World Network of Biosphere Reserves Current Affairs - 2020

Khangchendzonga becomes 11th Biosphere Reserve from India under World Network of Biosphere Reserves

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve in Himalayan state of Sikkim was included in UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), making it 11th Biosphere Reserve from India to achieve this recognition. The decision was taken at 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held in Palembang, Indonesia.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

It is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1, 220 metres above sea-level. It includes range of ecolines, varying from sub-tropic to Arctic (tundra), as well as natural forests in different biomes, that support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.

Its core area is major transboundary Wildlife Protected Area. Its southern and central landscape which makes up 86% of core area is situated in Greater Himalayas. Its northern part of accounting for 14% of area is characterized by trans-Himalayan features.

The core zone of Khangchendzonga National Park already has been designated World Heritage Site in 2016 under ‘mixed’ category (first from India in this category). Many of mountains, peaks, lakes, caves, rocks, Stupas (shrines) and hot springs in this biosphere reserve function as pilgrimage sites.

The core zone of this biosphere reserve alone has over 150 glaciers and 73 glacial lakes, the prominent is famous 26-km-long Zemu glacier. It is also home to number of globally threatened fauna including musk deer, snow leopard, red panda and Himalayan Tahr and many ethnic communities including Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese.

Over 118 species of large number of medicinal plants are found in Dzongu Valley of this reserve which are of ethno-medical utility. The transition zone of reserve is targeted for eco-development activities, afforestation, plantation of medicinal herbs and soil conservation measures.

Biosphere reserves

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems which promote conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They serve in some ways as ‘living laboratories’ for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. They are internationally recognized within framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme and nominated by national governments. There is World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) under MAB Programme. Within this network, exchanges of information, experience and personnel are facilitated. There are over 500 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries. India has total 18 Biosphere Reserves and with inclusion of Khangchendzonga number of internationally designated WNBR has become 11 and remaining 7 Biosphere Reserves are domestic Biosphere Reserves.

Man & Biosphere Programme

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme was launched in 1971 with aim of promoting interdisciplinary research, training, and communications in field of ecosystem conservation and rational use of natural resources. The programme is suited to respond to results of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and especially the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Selection of Biosphere Reserves

Primary Criteria: Site must contain effectively protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation. It should also include additional land and water suitable for research and demonstration of sustainable methods of research and management. Its core area should be typical of biogeographical unit and large enough to sustain viable populations representing all trophic levels in the ecosystem.

Secondary Criteria: Areas having rare and endangered species, Areas having diversity of soil and micro-climatic conditions and indigenous varieties of biota, Areas potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of environment.

India’s Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves

India’s Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR) was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

It was included along with other 19 sites at the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (ICCMAB) programme of UNESCO that concluded recently in Lima, Peru.

With the addition of the ABR, total 10 of the 18 biosphere reserves in the country have made it to the list of World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

The other 9 Biosphere Reserves are: Nilgiri (Western Ghats), Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu), Sunderban (West Bengal), Nanda Devi (Uttarakhand), Nokrek (Meghalaya), Pachmarh (Madhya Pradesh), Similipal (Odisha), Achanakmar-Amarkantak (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) and Great Nicobar.

The BRs are designated for inclusion in the network by the ICCMAB after evaluating the nominations forwarded by the State through National MAB Committees.

About Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR)

  • ABR in situated at the southern-most end of the Western Ghats and spread over two southern states Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It was established in 2001.
  • The reserve is named after Agastya Mala peak that rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram,Kerala.
  • It covers an area of 3,500 sq km at an altitude ranging from 100 metres to 1,868 metres above the Mean Sea Level.
  • It covers Peppara and Shendurney wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.
  • Flora: It mostly consists of tropical forests and is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic.
  • About 400 Red Listed Plants have been recorded from ABR. About 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve.
  • Fauna: It is home to rare animals include the tiger, Asian Elephant, and Nilgiri Tahr.
  • Tribe: It is home to the Kanikaran tribe, one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.

About Biosphere Reserves (BR)

  • They are places for learning about sustainable development that aims to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources.
  • In India, BRs protect larger areas of natural habitat and often include one or more National Parks.
  • In BRs, protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions and their ways of life.
For more information: Biosphere Reserves