New Delhi, May 31: The Great Nicobar Biosphere island reserve, whose tropical wet evergreen forest hosts a wealth of animal species and medicinal plants, joins a global list of places named by UNESCO for promoting sustainable development based on local community efforts and science.
The International Coordinating Council of Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB-ICC) under the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture designated the 103,870 hectares Great Nicobar reserve as protected, in its meeting in Paris, this week, according to a statement released by the body.
The reserve which encompasses a large part of the island of Great Nicobar is home to to indigenous Shompen people, semi-nomadic hunters living inland, and the Nicobarese, who are coastal dwellers dependent on fishing and horticulture. The 6,381 inhabitants of the region derive a wide variety of biological resources from their environment such as medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products.
The bioreserve is home to 1,800 animal species, including 200 species of meiofauna in the coastal zone.
Biosphere Reserves are sites chosen by the MAB program to experiment with different approaches to the management of terrestrial, marine and coastal resources as well as fresh water. They also serve as in situ laboratories for sustainable development.
The designation is not binding under any law but is aimed at building and promoting a network of places where people are attempting to mesh human activity with biological and scenic assets.
Great Nicobar joins the reserves at Simplipal (Orissa), Nokrek (Meghalaya), Pachmarhi (Madhya Pradesh), Nilgiri (Tamil Nadu), the Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu), Sunderban (West Bengal) Nanda Devi (Uttarakhand) Similipal (Odisha) and Achanakmar-Amarkantak (Madhyapradesh and Chhatisgarh) which are already on UNESCO's list.
Among the other 11 global sites included in the new batch of UNESCO bioreserve is the reserve in Alakol Kazakhstan, which includes wetlands of world significance. It is an important Indian bird migration route, a water bird habitat and aggregation site.
The other sites are Gochang (Republic of Korea) Macizo de Cajas (Ecuador), Marais Audomarois (France), Marinas Corunesas e Terras do Mandeo (Spain), Mont-Viso (France), Monteviso Area della Biosfera del Monviso (Italy), Real Sitio de San Ildefonso-El Espinar (Spain), Snake Island, Laotie Mountain, (China), Terres de l' Ebre, Catalonia (Spain), Ziarat Juniper Forest (Pakistan) and Ordesa-Vinamala (Spain).