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Approach:

  1. Introduction
  2. Briefly mention about the erosion of biodiversity.
  3. Mention about the salience of BRs.
  4. Conclusion stating the need for more BRs in S. Asia.

Biodiversity is the living fabric of our planet, underpinning human well-being for the present and the future. According the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services 2019 by IPBES, the main global drivers of biodiversity loss are climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution and urbanization.

The ecological carrying capacity of the earth has largely been exceeded due to the collective excesses by the global commons. This trend needs reversal with cleaner air, high quality drinking water, and enough food & healthy habitats to ensure continual benefits from ecosystem services without critically affecting natural balance. In fact, much has been accomplished for protecting nature, including establishment of conservation areas along with ratification of numerous international conventions.

Salience of Biosphere Reserves: the best mechanism created till date is the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 1971. Biosphere reserves are places where humans harmoniously cohabit with nature – contributing to sustainable development & nature conservation. It provides various ecosystem services like soil fertilization, nutrient cycling, pest regulation, erosion control, pollination, etc., besides giving livelihoods to the local populace. In South Asia, over 30 biosphere reserves have been established. The 1st such reserve was the Hurulu BR (1977) in  Sri Lanka. India’s first biosphere reserve was designated by UNESCO in 2000 within the Nilgiris – the Nilgiri BR. Thereafter, the network has expanded with Panna (Madhya Pradesh) being the latest inscription in 2020.

South Asia hosts very diverse ecosystems. The Khangchendzonga BR (2018) is a good model which includes some of the highest ecosystems in the world, with elevations more than 8000 m. More than 35,000 people inhabit there with several rare floras & faunas. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives all have extensive coastlines with coral reefs & mangrove forests. These areas are exposed to extreme weather and sea-level rise. Recently, UNESCO has partnered with Maldives to embark a pilot plan for conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems, and enhance knowledge on climate change adaptation. Separately, 3 biosphere reserves have been created in Maldives.

UNESCO’s BRs have all developed science-based management plans, where local solutions for sustainable human living and nature conservation are being practically applied. The aim is to detect changes and find solutions to increase climate resilience. The sites are internationally recognized by UNESCO but remain under the sovereignty of national governments.

Need for more reserves in South Asia ?: some countries in S. Asia lack any or enough biosphere reserves. This is primarily due to dearth of know-how and financial resources. Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are on the UNESCO’s priority list as they do not have any BR. It is also held that the number of BRs need increase in India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. If these ‘pockets of hope’ can be expanded with more and larger sites covering terrestrial surfaces, including coastal areas with their offshore islands, it will give realization to millions that a better future is truly possible by living in harmony with the nature.

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