The goal is to facilitate conservation of representative landscape and their immense biological diversity and cultural heritage, foster economic and human development which is culturally and ecologically sustainable and to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange.
So far seventeen Biosphere Reserves have been setup. They are as follows:—
Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic system where the water table is usually or near the water surface and land is covered by shallow water. They are life support system for people living around and are effective in flood control, Waste water treatment, reducing sediment, recharging of aquifiers and winter resort for a variety of birds for shelter and breeding and provide a suitable habitat for fish and other flora and fauna.
They also act as buffer against the devastating effect of hurricanes and cyclones, stabilize the shore-line and act as a bulwork but work against the encroachment by the sea and check the soil erosion.
Identification of Wetlands can be attributed to the following three main factors:
(i) When an area is permanently or periodically inundated.
(ii) When an area support hydrophitic vegetation.
(iii) When an area has hydric soils that are saturated or flooded for a sufficiently long period to become aneorobic in the upper layers.
Taking into consideration the deterioration of water bodies, a programme on conservation of wetlands was initiated in 1987. With the basic objective of assessment of wetland resource, identification of Wetland of national importance, promotion of R & D activities and formulation and implementation of management action plans of the identified wetlands.
Recently there is a significant and almost dramatic expansion in the scale of the scheme when the number of wetlands identified for inclusion in National Wetland conservations programme shotup from 27 since 1987 to 71 identified Islands distributed in 21 states.
Mangrove plants are those that survive high salinity, tidal extremes, strong wind velocity, high temperature and muddy anerobic soil – a combination of condition hostile for other plants. Mangroves are successfully adopted in colonizing saline inter tidal zone at the interface between the land and sea along the deltas, shallow lagoons, mud flats, bays and backwaters in tropical and Sub-tropical shelteral lost lines.
Mangroves not only protect the coastal communities from the fury of cyclones and coastal storms, but also provide medicines and fuelwood. They also serve as home for wide range of flora and fauna.
India is home to some of the best mangroves in the world. ‘Ministry of Environment and Forest’ has launched Mangrove Conservation Programme in 1987 and, has so far identified thirty eight mangrove areas for intense conservation and management.
These mangrove areas are identified on the recommendation of National Committee on Mangrove and Coral Reefs on the basis of their unique Management Action Plan (MAPs) for undertaking activities like raising mangrove plantations, protection, catchment area treatment, sitation control, pollution abatement, biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource utilization, Survey and demarcation, education and awareness.
Two mangrove species are endemic to India. One species is rhizophora annamaloyana, occurring in Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu and other species Heritiera Kanikensies that exists only in Bhitarkanika of Orissa. Sunderbans (West Bengal) have been included in the World List of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO. They represent the largest stretch of mangroves in the country.
Coral reefs are shallow-water tropical marine ecosystems, characterized by high biomass production and rich floral and faunal diversity. In the Indian Sub-continent the reefs are distributed along the East and west coast of restricted places. Fringing reefs are found in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Platform reefs are seen along the Gulf of Kutchch and Atoll reefs are found in the Lakshadweep Archipelago.
Four Coral reefs, namely, Gulf of Mannar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands and Gulf of Kutchch have been identified for conservation and management. The Ministry of Environment and Forest has also been identified as the national focal point of International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) as well as Coral Reef Degraded Action in Indian Ocean (CORDIO), Gulf of Mannar Coral reef area in Tamil Nadu has been included in the World List of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO.