For promoting value-added bio-resources: UNESCO official

The country needs a network of biosphere reserves for conserving biodiversity and promoting value-added bio-resources, according to Natarajan Ishwaran, UNESCO director of Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences.

The Nilgiri, Nanda Devi, Sundarbans, Gulf of Mannar, Pachmarhi, Nokrek and Simlipal reserves have been included in a world network of biosphere reserves. The Nilgiri reserve is sited on 5,520 sq. km., spread over Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Mr. Iswaran, who was in Munnar last week to attend a conference on biosphere reserves, said the reserves in Spain formed a network to promote tourism. Kerala had gone a long way in promoting tourism, but not the other States that boasted of biosphere reserves, he pointed out. Such a network would also help to share good practices developed by individual reserves.

The spices and other produces from the reserves of Kerala could be marketed with the biosphere reserve tag, and this would enhance their value, said Mr. Ishwaran, who is also secretary of UNESCO's Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme.

Biosphere reserves are sites recognised under the MAB programme, which innovate and demonstrate approaches to conservation and sustainable development. There are 564 sites in 109 countries.

In a biosphere reserve, a holistic approach is adopted for conservation of the core, buffer and transition areas to ensure sustainable development. Human occupants of the buffer and transition areas form an integral part of the reserve.

Grater Nicobar, Manas and Kanjan Janga might shortly be declared biosphere reserves in India, Mr. Ishwaran said.

UNESCO's India office is considering a proposal for implementing conservation programmes by linking them with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Ram Boojh, programme specialist of the Ecological and Earth Sciences Division, said.

Munnar declaration

The conference suggested that biosphere reserves be carved out of the desert and Gangetic plain bio-geographic zones, as all other zones were covered. The information relating to the schemes implemented in the reserves, including their objectives and cost, should be put in public domain. As the biosphere reserve concept was aimed at sustainable development, the term, reserve, should be replaced with a suitable word for getting rid of the anathema associated with it, it said.

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