National Park And Wild Life Reserves Of India

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In 1988, there were 54 national parks and 372

sanctuaries covering a total area of 109,652 sq km. By the year 2000, this number had

increased to 566, covering 1,53,000 sq km, or 4.66% of India’s geographical area. There

are currently about 597 national parks and sanctuaries in India, encompassing 1,54, 572

sq km or 4.74% of the country’s geographical area. The latest review of the Wildlife

Protected Area Network document brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India,

Dehradun, recommends to bring the total area under the Protected Area network to 870,

totaling 1,88,764 sq km or 5.74 % of the country’s geographical area. This would

translate into 163 national parks covering 54,789 sq km or 1.67% and 707 sanctuaries

covering 1,33,975 sq km, or 4.07 % of the countries geographical area. Recently, the

Bombay Natural History Society, in collaboration with various NGOs and government,

has identified 463 important bird areas (IBAs). Out of these 463 IBAs, 199 are not

officially protected. Many of these IBAs are extremely important for bird and general

biodiversity protection and should be included in the PA network system. Similarly, the

Wildlife Trust of India along with the Asian Elephant Research and the Conservation

Centre have identified 88 elephant corridors that also need protection and lie outside the

PA network

Biosphere Reserves

Apart from the protected areas system mandated under the WPA,1972, certain areas have

also been declared as biosphere reserves by the Government of India. The Wildlife

Institute of India states the following as the reason for the formation of Biosphere

Reserve (source: http://www.wii.gov.in/nwdc/biosphere.htm):

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The programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated under the ‘Man and Biosphere’

(MAB) programme by UNESCO in 1971. The purpose of the formation of the biosphere

Reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality,

so that it could serve as a referral system for monitoring and evaluating changes in

natural ecosystems

In the current situation, the selection of a Biosphere Reserve is based on considerations,

which are generally ad hoc. In all instances, significant areas of Biosphere Reserves are

managed either as Sanctuaries or National Park and as such all the applicable restrictions

in such PAs are operative

There is a need to develop guidelines for the formation of Biosphere Reserves, which lay

down clearly not only the criteria but also the management implications. In the existing

situation, it is not clear as to how the object of a Biosphere Reserve is significantly

different from National Parks and Sanctuaries. It is pertinent to point out that only 3 of

the 13 Biosphere Reserves meet the criterion of the Man and Biosphere Programme of

the UNESCO.

Since management and conservation applications are stricter under the Wildlife

Protection Act, it should not be that instead of creating a Park or Sanctuary a Biosphere

Reserve be created to avoid the regulations of the WPA. Nor is it advisable to

superimpose a biosphere reserve where a PA already exists or to change the category at

this juncture. The attempt should be to establish biosphere reserves where it is neither

appropriate nor feasible to establish one of the four PA categories listed under the WPA.

Some very apt areas where Biosphere Reserves need to be established are the Abhujmar

region of Bastar and the Jarwa Reserve in the Andaman.

Species (Fauna and Flora)

Out of the 12,28,153 life forms described till now in the world, India has about 89,451 or

7.28% and more are likely to be discovered. Nearly 60,000 insects have been identified

till now. About 3,000 out of the 35,000 described species of crustaceans are found in

India. Similarly, its fish fauna is very rich with more than 2,500 fish species known to

occur in India. Other life forms consist of 210 species of amphibians, 456 species of

reptiles, 1225 species of birds and 390 species of mammals.

There are many species of animals endemic to India or the Indian subcontinent. For

example, 36 species of mammals are not found anywhere else in the world. Similarly, we

have 176 species of endemic birds and 214 species of reptiles confined to the Indian

subcontinent, mainly in India. The highest percentage of endemism is found in

amphibians – 128 species of frogs, toads, salamander, etc., out of 209 (61%) are

restricted to India. Moreover, for some species India has the major population. For

instance, nearly 60% of the world’s tigers, 80% of the world’s1 one-horned rhinoceros,

100% of the Asiatic lion, 65% of the Asian elephant and 80% of the world’s gharials, are

found in India.

India is reported to have 16,500-19,400 taxa of flowering plants, which is approximately

7% of all described species in the world. Of these, nearly 107 species are aquatic. The

country has also recorded 48 gymnosperms, 1,135 pteridophytes, 2,850 bryophytes, 2,021

lichens, 6,500 algae and 14, 500 fungi. These are only such species that have been

described till now. Wild plants contribute significantly to livelihood needs with more

than 1,000 species having been recorded to have food value and more than 3,000 species

being recorded for medicinal purposes, besides use in fibre, fodder, gum, dyes, scents,

essential oils and for religious purposes, according to the recently concluded NBSAP

process.

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