Biosphere Reserves in India – List of Total 18 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Biosphere Reserves in India are defined as the widespread areas of biodiversity in which flora and fauna are protected. These reserves serve enormous functions such as 9+conservative functions, provide logistic support and also facilitate development. There are a total of 18 Biosphere Reserves in India, and 12 are a part of the UNESCO List of Man & Biosphere Reserves Programme. These areas nurture and promote biodiversity. 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 and becomes a part of the World Network of Biosphere. Detailed knowledge of this topic is essential for the aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam. Check the complete list of Biosphere Reserves in India along with the details about the largest, first, and latest Reserves in India.

What are Biosphere Reserves in India?

The Bioreserve in India 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 are 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 reserves 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 wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks. Here protection is provided to all the living organisms around the boundaries.

Latest Biosphere Reserve in India- Odisha Government has taken the initiative to facilitate the status of the Biosphere Reserve at Mahendragiri Hill Complex. If this happens, Odisha will have its second Biosphere Reserves after Similipal.

List of Biosphere Reserves in India

There are 18 total Biosphere Reserves in India. The candidates can walk through the list that has been elaborated to gain details of the reserves and their locations. All Biosphere Reserves in India are announced by the central or state government, and the government can nominate the Biosphere Reserves under UNESCO’s MAB Programme after their institution as Biosphere Reserves.

Number of Biosphere Reserves in India
All 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 the Anupur and Dindori districts of M.P. and parts of the Bilaspur districts of Chhattisgarh 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 covers parts of the Chittoor and Kadapa districts of Andhra Pradesh.
Panna 2011 Part of Panna and Chhattarpur districts in Madhya Pradesh.

History of Biosphere Reserves in India

UNESCO released the biosphere reserve network in 1971, two years after the initiation of the biosphere program and UNESCO Mab India. 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 were established in 1979, and now there are 701 total Biosphere Reserves across 124 countries, and among them are 21 transboundary sites.
Biosphere Reserves in India Details
Total Biosphere Reserves in India There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India.
UNESCO Recognised Biosphere Reserves in India There are 12 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in India.
Largest Biosphere Reserve in India The Gulf of Kachchh is the largest Biosphere Reserve in India with an area of 12,454 km2.
First Biosphere Reserve in India Nilgiri was the first Bioreserve in India notified on 01 September 1986.
Smallest Dibru-Saikhowa is the smallest Biosphere in India with an area of 765 km2.

Structure of Biosphere Reserves

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in India has three zones: core area, buffer zone, and transition area. Check the details of the structure of biosphere reserves and their major elements.

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

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. 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, the 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

Man and Biosphere Programme

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.

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in India

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 UNESCO Recognised Biosphere Reserves in India. 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

Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC
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.

Criteria for Biosphere Reserves in India

Certain conditions must be met to fulfill 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 in India

The Biosphere Reserves safeguards national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The major functions include the conservation of flora and fauna, facilitating environmental education, and promoting and fulfilling sustainable development goals. Each Biosphere Reserve in India fulfills 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

The candidates can check the list of the biosphere reserves in India, which will provide an idea of the distribution of the 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

The national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves are essential elements in conserving the biodiversity of India. Check here for a detailed description of these areas of conservation-

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 that 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

Biosphere Reserves in India topic is important and can be asked about in terms of Geography or Environment. The topic can be asked in both UPSC Prelims and Mains. To ensure you can answer all questions from the Biosphere Reserve topic, you must learn all the names and their locations on the map.

MCQs on Biosphere Reserves in India

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.

Question: When was the Biosphere Reserve Programme initiated by UNESCO? [A] 1968 [B] 1972 [C] 1974 [D] 1976

Answer: Option [B] 1972

Question: Take into consideration the following statements and select the correct option. [1] The Man and Biosphere Programme was initiated by UNESCO in 1986. [2] The First Biosphere Reserve in India is Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Options: [A] Only 1 is correct, [B] Both 1 and 2 are correct [C] Only 2 is correct [D] Neither 1 nor 2 is correct.

Answer: Option B [Both 1 and 2 are correct] The Man and Biosphere Programme was initiated by UNESCO in 1986 and The First Biosphere Reserves in India is Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Question: What is the total number of Biosphere Reserves of India present at the World Networking of Biosphere Reserves? [A] 7 [B] 8 [C] 9 [D] 10

Answer: Option [C] 9

Question: Which one of the following is not the aim of the Biosphere Reserves? [A] To enhance tourism [B] To safeguard biodiversity [C] To enhance cultural diversity [D] To uplift education and research

Answer: [A] To enhance tourism.

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