Origin of Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme
The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was created on 16th November 1945. The prime motto of UNESCO is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture. For the first time, the concept of “Biosphere Reserve” came to exist at a UNESCO organized the Biosphere Conference in 1968. This is the first intergovernmental conference emphasizing on reconciliation of conservation and use of natural resources. The outcome of the conference is the launching of the UNESCO “Man and the Biosphere” (MAB) Programme in the year 1970.
The main motto of this MAB programme is creating/establishing a coordinated World Network of sites representing the important ecosystems of earth, in which genetic resources are to be protected and research on ecosystems as well as monitoring and training work for the conservation can be carried out and these sites are to be designated as “Biosphere Reserves”.
Biosphere reserves are national governments nominated internationally recognized areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting the reconciliation of conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. These sites remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.
The MAB Program recognizes areas that (i) are typical of the world’s major terrestrial or coastal ecosystems, (ii) demonstrate innovative approaches to living and working in harmony with nature and (iii) demonstrate how to achieve a sustainable balance between conserving natural ecosystems and biodiversity and fostering sound economic development.
Structure of Biosphere Reserves
A biosphere reserve consists of three zones: core, buffer and transition zones.
Core zone: This zone is strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of species and genetic variation, ecosystems and landscapes.
Buffer zone: The buffer zone is the area that surrounds or adjoins the core areas. Activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education are allowed to be carried out in buffer zones.
Transition Zone: The transition zone is the part of the reserve where selective human activity is allowed which fosters the economic and human development that is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable. In this zone, human settlements and resource gathering are allowed.
Biosphere Reserves around the World
All over the world under the network of MAB, there a total of 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries, including 21 transboundary sites have been recognized as on 20 February 2020.
Biosphere Reserves in India
In India, there 18 biosphere reserves are distributed across 16 Indian states. The first biosphere reserve of Indian is Nilgiri Biosphere reserve. The largest biosphere reserve of India is Kachchha Biosphere Reserve and smallest one is Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve.