Sunderban Biosphere Reserve, the World Heritage Site rich in Biodiversity

By Saroj Singh|Updated : March 19th, 2021

Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve is known for its rich biodiversity - flora and fauna. Locally known as Badabon is regarded as the richest biodiversity hotspots in India. This UNESCO World Heritage site is in the news for good reasons. A recent Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) cites that Sunderbans is home to one-third of India’s bird species.

Importance of the topic for-

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Sunderban Biosphere Reserve, the World Heritage Site rich in Biodiversity

Sunderban is known for coastal forest mainly made up of mangroves that serve as a biological buffer between the sea and land. Until recently, Sunderban was famous for the Royal Bengal Tiger, estuarine crocodile, and Gangetic dolphin. According to a report published by the Zoological Survey of India, "Birds of the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve", concerning India's geographical distribution, out of 1332 bird species in India, 428 species are in Sunderbans, which is also a Ramsar site.   Now, Sunderban is home to one-third of the birds of the whole of India.


Sunderbans is spread across 26,000 sq. km. and distributed amongst 104 islands, and is part of the Ganga Brahmaputra delta. Sunderbans also provides shelter to a large variety of fishes, reptiles, oysters, and crabs.

  • There are several islands, a network of river tributaries and creeks in the Ganga and Brahmaputra delta at the Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh's mouth.
  • 60% of India’s total mangrove forest area are found in Indian Sunderbans.
  • Sunderban’s waterways support a wide range of fauna, including several species threatened with extinction.
  • The mangrove habitat supports the single largest population of tigers in the world. The tiger has adapted to an amphibious life, i.e., capable of swimming for long distances; it can easily feed on fishes, monitor lizards and crab. Also known as ‘man-eaters’, encounters into man-animal wild conflict.


Important Highlights

  • Sunderban was declared as the core area of Sunderban Tiger Reserve in 1973, followed by a wildlife sanctuary in 1977.
  • It was designated as a national park on 4th May 1984. 
  • In 1987, it was granted the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • From 1989 onwards, it is considered a World Network of Biosphere Reserve (Man and Biosphere Reserve). 
  • It is the 27th Ramsar Site in 2019 and the largest protected wetland in India.
  • The Indian Forest Act (with amendments), Wildlife Protection act 1972, Forest Conservation Act 1980 and Environment Protection Act 1986 are effectively enforced in Sunderban.
  • The existing laws are sufficiently strict concerning the protection and conservation of the property.

Economic Importance

  • The Sunderban islands hold great economic importance as a shore stabilizer, storm barrier, nutrient, and sediment trap a source of timber and natural resources. 
  • The regional diversity supports a wide range of fauna species, including aquatic, benthic and terrestrial organisms.
  • Geographically, they are an excellent example of the ecological processes of delta formation, the tidal influence of monsoon rain flooding, and plant colonization. Hence, it has rich biodiversity sustaining livelihood.



What are the major threats Sunderban is facing?

  • The other threats are oil & gas drilling, dredging, logging & wood harvesting, poaching, and animals' hunting.
  • ZSI report highlights that there is a significant threat to the Sunderbans due to changing climate.
  • It further says that the salinity profile critical for mangroves' existence is increasing, which is adversely affecting the biodiversity in the region.
  • Rapid urbanization, cement construction on coasts and unregulated tourism also take a toll on the Sunderban ecosystem.

The ZSI report aims to serve as a manual and reference for scientists and researchers with these findings. The record of wildlife and environmental conditions of Sunderbans will help in conserving this unique mangrove ecosystem. 

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