The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve (KBR) of Sikkim, the highest biosphere reserve in the country that includes the third highest mountain peak in the world, Kanchenjunga (8,586 m), has been included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserve (WHBR).
11 Indian reserves now listed in World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
The last biosphere reserve to be included was the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve in Kerala in 2016. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was the first reserve from the country to be included in the WNBR. India has 18 biospheres reserves, of which 11 have been included in the WNBR.
The other Biosphere Reserves are: Nilgiri (Western Ghats), Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu), Sunderban (West Bengal), Nanda Devi (Uttarakhand), Nokrek (Meghalaya), Pachmarh (Madhya Pradesh), Similipal (Odisha), Achanakmar-Amarkantak (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) and Great Nicobar.
Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve in Sikkim
It is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1, 220 metres above sea-level. It includes a range of ecolines , varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes, that support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.
The core area of the Biosphere Reserve is a major transboundary Wildlife Protected Area. The southern and central landscape, which makes up 86% of the core area, is situated in the Greater Himalayas. The northern part of the area accounts for 14% is characterized by trans-Himalayan features. Buffer zones are being developed to promote eco-tourism activities. Plantation and soil conservation work is also being carried out.
The core zone – Khangchendzonga National Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category. Many of the mountains, peaks, lakes, caves, rocks, Stupas (shrines) and hot springs function as pilgrimage sites. Over 118 species of the large number of medicinal plants found in Dzongu Valley in north Sikkim are of ethno-medical utility. The transition zone is targeted for eco-development activities, afforestation, plantation of medicinal herbs and soil conservation measures.