Biosphere Reserve in India is the Gulf of Kachchh, and it is located in Gujarat.

  • Biosphere Reserve is an area for the conservation of the biosphere and to make the relationship between man and the environment better. On the other hand, the National Park is a reserved area of land which is owned by the government, and this land is protected from pollution, human exploitation, and industrialization.

  • The World Network of Biosphere Reserves includes internationally designed protected areas. These areas are known as Biosphere Reserves. These areas aim to maintain a balanced relationship between human beings and nature. 

  • Presently there are 18 notified Biosphere Reserves in India namely Nilgiri, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Great Nicobar, Gulf of Mannar, Manas, Sunderbans, Simlipal, Dibru-Saikhowa, Pachmarhi, Dehang-Dibang, Khangchendzonga, Agasthyamalai, Achanakamar – Amarkantak, Kachchh, Cold Desert, Seshachalam Hills, and Panna.

  • Currently, there are 12 internationally recognized Biosphere Reserves in India. They are- Nilgiri , Gulf of Mannar, Sundarbans, Nanda Devi, Pachmarhi, Nokrek Biosphere, Simlipal Biosphere, Achanakmar-Amarkantak, Great Nicobar, Agasthyamala, Kanchenjunga, and Panna Biosphere. 

  • Currently, there are 727 Biosphere Reserves in the 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites. These 22 transboundary sites belong to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

  • The three zones of the Biosphere Reserves are Core, Buffer, and Transition. The core area entirely protects the ecosystem. The buffer zone adjoins or covers the core areas, and the transition zone is a part of the reserve where activity is permitted to boost human and economic development.

  • The Biosphere Reserves contribute to the conservation of natural ecosystems, landscapes, genetic variation, and species. They help to establish an ecologically friendly and socio-culturally environment.

  • Every Biosphere Reserve in India is supposed to fulfill three functions- Conservation, Development, and Logistic support. 

    • It should conserve species, resources, landscapes, and ecosystems.
    • It must increase economic and human development
    • It needs to provide support for research 
  • To become eligible for Biosphere Reserve the area needs to be protected and minimally disturbed, and the core area has to be a bio-geographical unit. 

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