Expanding biosphere footprint

  • 3rd November, 2022

(MainsGS3:Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.)


  • November 3 is the first ‘The International Day for Biosphere Reserves’, to be celebrated beginning 2022. 
  • The purpose of the International Day for Biosphere Reserves is to provide a wake-up call on the sustainable development approach to modern life and the leading and exemplary role that the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) can play in this regard.

An international example:  

  • The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, launched in 1971, is UNESCO’s oldest intergovernmental scientific programme and it is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021 and 2022. 
  • The MAB Programme and the biosphere reserve model have, over the past 50 years, become an international example of sustainable territorial development and highlight UNESCO’s and the MAB’s commitment to the global biodiversity agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • There are now 738 properties in 134 countries, including 12 in India, four in Sri Lanka, and three in the Maldives.

Unique tool for cooperation :

  • The WNBR, an amazing network of sites of excellence, is a unique tool for cooperation through sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, building capacity and promoting best practices. 
  • Its members are always ready to support each other and this kind of help extended through the network is of great importance because the ecological carrying capacity of the planet earth has been exceeded. 
  • We have to revert to living in harmony with nature — to breathe clean air again, have access to enough good water, eat nutritious and affordable food, and live in dignity.
  • The best concept for ‘Living in Harmony with Nature’ that exists in the United Nations system, is the WNBR, making these places more important today than ever before, where humans are thriving and relearning how to live with nature.

Network in South Asia:

  • In South Asia, over 30 biosphere reserves have been established. The first one was the Hurulu Biosphere Reserve, in Sri Lanka, with 25,500 hectares of tropical dry evergreen forest. 
  • In India, the first biosphere reserve was designated by UNESCO in 2000, namely, the blue mountains of the Nilgiris stretching over Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. India’s network of reserves has gone from strength to strength.
  • Considering the massive long-term threats to human survivability (besides pandemics and armed conflicts), such as biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution and population dynamics, accelerated by the blind belief in technological solutions for all problems, we need many more biosphere reserves globally. 

Science-based management:

  • Biosphere reserves have all developed science-based management plans, where local solutions for sustainable human living and nature conservation are being tested, and best practices applied. 
  • Issues of concern include biodiversity, clean energy, climate, environmental education, and water and waste management, supported by scientific research and monitoring.
  • All biosphere reserves are internationally recognised sites on land, at the coast, or in the oceans. Governments alone decide which areas to nominate. 
  • Before approval by UNESCO, the sites are externally examined and If approved, they will be managed based on a plan, reinforced by credibility checks while remaining under the sovereignty of their national government.

Looking towards south asia:

  • Some of the countries in South Asia do not yet have any or enough biosphere reserves thus more financial support from the richer nations and the private sector would be desirable to advance biosphere reserves in these countries.
  • The existence of the new World Network of Mountain Biosphere Reserves provides a welcome opportunity for Bhutan and Nepal to establish their first biosphere reserves and participate in the world network. 
  • If these pockets of hope can expand, 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 where we will truly live in harmony with nature is possible.


  • As India is a vast sub-continent, an emerging superpower of unlimited opportunities, it needs to take beacon and become an important global player on environmental sustainability issues.

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