Differences between Biosphere Reserves and National Parks/ Sanctuaries

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Differences between Biosphere Reserves and National Parks/ Sanctuaries

A wildlife sanctuary is a place of refuge where endangered, abused, injured or indigenous wildlife may live without pressure. This is generally a refuge or end-of-line destination for surplus animals. It should be noted that some “sanctuaries” rely on breeding animals for resale to supplement operation expenses. True wildlife sanctuaries do not breed or exploit for commercial activities (including, but not limited to: use of animals for entertainment or sport, sale or trade of animals, their offspring or animal parts and by-products.)

In its broadest sense a national park is anything reserved for conservation purposes. Often it is a site of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently, there is a common idea: the conservation of ‘wild nature’ for posterity and as a symbol of national pride.

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as “living laboratories” for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.

Rationale Behind Biosphere Reserves

In 1973 UNESCO launched a worldwide programme on man and biosphere. There has been considerable growth in the protected areas network in the recent years. In 1990 India ratified the World Heritage Convention of 1977 and identified four natural sites of ‘outstanding universal value’. They are (i) Kaziranga National Park in Nayaon and Golaghat districts of Assam, (ii) Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, (iii) Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve in West Bengal and, (iv) Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttaranchal.

The mandate of Animal Welfare Division, now a post of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is to prevent the inflation of unnecessary pain or suffering of animals. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, a new set of rules namely, Animal Birth Control (Dog) Rules, 2001 was notified in December 2002.

How a Biosphere Reserve is declared?

The idea of the biosphere reserve was initiated by UNESCO in 1974 under the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB). The objective of the programme was to obtain international cooperation for the conservation of the biospheres. In the first council meeting, the idea of a biosphere reserve was mooted to conserve biodiversity.

The Government of India constituted a committee of experts in 1979 to identify the potential areas for recognition as Biosphere Reserves as per the guidelines of UNESCO (MAB). The experts identified 14 sites to be declared as Biosphere Reserves. Out of 14 sites, 13 have been declared as Biosphere Reserves.

Critical Wildlife Habitats

A critical wildlife habitat means an area within a national park or a sanctuary that is required to be kept ‘inviolate’ for the purpose of wildlife conservation, as per a provision of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

A critical wildlife habitat means an area within a national park or a sanctuary that is required to be kept ‘inviolate’ for the purpose of wildlife conservation, as per a provision of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

How CWHs are designated?

Critical wildlife habitats (CWH) are defined under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, as the “areas of national parks and sanctuaries where it has been specifically and clearly established, case by case, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of wildlife conservation…”

Guidelines envisage a bigger role for the gram sabha, whose free informed consent must be given before any relocation is carried out. It also seems to ensure that forest rights are settled under the FRA before a CWH can be declared in an area. An expert committee – which includes members of the gram sabha, an ecologist, a tribal welfare NGO and a social scientist apart from the Forest Department’s officers – will now take the main responsibility for determining the habitats. Under the earlier guidelines, the process was to be initiated by the park manager, with a token committee only involved in consultations with forest rights holders.

CWH and Rights of Forest Dwellers

The Forest Rights Act, 2006 recognises forest dwellers’ rights and makes conservation more accountable. It grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused, if any, by the forest laws. It also aims to give communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.

After consultations with villagers and forest-dwellers in a protected area, certain rights will be modified in such a way that interests of both the sides (wildlife and forest dwellers) are taken care of

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