Three Indian wildlife reserves are among a new batch of 22 special spots named by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization where humans are interacting with the rest of nature in sustainable ways.
The 22 new biosphere reserves from 17 countries added by UNESCO to its worldwide list include reserves at Simplipal in Orissa, Nokrek in Meghalaya and Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh.
Worldwide there are now 533 biosphere reserves in 107 countries. The designation has no force of 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.
The names were added during an ongoing meeting of UNESCO's International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB-ICC) on the Island of Jeju in South Korea.
The Similipal tiger reserve in Orissa used to be the hunting ground of the Maharajah of Mayurbhanj. This tropical environment abounds with tigers, elephants, panthers, deer and numerous plant species, making it a living laboratory for environmental scientists.
The area's tribal inhabitants depend on agriculture, hunting and collection of forest products for their livelihoods but additional sources of income are badly needed to alleviate their poverty, UNESCO noted.
Nokrek, a biological hotspot in Meghalaya, features undisturbed natural ecosystems and landscapes. Besides harbouring elephants, tigers, leopards and hollock gibbons, the area is also noted for its wild varieties of citrus fruit which may come to serve as a genepool for commercially produced citrus.
Pachmarhi in Madya Pradesh includes tiger and other wildlife reserves. At the interface of several types of forest - tropical, moist and dry as well as sub-tropical hill forests - the area is considered a botanist's paradise.
Through their social and cultural traditions, local tribes contribute to conservation of the forest while drawing on a variety of resources for nutrition, agriculture and income generation.