Expanding Biosphere Footprint

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    In News

    • November 3 is the first ‘The International Day for Biosphere Reserves’, to be celebrated beginning 2022. 

    More about The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR)

    • About:
      • The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) was formed in 1971.
      • WNBR covers internationally designated protected areas, known as biosphere reserves, which are meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature (e.g. encourage sustainable development).
        • They are created under the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB).
    • About the biosphere reserves:
      • All biosphere reserves are internationally recognised sites on land, at the coast, or in the oceans. 
      • There are 738 biosphere reserves in 134 countries, including 22 transboundary sites. They are distributed as follows:
        • 90 sites in 33 countries in Africa
        • 36 sites in 14 countries in the Arab States
        • 172 sites in 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific
        • 308 sites in 41 countries in Europe and North America
        • 132 sites in 22 countries Latin America and the Caribbean.
      • India has 12 internationally recognised BRs. They are as follows:
        • Nilgiri
        • Gulf of Mannar
        • Sunderban
        • Nanda Devi
        • Nokrek
        • Pachmarhi
        • Similipal
        • Achanakmar-Amarkantak
        • Great Nicobar
        • Agasthyamala
        • Khangchendzonga
        • Panna
    • Nomination & approval of biosphere reserves:
      • Governments alone decide which areas to nominate. 
      • Before approval by UNESCO, the sites are externally examined. 
      • If approved, they will be managed based on a plan, reinforced by credibility checks while remaining under the sovereignty of their national government.
    • Functions of Biosphere Reserves:
      • Biosphere Reserves involve local communities and all interested stakeholders in planning and management. They integrate three main “functions”:
      • Conservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity
      • Economic development that is socio-culturally and environmentally sustainable
      • Logistic support, underpinning development through research, monitoring, education and training.

    Structure of Biosphere Reserve

    • They are demarcated into the following 3 interrelated zones:
    • Core Zone: 
      • Includes protected areas, as they act as reference points on the natural state of the ecosystems represented by the biosphere reserves. Have endemic species of plants & animals. 
      • A core zone is a protected region, like a National Park or Sanctuary/protected/regulated mostly under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. 
      • It is kept free from human interference.
    • Buffer Zone: 
      • The buffer zone surrounds the core zone and its activities are managed in this area in ways that help in the protection of the core zone in its natural condition.
      • It includes restoration, limited tourism, fishing, grazing, etc; which are permitted to reduce its effect on the core zone.
      • Research and educational activities are to be encouraged.
    • Transition Zone: 
      • It is the outermost part of the biosphere reserve. It is the zone of cooperation where human ventures and conservation are done in harmony.
      • It includes settlements, croplands, managed forests and areas for intensive recreation and other economic uses characteristics of the region.

    Expansion of biosphere reserves

    • Biosphere reserves in Asia:
      • There are 12 BRs in India, four in Sri Lanka, and three in the Maldives.
      • Some of the countries in South Asia do not yet have any or enough biosphere reserves. 
        • Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal do not have biospheres as yet.
      • In most, if not all cases, the political will is certainly there, but there is a lack of know-how and financial resources. 
    • Need for expansion:
      • According to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released in 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the main global drivers of biodiversity loss are:
        • Climate change, 
        • Invasive species, 
        • Over-exploitation of natural resources, 
        • Pollution and 
        • Urbanisation.
      • The ecological carrying capacity of planet earth has largely been exceeded because of our collective excesses.
      • Therefore, the need was felt to address this trend with cleaner air, high-quality drinking water, and enough food and healthy habitats to ensure that ecosystem services continue to benefit humanity without critically affecting nature’s balance. 

    Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) 

    • MAB is an intergovernmental scientific program, launched in 1971 by UNESCO.
    • Aim:
      • It aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
    • The MAB program provides a unique platform for cooperation on research and development, capacity-building and networking to share information, knowledge and experience on three interlinked issues: 
      • Biodiversity loss, 
      • Climate change and 
      • Sustainable development.
    • The programme addresses challenges linked to scientific, environmental, societal and development issues in diverse ecosystems; from mountain regions to marine, coastal and island areas; from tropical forests to dry lands and urban areas

    Way Ahead

    • The ‘South and Central Asia MAB Reserve’ Networking Meeting (where MAB stands Man and the Biosphere) is planned for 2023, to advance biosphere reserve establishment and management. 
    • In addition, an expert mission has been planned for spring 2023 — to Bhutan, India’s north-east and the Sundarbans in Bangladesh.
    • With at least one biosphere reserve per country in Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal until 2025 (with additional biosphere reserves in India’s North-East and along the coasts) it will give realisation to millions of people that a better future is truly possible — one where we will truly live in harmony with nature.

    Source: TH