Forest fire in India: Implication and way out

A forest fire was started in Simlipal, Asia’s Second Largest Biosphere Reserve, in February, had been raging for nearly a week, was finally brought under control. The Similipal National Park and Tiger Reserve is spread out over 2,750 sq. km, and is known for its tiger and elephant population. The Government of India declared Simlipal to be a biosphere reserve in 1994 and UNESCO added the national park to its list of biosphere reserves in 2009.


                                        Biosphere Reserves (BRs) are representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof and representative examples of bio-geographic zones/provinces; promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

       They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Tripartite functions of BR (Conservation, Development and logistic support);

          To conserve the diversity and integrity of plants and animals within natural ecosystems; To safeguard genetic diversity of species on which their continuing evolution depends;

              To ensure sustainable use of natural resources through most appropriate technology for improvement of economic well-being of the local people;

                To provide areas for multi-faceted research and monitoring and to provide facilities for education and training.

           BR scheme is different from other conservation related schemes. It has the focus on the welfare of local inhabitants through provision of supplementary and alternate livelihood support to the people in the buffer and transition zones in order to reduce biotic pressure on biodiversity of the natural reserves of core zone.

        International Status of Biosphere Reserves (BR) The UNESCO has introduced the designation ‘Biosphere Reserve’ for natural areas to minimize conflict between development and conservation. BRs are nominated by national government which meet a minimal set of criteria and adhere to minimal set of conditions for inclusion in the world network of Biosphere reserves under the Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme of UNESCO.


  1. All rights of people within a National Park have to be settled while rights over land can be allowed inside a Sanctuary.
  2. Grazing of livestock can be permitted inside a Sanctuary but not inside a National Park.
  3. A Sanctuary can be upgraded as a National Park. However a National Park cannot be downgraded as a Sanctuary.
  4. People can collect firewood, fruits, medicinal plants and other stuff in small scale from the sanctuary. But the park can not be used for any reason like, firewood, timber, fruits etc.

List of Biosphere Reserves of India The first of India’s reserves to make it to UNESCO’s list was Tamil Nadu’s Niligiri Biosphere Reserve in 2000. Besides this, West Bengal’s tiger-territory Sunderbans, Meghalaya’s Nokrek (home to the red panda) and the Great Nicobar (known for its saltwater crocodiles) have been included in the Network over the years.  

Sl. No Year Name State Type Key Fauna
1 2008 Great Rann of Kutch   Gujarat Desert Indian Wild Ass
2 1989 Gulf of Mannar Tamil Nadu Coasts Dugong or Sea Cow
3 1989 Sundarbans West Bengal Gangetic Delta Royal Bengal Tiger
4 2009 Cold Desert Himachal Pradesh Western Himalayas Snow Leopard
5 1988 Nanda Devi Uttarakhand Western Himalayas NA
6 1986  Nilgiri BR Reserve T&N, Kerala  Karnataka Western Ghats NilgiriTahr, Lion-tailed macaque
7 1998 Dihang-Dibang Arunachal Pradesh Eastern Himalaya NA
8 1999 Pachmarhi BR Madhya Pradesh Semi-Arid Giant Squirrel, Flying Squirrel
9 2010 Seshachalam Hills Andhra Pradesh Eastern Ghats NA
10 1994 Simlipal Odisha Deccan Peninsula Gaur, Royal Bengal Tiger, Wild elephant
11 2005 Achanakamar -Amarkantak Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Maikala Hills NA
12 1989 Manas Assam East Himalayas Golden Langur, Red Panda
13 2000 Khangchendzonga Sikkim East Himalayas Snow Leopard, Red Panda
14 2001 Agasthyamalai BR Kerala, TN Western ghats Nilgiri Tahr, Elephants
15 1989 Great Nicobar BR Andaman and Nicobar Islands Islands Saltwater Crocodile
16 1988 Nokrek Meghalaya East Himalayas Red Panda
17 1997 Dibru-Saikhowa Assam East Himalayas Golden Langur
18 2011 Panna Madhya Pradesh Ken River Tiger, Chital, Chinkara, Sambharand Sloth bear

Ten of the eighteen biosphere reserves of India are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme list. They are given in ‘bold’ in the above list.( Gulf of Mannar, Nokrek, Great Nicobar, Agasthyamalai, Achanakamar –Amarkantak, Simlipal, Pachmarhi, Nilgiri, Nanda Devi, Sundarbans).                                      

                       Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. This diversity is often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms. Biodiversity also includes genetic differences within each species – for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock. Chromosomes, genes, and DNA-the building blocks of life-determine the uniqueness of each individual and each species. Yet another aspect of biodiversity is the variety of ecosystems such as those that occur in deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, and agricultural landscapes. In each ecosystem, living creatures, including humans, form a community, interacting with one another and with the air, water, and soil around them. Protecting biodiversity is in our self-interest. Biological resources are the pillars upon which we build civilizations. Nature’s products support such diverse industries as agriculture, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, horticulture, construction and waste treatment. The loss of biodiversity threatens our food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions.


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