India is one of the 17 mega diverse countries of the world. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, 16.7% of the world’s human population and 18% livestock, it contributes about 8% of the known global biodiversity. This puts tremendous responsibility on the state to conserve this depleting bio-diversity. Accordingly, the Union & State Governments have formed institutional framework & bodies to co-ordinate & conserve the natural heritage.
Forest & Wildlife in Constitution of India
The Indian Constitution entails the subject of forests and wildlife in the Concurrent list. Consequently, the Union Government acts as a guiding force dealing with the policies and planning on wildlife conservation,
while the State Forest Departments are vested with the responsibility of implementation of national policies and plans.
What is a Protected Area ?
Protected areas are those in which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited. The definition provided by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been widely accepted protected areas.
A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.(IUCN Definition 2008)
The term “protected area” also includes Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), the boundaries of which will include some area of ocean, and Transboundary Protected Areas that overlap multiple countries which remove the borders inside the area for conservation and economic purposes.
Protected Area in India:
In India, there are four categories of Protected areas constituted under the provisions of Wildlife ( Protection) ACT, 1972. These are:
- National Parks
- Wildlife Sanctuaries
- Conservation Reserves
- Community Reserves
Apart from these India also has:
- Biosphere Reserves
- Tiger Reserves
National Parks in India
India’s first National Park was established in in 1936 as Hailey National Park, now known as Jim Corbett National Park.
Definition: 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, needed to for the purpose of protecting & propagating or developing wildlife therein or its environment.
There are 104 National Parks in India , covering an area of 40501.13 Square Kms, about 1.23% of geographical area of the country.
Wildlife Sanctuaries in India
Wildlife Sanctuary is an area comprised within any reserve forest or the territorial waters, which is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance. The Sanctuary is declared for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife or its environment.
India has extensive network of 551 wildlife sanctuaries, covering approximately 3.64% of total geographical area of the country.
Conservation Reserves in India
Conservation Reserves can be declared by the State Governments in any area owned by the Government, particularly the areas adjacent to National Parks and Sanctuaries and those areas which link one Protected Area with another.
Such declaration should be made after having consultations with the local communities. Conservation Reserves are declared for the purpose of protecting landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna and their habitat. The rights of people living inside a Conservation Reserve are not affected.
Community Reserves in India
Community Reserves can be declared by the State Government in any private or community land, not comprised within a National Park, Sanctuary or a Conservation Reserve, where an individual or a community has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat.
Community Reserves are declared for the purpose of protecting fauna, flora and traditional or cultural conservation values and practices. As in the case of a Conservation Reserve, the rights of people living inside a Community Reserve are not affected.
Difference Between National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary:
|No human activities are allowed.
|Human activities are allowed.
|Can include flora, fauna or any other objects of historical significance.
|Main aim is to protect a particular flora or fauna.
|Boundaries are fixed and defined.
|There are no fixed boundaries.
|Not usually open to the public.
|It is open to the general public
|National Parks are formed by the State or central Legislature.
|Sanctuaries are usually formed by the order of Central or the State Government
|A national park cannot be downgraded to a Sanctuary.
|Wildlife sanctuary can be upgraded to a national park
Protected Area Network in India:
As of July 2019, India has 870 Protected areas across the country. The Protected Area Network of India covers 5.02% of the total Geographical Area of the country (Source). These protected areas form part of the forest cover, which is 21.54% of the geographical area (FSI Report 2017).
|Type of Protected Area
|Total Area (km2)
|Coverage % of Country
|National Parks (NPs)
|Wildlife Sanctuaries (WLSs)
|Conservation Reserves (CRs)
|Protected Areas (PAs)
Biosphere Reserves in India
Biosphere reserves protect larger areas of natural habitat, often including one or more National Parks or sanctuary, along with buffer zones that are open to some economic uses. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
The Indian government has established 18 biosphere reserves in India. 11 of the eighteen biosphere reserves are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development. This program was initiated by UNESCO in 1971.
Tiger Reserves in India
In 1973, the Government of India initiated Project Tiger for conserving its national animal, the tiger. Consequently, Tiger Reserves were established working on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
There are 50 tiger reserves in India which are governed by Project Tiger which is administrated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).