This article deals with ‘Biodiversity Conservation – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here
Conservation of biodiversity is the protection and scientific management of biodiversity so that present and future generations can derive sustainable benefits from it.
- In-Situ Conservation means conservation in the natural habitat.
- It involves the conservation of the whole ecosystem to protect threatened species at all levels.
- It is done by establishing a ‘PROTECTED AREA NETWORK‘ backed by legislation. These Protected Area Networks are
- National Parks
- Wildlife Sanctuaries
- Biosphere Reserves
- Conservation Reserves
- Community Reserves
- Sacred Grooves
- Eco-Sensitive Zone
- Biodiversity Heritage Sites
- Other steps for In-Situ Conservation of Biodiversity
- ICMBA (Important Coastal & Marine Biodiversity Areas)
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Go Area and No Go Areas
- Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)
1. National Park
- National Park is a natural habitat notified by the state government due to its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, or zoological association of importance.
- These are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- It works on the principle of ‘Everything is prohibited unless permitted.’
- No human interference is allowed. Activities such as development, forestry, hunting, cultivation and grazing are not permitted.
- There are 104 national parks in India (1.23% area of India).
Ranking (for prelims)
- Maximum Area: Uttarakhand
- Maximum number: Madhya Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar with 9 each.
- Punjab, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep have zero National Parks.
List of National Parks
|State||National Parks (NP)|
|Jammu Kashmir||– Dachigam|
|Himachal||– Great Himalayan|
– Pin Valley
|Uttarakhand||– Jim Corbett |
– Valley of flowers
– Nanda Devi
– Rajaji National Park
|Uttar Pradesh||– Dhudwa|
|Rajasthan||– Desert National Park|
– Mukundra Hills
|Gujarat||– Black Buck|
– Gir forest
– Marine National Park, Gulf of Kutch
|Madhya Pradesh||– Bandhavgarh|
– Mandla Plant Fossil
– Sanjay Gandhi
|Chhattisgarh||– Guru Ghasidas|
– Sanjay Gandhi
– Rajiv Gandhi / Rameswaram
|Kerala||– Silent Valley |
– Anamudi Shola
– Mathikettan Shola
|Tamil Nadu||– Madumalai|
– Gulf of Mannar
|Andhra Pradesh||– Papikonda|
|Telangana||– Kasu Brahmananda Reddy|
– Mahavir Harin Vanasthali
|West Bengal||– Singalila National Park |
– Gorumara National Park
– Neoral valley
|Assam||– Dibru Saikhowa|
|Mizoram||– Murlen |
– Phwangpui Blue Mountain
|Manipur||– Keibul Lamjao|
|Tripura||– Rajbari National Park|
– Clouded Leopard National Park
|Andaman & Nicobar||– Campbell bay|
– Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
– Middle Button Island
– North Button Island
– South Button Island
– Saddle Peak
– Rani Jhansi
– Mount Harriet
2. Wildlife Sanctuaries
- Wildlife Sanctuary is an area of adequate ecological, floral, faunal or zoological significance notified by the State Government as a sanctuary.
- The purpose behind the formation of the wildlife sanctuary is to protect endangered species.
- The Wildlife Sanctuaries are declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- It works on the principle of ‘Everything is permitted unless prohibited .’
- Restricted human activities such as grazing, firewood collection, settlement of Adivasis, ecotourism etc., are allowed inside Wildlife Sanctuary as long as animal life is undisturbed.
- There are 544 Wildlife Sanctuaries in India (3.62 % area of India).
Ranking (for prelims)
- The maximum area under Wildlife Sanctuaries is in Gujarat.
- The maximum number of Wildlife Sanctuaries is in Andaman & Nicobar (96), followed by Maharashtra (40).
List of important Wildlife Sanctuaries
Note: The list is not exhaustive.
|Jammu Kashmir||– Karakoram|
– Surinsar Mansar
|Punjab||– Bir Motibagh|
– Harike Pattan
|Himachal||– Pong dam |
– Gobind Sagar
– Naina Devi
– Shikari Devi
– Kalatop and Khajjiar
– Bir Shikargarh
|Delhi||– Indira Priyadarshini|
|Uttarakhand||– Kedarnath |
– Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary
|Uttar Pradesh||– Chandraprabha|
– Okhla bird sanctuary
– National Chambal sanctuary
|Bihar||– Barela Salim Ali Zubba Saheni WLS|
– Gautam Buddha
– Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary
– Gautam Buddha
|Rajasthan||– Mount Abu |
– Jaswant Sagar
– Jawahar Sagar
– Swai Mansingh
|Gujarat||– Kutch desert|
– Indian Wild Ass
|Madhya Pradesh||– Bori|
– Gandhi Sagar
– National Chambal
– Kalsubai Harishchandra
– Great Indian Bustard
|Chhattisgarh||– Achanakmar |
|Goa||– Salim Ali|
– Bird Sanctuary
|Karnataka||– Ghatprabha Bird Sanctuary |
– Ranganathitoo Bird Sanctuary
– Shravati valley
|KERALA||– Waynad |
– Thattekkad bird sanctuary
|Tamil Nadu||– Point Calimere |
– Shenbagathoppu Grizzle Squirrel WLS
|Andhra Pradesh||– Nellattu Bird Sanctuary|
– Kolleru Lake
– Pulicat lake
|Odisha||– Satkosia Gorge |
– Chilika bird sanctuary
|West Bengal||– Lothian island|
– Haliday island
|Assam||– Deepor Bil|
– Sonai Bupai
|Sikkim||– Barsey Rhododendron|
– Shingba Rhododendron
– Eagle nest
– Sessa Orchid
|Andaman&Nicobar||– Ross Island|
3. Biosphere Reserves
- Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial & coastal ecosystems that promote biodiversity conservation with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere (MAB) Programme & nominated by national governments under the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
- The stress of MAB is to protect the threatened habitats and not the particular species.
- Living is not permitted in National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, but Biosphere Reserves have very low restrictions on the residence. Biosphere Reserves are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each other’s needs.
Biosphere Reserves in India
- India has 18 Biosphere Reserves. Out of these 18, 12 are recognized under the UNESCO MAB network.
|Name||Date of notification||Location|
|Nilgiri||1986||Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka |
(It was the first Indian Biosphere Reserve to be recognised under MAB)
|Nokrek||1988||Part of Garo hills (Meghalaya)|
|Great Nicobar||1989||Andaman & Nicobar Islands|
|Gulf of Mannar||1989||Tamil Nadu|
|Sundarbans||1989||Situated in West Bengal, Sundarbans are part of the delta formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems.|
|Agasthyamalai||2001||Kerala (mainly) and Tamil Nadu (small part) .|
|Achanakamar – Amarkantak||2005||M.P. and some parts in Chhattisgarh State.|
|Cold Desert||2009||Himachal Pradesh|
|Seshachalam Hills||2010||Andhra Pradesh|
|National Park||Wildlife Sanctuary||Biosphere Reserve|
|Act||Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972||Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972||Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Reserve Program|
|Level of Human interference allowed||No human interference is allowed.||Limited human interference is allowed.||The purpose is both conservation and sustainable use of the forest by the local community.|
|Permitted activities||Everything prohibited unless permitted.||Everything permitted unless prohibited.|| Established for |
2. Education and recreation
3. Logistic support, i.e. exchange of information on the world network of Biosphere Reserves.
|Changing the boundary||The boundary is sacrosanct, i.e. can’t be altered except by legislation.||The boundary can be altered by executive order.||Boundary can’t be altered except by legislation.|
|Focus of conservation||The focus is on the conservation of selected (few) species.||The focus is on the conservation of a few (selected) species.||The focus is on the conservation of the entire ecosystem.|
4. Conservation Reserves
- The State Government declares conservation Reserves in consultation with local communities in any Government-owned area, especially in the areas lying adjacent to National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and areas linking one Protected Area with another to protect landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna.
- These are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. (added via Amendment in 2002)
- The declaration of the area as a Conservation Reserve doesn’t affect the rights of people living inside a Conservation Reserve.
- There are 97 Conservation Reserves in India. You can check their names by CLICKING HERE.
5. Community Reserves
- The State Government declares Community Reserves in any area owned by any private person or community where an individual or a community has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat.
- These are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. (added via Amendment in 2002)
- The declaration of the area as a Community Reserve doesn’t affect the rights of people living inside a Conservation Reserve.
- There are 214 Community Reserves in India. Almost all of them are in North-East. You can check their names by CLICKING HERE.
Side Topic: Tribes playing important role in Biodiversity Preservation
|Bishnoi||Rajasthan & Punjab||– Bishnois consider trees sacred. |
– Involved in protecting the entire ecosystem, including animals & birds that exist in their villages.
|Chenchu||Andra Pradesh||– Involved in the Tiger Conservation|
|Maldhari||Gujarat||– Involved in Lion Conservation and played the leading role in increasing the number of Lions in Gir.|
|Bugun||Arunachal||– Involved in the protection of endangered Bugun Bird|
|Nyishi||Arunachal||– Involved in the protection of Hornbills|
6. Sacred Groves
- Sacred Groves, also known as Sacred Woods, are groves of trees having some special religious or cultural importance.
- These are protected areas under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (added via amendment in 2002).
A list of Sacred Groves are
|Punjab||– Chat Patt Bani (Pathankot dist) |
– Baba Sukhaiya Ji ( Hoshiarpur Dist)
– Dargah Peer Baba Manju Shah Ji (Ropar Dist)
|Uttarakhand||– Devbhumi |
– Bugyals (Sacred Alpine Meadows)
|Karnataka||– Devara Kadu|
– Sara Kavu
|Tamil Nadu||– Swami shoal|
|Puducherry||– Kovil Kadu|
|Andhra Pradesh||– Pavithravana|
|West Bengal||– Garamthan|
|Meghalaya||– Ki Law Lyngdoh|
– Ki Law Kyntang
– Ki Law Niam
|Arunachal Pradesh||– Gumpa forests (attached to Buddhist Monasteries)|
– Mauhak (sacred bamboo reserve)
7. Biodiversity Heritage Sites
- “Biodiversity Heritage Sites” (BHS) are terrestrial, coastal or inland areas rich in biodiversity, with some of the following characteristics.
- Richness of species
- High endemism
- Presence of keystone species, rare species, threatened species etc.
- Presence of past biological components
- They are declared under National Biodiversity Act, 2002.
8. Eco-Sensitive Zones
- Eco-Sensitive Zones are the areas within a 10 km radius of Protected Areas.
- They are declared under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- The aim of declaring any area as an Eco-Sensitive Zone is to minimize the impacts of activities carried out in the areas surrounding protected areas on the fragile ecosystem of protected areas.
9. ICMBA (Important Coastal & Marine Biodiversity Areas)
- These are declared under AICHI BIODIVERSITY TARGETS.
- The aim is to conserve a substantial portion of the Coastal and Marine Areas.
- Towards achieving this target, 106 coastal and marine sites have been identified and prioritized as Important Coastal and Marine Areas (ICMBAs) by the Wildlife Institute of India.
10. UNESCO World Heritage Site
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the places listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as places of special cultural or physical significance.
Total in India = 40
- 7: Physical
- 1: Mixed
- 32: Cultural (2021: Dholavira = Latest entry)
The largest number of World Heritage Sites are in Italy, followed by China. India is ranked 6th.
Related to Physical Significance = 7 + 1 (mixed)
|Kaziranga National Park||Assam||1985|
|Keoladeo Ghana National Park||Rajasthan||1985|
|Manas Wildlife Sanctuary||Assam||1985|
|Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers||Uttarakhand||1982 2005|
|Sundarbans National Park||West Bengal||1984|
|Western Ghats||Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala||2012|
|Great Himalayan National Park||Himachal Pradesh||2014|
11. Go Area & No Go Area
In 2010, Environment Ministry divided the areas into two parts for mining purposes, i.e. Go Area & No Go Area.
|Cat A (No Go)||– 10 % weighted Forest Cover or 30% Gross Forest Cover |
– No permission was given to doing miningin the No Go area.
|Cat B (Go)||– Those areas which are not in Cat A are categorised as Cat B. |
– Mining can be done here.
The concept of Go and No-Go Area was for mining projects, but NGOs started to file PIL arguing to extend it to activities such as tourism, settlement etc., and restrictions in the No Go areas should be made more stringent. All this led to the problem of environmental clearances.
TSR Subramanium Committee suggested the whole concept of Go & No-Go areas in the following way
|No Go Area|| Those areas which are Protected Area |
1. Wildlife Sanctuary
2. National Park
3. Conservation Reserves
4. Community Reserves
Or Forest with 70% Canopy
|Go Area||Areas that are not there in the No Go Area|
12. Coastal Regulation Zone
|1991||CRZ Notification issued under Environment (Protection) Act|
|2011||CRZ Regulation was updated and made more stringent. But various stakeholders were demanding revising these regulations and providing relaxation.|
|2015||Shailesh Nayak Committee submitted a report regarding the revision of CRZ Regulations.|
|Dec 2018||New CRZ Notification issued by the government|
CRZ Notification, 2018
- CRZ Notification divided the Coastal area into 4 Zones vis Zone 1 to Zone 4.
- No development zone (NDZ) was reduced to 50 meters from the High Tide Line on the landward side, decreasing it from 200 metres in 2011 notifications.
- Tourism infrastructure: The notification allows temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms etc., on beaches at a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL.
- CRZ clearances are needed only for projects located in CRZ-I (eco-sensitive zones areas and intertidal zones) and CRZ IV (12 NM from LTL towards the sea).
- Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.
On one side, these regulations will help in promoting economic development and tourism. But, it has also made the coastal ecology and communities vulnerable.
Ex-Situ Methods of Conservation
- The Ex-Situ conservation method involves conserving the selected plant or animal species outside their natural habitation.
- These include
- Seed Banks
- Gene Banks
- Botanical Gardens
1. Seed Banks
- In Seedbanks, the seeds can be stored at low temperature and humidity as a backup in the case of any unforeseen circumstances.
- Important Seedbanks are Global Seedbank Vault at Svalbard (Norway) and Indian Seed Vault at Chang La (Ladakh).
- Although useful, this strategy faces issues like seeds have a finite life and need to be replaced. Along with that, seed banks of private companies like Monsanto are only concerned with storing commercially viable seeds.
Examples of Seed Banks
1. Global Seed Vault at Svalbard (Norway)
- It is a state-of-the-art seed protection facility, famously called the ‘Doomsday’ or the ‘Apocalypse’ Seed Bank or ‘Noah’s Ark for seeds’.
- It is situated in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago (part of Norway).
- It was established in 2008.
- It is located 1000m deep inside the mountain.
2. India’s Seed Vault
- It is situated at Chang La, Ladakh, in the Institute of High Altitude Research.
- It was made in 2010 by ICAR, CSIR and the Department of Biotechnology.
- In India, the seed bank is managed by the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research.
- The Indian seed vault is the second largest vault in the world, after Global Seed Vault.
- It is a community-based seed bank that has a presence in around 17 states in India.
- In this, the farmers grow the seeds as well as supply the seeds.
- In the Navdanya, the farmers are encouraged to grow their own seeds, taught the traditional farming method, and at the end of the season, they should return25% of the seeds.
- Navdanya is also promoting eco-feminism.
2. Gene Banks
- Gene banks act as biorepository by preserving the genetic material.
- In Gene banks, cryopreservation techniques can preserve genetic strains of threatened species for long periods.
- Zoos can be used to raise some endangered species, try to breed them & reintroduce their offspring back into the jungle.
- The Zoological Survey of India declares zoos under Wildlife Protection Act.
- But Zoos face many issues like
- All the species can’t breed in captivity.
- If an animal is reintroduced to its natural habitat, the animal finds it difficult to survive in the wild. Hence, the captive breeding of animals should be used only in exceptional circumstances.
- Zoos concentrate on big & popular species like tigers, pandas etc., which can attract a large population. They are least interested in protecting small species.
4. Botanical Gardens
- Botanical Gardens are set up to facilitate ex-situ conservation and propagation of the country’s rare & threatened indigenous plants.
- The Botanical Survey of India declares them under Wildlife Protection Act.
- Examples: BOTANIC GARDEN OF THE INDIAN REPUBLIC (BGIR), NOIDA