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Environmental Bytes: Assam govt to upgrade Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary to national park

Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary to National Park

Approx Read Time: 8 minutes

In News:

  • The Assam government on Monday decided to upgrade Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary into a national park.
  • Some months back there were virtual protests after the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) gave conditional clearance to a coal mining project by Coal India Limited (CIL) in the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.
  • Subsequently, North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), the CIL subsidiary, temporarily suspended all mining operations in the region.

About: Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is located within the larger Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.
  • Dehing Patkai was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2004.
  • The elephant reserve spreads across the coal- and oil-rich districts of Upper Assam (Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar).
  • It is believed to be the last remaining contiguous patch of lowland rainforest area in Assam.
Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary

National Parks in Assam:

  • There are 5 national parks in Assam-
    1. Kaziranga
    2. Nameri
    3. Manas
    4. Orang
    5. Dibru-Saikhowa
Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary to National Park

About: Protected Areas (PAs) of India

  • Protected Areas are those in which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited.
  • There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved. 
  • India has about 5% of its total geographic area under Protected Areas.
  • There are more than 800 PAs in India.
  • The various Protected Areas of India are-
    • National Parks
    • Wildlife Sanctuaries
    • Conservation Reserves
    • Community Reserves

National Parks:

  • Definition & Objective:
    • An area, whether within a sanctuary or not, can be notified by the state government to be constituted as a National Park, by reason of its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, or zoological association or importance,
    • The objective of notification of a national park is protecting & propagating or developing wildlife therein or its environment.
  • Authority Concerned:
    • They are notified by the State Government under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Degree of Protection:
    • No human activity is permitted inside the national park except for the ones permitted by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state under the conditions given in Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
    • There are 104 existing national parks in India.

Definition & Objective:

  • Definition & Objective:
    • Any area can be notified by the State Government to constitute as a sanctuary if such area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance, for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife or its environment.
  • Authority Concerned:
    • They are notified by the State Government under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Degree of Protection:
    • Some restricted human activities are allowed inside the Sanctuary area.  
    • There are 551 existing wildlife sanctuaries in India.

Difference between National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries:

  • Wildlife sanctuaries are protected areas which permit some human activities such as cattle grazing as per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • National parks call for a complete protection status and don’t allow any human activity under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Therefore, National Park has more stringent rules as compared to a Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • A wildlife sanctuary is usually (though not always) a bigger area as compared to a national park.
  • It may be so that there is a bigger region notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary and inside that a smaller region is notified as a national park.
  • Examples:
    • Sundarbans National Park is a smaller area of protection inside the bigger Sundarbans Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • Similarly, if you observe the above map of Assam showing the national parks, it has Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. A small region inside the sanctuary has been notified as a National Park.

Community Reserves:

  • Community Reserves are protected areas of India which typically act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India.
  • Community Reserve areas are privately owned by people.
  • This protected area category was first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002.

Conservation Reserves:

  • Conservation reserves are protected areas of India which typically act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India.
  • Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities.
  • This protected area category was first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002.

Other Conservation Sites:

  • Apart from the Protected Areas, there are other conservation sites too in India.
  • These are the areas of notable environmental or historical interest or importance.
  • These areas are conserved by varying levels of legal protection which are given by the policies formulated by the government or global conventions.
  • Major examples include:
    1. Biosphere Reserves
    2. Ramsar Wetland Sites
    3. Tiger Reserves
    4. Elephant Reserves

Biosphere Reserves:

  • Biosphere Reserves (BRs) are sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.

About: MAB Programme

  • The programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated by UNESCO in 1971.
  • The purpose of the formation of the biosphere reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality.
  • The first biosphere reserve of the world was established in 1979.
  • Presently, there are 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries across the world.  

BRs in India:

  • India has, presently, there are 18 notified biosphere reserves.
  • There is not any legislation in the country which exclusively deals with Biosphere Reserve. Rather, all the environmental laws and rules in India are relevant for management of BRs.
  • These are notified by the Central Government after due consideration with the concerned state government.
Biosphere Reserves in India

BRs Recognised by UNESCO:

  • Out of the 18 BRs in India, 11 are recognised by UNESCO under the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
  • UNESCO recognises the BRS based upon common criteria like the ecological significance of a region and its biological diversity.

Ramsar Wetland Sites:

  • The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value.
  • Presently, India has 37 Ramsar Wetland sites.

Tiger Reserves:

  • These are notified under the Project Tiger which was launched by the Government of India in the year 1973 to save the endangered species of tiger in the country.
  • Starting from nine (9) reserves in 1973-2016 the number is grown up to fifty (50).
  • These are notified by Union Ministry of Environment in consultation with National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Tiger Reserves

Elephant Reserves:

  • Based on the concept of Tiger Reserves, Elephant Reserves are dedicated wildlife areas for elephant conservation in the country.
  • As notified by the government, there are 32 Elephant Reserves in India.
  • These are notified by Union Ministry of Environment in consultation with the concerned State governments.

Biodiversity Hotspots:

  • This concept was given by the Conservation International to highlight areas on Earth that are both biologically rich and deeply threatened. These are called as biodiversity hotspots.
  • To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria:
  • It must have at least 1,500 vascular plants as endemics— which is to say, it must have a high percentage of plant life found nowhere else on the planet. A hotspot, in other words, is irreplaceable.
  • It must have 30% or less of its original natural vegetation. In other words, it must be threatened.

Biodiversity Hotspots of the World:

  • Around the world, 36 areas qualify as hotspots.
  • They represent just 4% of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s plant species as endemics — i.e., species found no place else — and nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species as endemics.
Biodiversity Hotspots of the World

Biodiversity Hotspots of India:

  • India has 4 biodiversity hotspots. These are-
    • Himalayas- this includes the entire Himalayan region.
    • Western Ghats- this includes Western Ghats of India and Srilanks as well.
    • Indo-Burma region- this includes North-Eastern India except Assam.
    • Sundaland- this includes Nicobar group of Islands.

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