EXPANDING THE WORLD’S BIOSPHERE FOOTPRINT

  • November 3 will be the first ‘The International Day for Biosphere Reserves’, to be celebrated beginning 2022.
  • The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) was formed in 1971, as a backbone for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, and living in harmony with nature.
  • There are now 738 properties in 134 countries, including 12 in India, four in Sri Lanka, and three in the Maldives.
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal do not have biospheres as yet, but help is on its way:
  • 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.
  • UNESCO is ready to assist in carrying out a professional potentiality analysis. In addition, an expert mission has been planned for spring 2023 — to Bhutan, India’s north-east and the Sundarbans in Bangladesh.

An ideal platform to network

  • 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. 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.
  • Our planet has been set up uniquely in the solar system so that ecosystems can function and provide a home for all living creatures.
  • From whatever vantage point we look at nature conservation — an environmental, cultural or even a religious point of view — it is our responsibility to respect nature.
  • 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.

Opportunities 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. South Asia offers countless options.
  • India is a vast sub-continent, an emerging superpower of unlimited opportunities. It has become an important global player on environmental sustainability issues.
  • India is likely to become the world’s most populated country in 2023.
  • Spain, with a landmass of 506,000 km2, and a population of 47.4 million is one of the lead participating WNBR countries globally, with 53 properties.
  • In a comparison with the surface size of Spain to India (ca. 3.3 million km2), and India’s human population of ca.
  • 4 billion people, it appears a good idea to carry out a potentiality analysis of biosphere reserves in India, with a focus on the seven sisters in north-east India.
  • South Asia has a very diverse set of ecosystems, with Bhutan, India, and Nepal combined having thousands of glaciers, surrounded by lakes and alpine ecosystems.
  • As an article by Eric Falt highlights, 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. If approved, they will be managed based on a plan, reinforced by credibility checks while remaining under the sovereignty of their national government.

A perspective

  • Some of the countries in South Asia do not yet have any or enough biosphere reserves.
  • In most, if not all cases, the political will is certainly there, but there is a lack of know-how and financial resources.
  • Of course, more financial support from the richer nations and the private sector would be desirable to advance biosphere reserves in these countries. Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal are on our priority list.
  • 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 is truly possible — one where we will truly live in harmony with nature.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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