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Biosphere Reserves in India

Biosphere Reserves in India: Biosphere reserves are unique regions identified by UNESCO for their exceptional natural features and biological diversity. These areas are crucial for protecting various plant and animal species while promoting sustainable use of natural resources. Biosphere reserves aim to harmonize the conservation of biodiversity with the economic, social, and cultural development of local communities. Managed by national governments, these reserves demonstrate how people and nature can coexist peacefully.

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    Biosphere Reserves in India 2024 History

    In 1971, two years after UNESCO started the MAB-Man and Biosphere program, they created a list of biosphere reserves. These reserves connect with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main goal of biosphere reserves is to protect natural areas while also supporting social, economic, and cultural growth in local communities. Unlike other protected areas, there are no specific laws governing biosphere reserves. The first ones appeared in 1979. Now, there are 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries, including 21 that cross national borders, demonstrating international collaboration in conservation.

    Criteria for Designation of Biosphere Reserve?

    The criteria for designating a biosphere reserve include several key factors.

    • Firstly, the area must encompass representative ecosystems that are significant for biodiversity conservation.
    • Secondly, it should facilitate research, monitoring, and education related to local ecosystems and their sustainable management.
    • Thirdly, there must be a demonstration of efforts to promote sustainable development through partnerships with local communities and stakeholders.
    • Lastly, biosphere reserves should support cultural heritage preservation and promote environmental awareness among the public. These criteria ensure that biosphere reserves serve as models for balancing conservation with sustainable human activities.

    Three Main Zones of Biosphere Reserve

    Biosphere reserves typically consist of three main zones:

    1. Core Zone
      Strictly protected area where biodiversity is conserved without human interference.
      Acts as a reference area for scientific research and monitoring.
    2. Buffer Zone
      Surrounding the core zone, the buffer zone permits controlled human activities within defined limits.
      Activities such as education, research, tourism, and sustainable resource use are permitted.
    3. Transition Zone
      Outermost part where sustainable development is encouraged.
      Communities live and work here, integrating conservation with local economic and cultural activities.

    List of Biosphere Reserves in India with their Location

    Name of Biosphere Year of Notification Location
    Agasthyamalai 2001 Kerala
    Achanakamar – Amarkantak 2005 Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
    Cold Desert 2009 Himachal Pradesh
    Dehang-Dibang 1998 Arunachal Pradesh
    Dibru-Saikhowa 1997 Assam
    Great Nicobar 1989 Andaman & Nicobar Islands
    Gulf of Mannar 1989 Tamil Nadu
    Khangchendzonga 2000 Sikkim
    Kachchh 2008 Gujarat
    Manas 1989 Assam
    Nanda Devi 1988 Uttarakhand
    Nilgiri 1986 Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
    Nokrek 1988 Meghalaya
    Pachmarhi 1999 Madhya Pradesh
    Panna 2011 Madhya Pradesh
    Simlipal 1994 Odisha
    Sunderbans 1989 West Bengal
    Seshachalam Hills 2010 Andhra Pradesh

    List of UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserves

    Year Name States
    2000 Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Tamil Nadu
    2001 Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Tamil Nadu
    2001 Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve West Bengal
    2004 Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve Uttarakhand
    2009 Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve Madhya Pradesh
    2009 Nokrek Biosphere Reserve Meghalaya
    2009 Simlipal Biosphere Reserve Odisha
    2012 Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve Chhattisgarh
    2013 Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve Great Nicobar
    2016 Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve Kerala and Tamil Nadu
    2018 Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve Part of North and West Sikkim districts
    2020 Panna Biosphere Reserve Madhya Pradesh

    Biosphere Conservation in India

    Biosphere conservation in India focuses on protecting diverse ecosystems and species while promoting sustainable development. Through biosphere reserves designated by UNESCO, India strives to balance environmental preservation with economic and social needs. These reserves serve as crucial zones for scientific research, education, and sustainable resource management. By integrating local communities into conservation efforts, India aims to safeguard its natural heritage for future generations, emphasizing harmony between human activities and ecological integrity.

    Functions and Significance of Biosphere Reserves in India (BRII)


    • Biodiversity Conservation: Preserve diverse species, ecosystems, and genetic resources.
    • Ecological Research: Serve as living laboratories for environmental and ecological studies.
    • Sustainable Development: Promote practices that balance conservation with socio-economic growth.
    • Climate Change Mitigation: Aid in understanding and responding to climate change impacts.
    • Cultural Preservation: Protect and promote traditional knowledge and cultural heritage of local communities.
    • Education and Awareness: Provide platforms for environmental education and public awareness initiatives.
    • Eco-tourism: Support eco-friendly tourism that enhances conservation efforts and benefits local economies.


    • Environmental Protection: Essential for maintaining ecological balance and protecting natural habitats.
    • Resource Management: Crucial for sustainable management of natural resources.
    • Policy Development: Inform and influence environmental policies and regulations.
    • Global Recognition: Part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, enhancing international cooperation.
    • UPSC Relevance: Critical topic for UPSC aspirants, highlighting the integration of environmental conservation with administrative planning and development.

    Biosphere Reserves in India UPSC

    The government of Odisha has proposed the Mahendragiri Hill Complex as a Biosphere Reserve. If approved, it will join the Simlipal Biosphere Reserve as the second biosphere reserve in Odisha. The global distribution of biosphere reserves is as follows:

    • 85 sites in 31 African countries
    • 33 sites in 12 Arab nations
    • 157 sites in 24 countries across Asia and the Pacific
    • There are 302 biosphere reserve sites distributed across 38 countries in Europe and North America.
    • Additionally, there are 130 sites spread across 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

    Additionally, the Panna Biosphere Reserve has been internationally recognized as a UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserve. The Indian Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve was included in this prestigious list in 2018, with the status officially granted in 2020.

    Biosphere Reserves in India FAQs

    How many biosphere reserves are in India 2024?

    As of 2024, India has 18 Biosphere Reserves spread across various states and union territories, each designated to protect and conserve unique ecosystems and biodiversity.

    What is the largest Biosphere Reserve in India?

    The Gulf of Kachchh in Gujarat is recognized as India's largest biosphere reserve.

    Which is the first Biosphere reserve in India (BRI)?

    The first Biosphere Reserve in India is the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, established in the Nilgiri Hills, spanning across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.

    Which is the 17th biosphere reserves in India?

    The 17th Biosphere Reserve established in India is the Seshachalam Hills, designated in 2010 in Andhra Pradesh, encompassing regions within the Chittoor and Kadapa districts. The first biosphere reserve in India was established in the Nilgiri Hills.

    Which is the newest Biosphere Reserve in India?

    The newest Biosphere Reserve in India is the Panna Biosphere Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. It recently received the designation of a UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserve, highlighting its ecological significance and conservation efforts.

    Which is the oldest Biosphere Reserve in India?

    The oldest Biosphere Reserve in India is the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, established in the year 1986. It spans an area of 5,520 square kilometers across the states of Tamil Nadu (2,537.6 km²), Karnataka (1,527.4 km²), and Kerala (1,455.4 km²).

    Which is the smallest Biosphere Reserve in India?

    The smallest Biosphere Reserve in India is Dibru-Saikhowa, located in the state of Assam.

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