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Showing posts with label Flora & Fauna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flora & Fauna. Show all posts

Zoos in India

Year Name City State Area (km²)
1977 Indira Gandhi Zoological Park Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh 2.53
1963 Nehru Zoological Park Hyderabad Telangana 1.50
1855 Arignar Anna Zoological Park Chennai Tamil Nadu 6.02
1892 Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Park Mysore Karnataka 0.99
N/A Kamla Nehru Zoological Park Ahmedabad Gujarat N/A
N/A Veermata Jijabhai Udyan Zoo Mumbai Maharashtra N/A
1973 Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park Patna Bihar 0.619
N/A Kanpur zoo Kanpur Uttar Pradesh N/A
N/A Jawaharlal Nehru Biological Park Bokaro Steel City Jharkhand N/A
N/A Bannerghatta Biological Park Bangalore Karnataka N/A
1995 Guindy Snake Park Chennai Tamil Nadu N/A
N/A Children's Corner Zoo Chennai Tamil Nadu N/A
N/A Aurangabad Zoo Aurangabad Maharashtra N/A
N/A Indore Zoo Indore Madhya Pradesh N/A
1958 Assam state zoo Guwahati Assam N/A
1876 Alipore Zoological Gardens Kolkata West Bengal 0.18
1960 Nandankanan Zoological Park Bhubaneswar Orissa 4.00
N/A Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo Nainital Uttarakhand N/A
1958 Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park Darjeeling West Bengal 0.273

Last updated on: 21/10/2019


Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education ( ICFRE )

Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), an apex body in the national forestry research system, has been undertaking the holistic development of forestry research through need based planning, promoting, conducting and coordinating research, education and extension covering all aspects of forestry.

The Council deals with the solution based forestry research in tune with the emerging issues in the sector, including global concerns such as climate change, conservation of biological diversity, combating desertification and sustainable management and development of resources.

Topical research by the Council enhances public confidence in the ability of forest managers and researchers to successfully handle challenges related to natural resource management.

Objectives of ICFRE:
  • To undertake, aid, promote and coordinate forestry education, research and their applications. 
  • To develop and maintain a national library and information centre for forestry and allied sciences.
  • To act as a clearing-house for research and general information related to forests and wildlife.
  • To develop forestry extension programmes and propagate the same through mass media, audio-visual aids and extension machinery.
  • To provide consultancy services in the field of forestry research, education and allied sciences.
  • To undertake other jobs considered necessary to attain these objectives.
Institutes and Centres under the Council:
ICFRE has eight Regional Research Institutes and four Research Centres located in different bio-geographical regions of the country to cater the forestry research needs of the nation.

The regional research Institutes are located at Dehradun, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Jabalpur, Jorhat, Jodhpur, Shimla and Ranchi and the centres are at Allahabad, Chhindwara, Hyderabad and Aizawl.

Research Institutes under the Council are:
  • Forest Research Institute (FRI), Dehradun.

  • Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB), Coimbatore.

  • Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), Bangalore.

  • Tropical Forest Research Institute (TFRI), Jabalpur.

  • Rain Forest Research Institute (RFRI), Jorhat.

  • Arid Forest Research Institute (AFRI), Jodhpur.

  • Himalayan Forest Research Institute (HFRI), Shimla.

  • Institute of Forest Productivity (IFP), Ranchi.

Advanced research centres under the council are:
  • Centre for Social Forestry and Eco-Rehabilitation (CSFER), Allahabad.

  • Centre for Forestry Research and Human Resource Development (CFRHRD), Chhindwara.

  • Forest Research Centre (FRC), Hyderabad.

  • Advanced Research Centre for Bamboo and Rattans (ARCBR), Aizawl.


Forest Fire Control

Fire is one of the major factors responsible for destruction of forests in the country. 

In India, most of the fires are man-made and are generally deliberate and on rare occasions accidental. 

Some of the reasons for intentional fire are grazing, mahua seeds and flower collection, tendu leaf collection, Environment poaching, shifting cultivation, etc. 

In order to reduce the incidents of fire in forests, the following steps have been undertaken by the forest department:

(i) development of firelines and 

(ii) establishment of watchtowers, besides employing firewatchers during fire seasons. 

The UNDP - assisted Modern Forest Fire Control Project, initiated in 1984 in Chandrapur (Maharastra) and Haldwani/Nainital (Uttar Pradesh), is in operation in 11 States of the country.

Financial assistance is provided to the state governments for hand tools, fire-resistant clothing, wireless communication sets, fire-fighting instruments, construction of watch-towers, creation of fire lines, etc.  

The project is being revised to include the monitoring of forest fire incidents in the country.


Forest Policy and Law

India is one of the few countries which have a forest policy since 1894. It was revised in 1952 and again in 1988.

Non-Legally Binding International Instrument for sustainable development of all types of forests has been agreed to as Global Forest Policy by all member countries of the United Nations and adopted by General Assembly.

The main plank of the Forest Policy of 1988 is protection, conservation and development of forest.

Aims of the Forest Policy of 1988 are:

(i) maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance; 

(ii) conservation of natural heritage; 

(iii) check on soil erosion and denudation in catchment area of rivers, lakes and reservoirs;

(iv) check on extension of sand dunes in desert areas of Rajasthan and along coastal tracts; 

(v) substantial increase in forest tree cover through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes; 

(vi) steps to meet requirements of fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and soil timber of rural and tribal populations; 

(vii) increase in productivity of forest to meet the national needs;

(viii) encouragement of efficient utilisation of forest produce and optimum substitution of wood and 

(ix) steps to create massive people’s movement with involvement of women to achieve the objectives and minimise pressure on existing forests.

The entire gamut of forest activities are being given a new orientation in the light of the National Forest Policy of 1988.

In order to operationalise the National Forest Policy 1988, a National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP) is being prepared. As a part of this exercise State Forestry Action Programmes are also being prepared for each State.

Under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, prior approval of the Central government is required for diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes.

Since the enactment of the Act, the rate of diversion of forest land has come down to around 25,000 hectares per annum from 1.43 lakh hectares per annum, before1980.

During 1998, 851 proposals from various State and UT governments were processed under this Act.

A scheme titled ‘Association of Scheduled Tribes and Rural Poor in Regeneration of Degraded Forests on Usufruct Sharing Basis’ is under implementation in nine States of the country. 

Besides improving the forest cover, the scheme also aims at providing wage employment and usufructs to the tribal people. Joint Forest Management (JFM) is being practiced in 21 States of the country. 

About 7 million hectares of degraded forests in the country are being managed and protected through approximately 35,000 village Forest Protection Committees


Forests in India

Forests in India have always been one of the richest resources. Indian forests are ancient in nature and composition. India was once covered with dense forests.

The Agni Purana, written about 4000 years ago, stated that man should protect trees to have material gains and religious blessings.

Around 2500 years ago, Gautama Buddha preached that man should plant a tree every five years. Sacred groves were marked around the temples where certain rules and regulations applied.

It was Chandra Gupta Maurya who came to power around 300 B.C and realized the importance of forests. Therefore he appointed a high officer to look after the forests.

Ashoka stated that wild animals and forests should be preserved and protected. He launched programmes to plant trees on a large scale. These rules continued even during the Gupta period.

The Mughals showed more interest in gardens and their development. Akbar ordered the planting of trees in various parts of his kingdom whereas Jahangir was well known for laying out beautiful gardens and planting trees.

Then came the British period. During the early part of the British rule, trees were felled without any thought. Large numbers of trees such as the sal, teak, and sandalwood were cut for export.

The British gradually started using these forests as a resource for revenue generation. They made a rule in which the trees could not be felled without prior permission, and this in turn made them the sole owner and users of the valuable Indian forests. These forests were the richest resources for the British colonies.

The importance of having forests was later realized, around the 1800`s, when a commissioner was appointed to look into the availability of teak in the Malabar forests.

In 1806, the Madras government appointed Capt. Watson as the commissioner of forests for organizing the production of teak and other timber suitable for the building of ships.

The first foresters in India were highly influenced by forest management in Germany and many forest officers in India were trained in the German school of thought brought into India by Dietrich Brandis (1824-1907) - the father of tropical forestry.

In 1855, Lord Dalhousie framed regulations for conservation of forest in the entire country. Teak plantations were raised in the Malabar hills and acacia and eucalyptus in the Niligiri Hills.

From 1865 to 1894, forest reserves were established to secure material for imperial needs. From the 18th century, scientific forest management systems were employed to regenerate and harvest the forest to make it sustainable.

Another area of interest was the introduction of plants of economic importance to India. Many of these introductions were tried in botanical gardens at Sibpur, Poona, Madras and Saharanpur. The Chinese monopoly on tea was ended when tea was introduced in Darjeeling and Sri Lanka.

The botanical garden at Sibpur in Calcutta was started in 1787 by Col. Robert Kyd (1746-1793). Sir George King (1840-1904) who was in charge of the garden from 1871 was instrumental in the creation of a herbarium at the garden and founded the Botanical Survey of India in 1890. Later botanical workers include the paleobotanist Birbal Sahni (1891-1949).

During World War I forest resources were severely depleted as large quantities of timber were removed to build ships and railway sleepers and to pay for Britain`s war efforts. Between the two wars, great advancements in scientific management of the forests were made, with many areas undergoing regeneration and sustained harvest plans being drawn up.

A great upheaval in the Forestry organization in India came with the independence of India in 1947. The princely states were managed variably, giving more concessions to the local populations. The transfer of these states to the government led to deforestation in these areas.

The new Forest Policy of 1952 recognized the protective functions of the forest and aimed at maintaining one-third of India's land area under forest.

Certain activities were banned and grazing restricted. In 1976, the governance of the forest came under the concurrent list.

Development without destruction and forests for survival were the themes of the next two five-year plans, aiming at increasing wildlife reserves and at linking forest development with the tribal economy.

Conservation has been an avowed goal of Indian government policy since Indian independence. Afforestation increased from a negligible amount in the first plan to nearly 8.9 million hectares in the seventh plan. But a large gap between aim and achievement still exists.

In the early 1990`s about 17 percent of India's land was regarded as forestland. However, because more than 50 percent of this land was barren or brush land, the area under productive forest was actually less than 35 million hectares, or approximately 10 percent of the country's land area.

The growing population's high demand for forest resources continued the destruction and degradation of forests through the 1980s, taking a heavy toll on the soil. Many Indian forests in the mid-1990s are found in high-rainfall, high-altitude regions, areas to which access is difficult.

About 20 percent of total forestland is in Madhya Pradesh; other states with significant forests are Orissa, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh (each with about 9 percent of the national total); Arunachal Pradesh (7 percent); and Uttar Pradesh (6 percent). The variety of forest vegetation is large: there are 600 species of hardwoods, sal (Shorea robusta ) and teak being the principal economic species.

India's long-term strategy for forestry development reflects three major objectives:
  • -> to reduce soil erosion and flooding; 
  • -> to supply the growing needs of the domestic wood products industries; and 
  • -> to supply the needs of the rural population for fuel wood, fodder, small timber, and miscellaneous forest produce.
To achieve these objectives, the National Commission on Agriculture in 1976 recommended the reorganization of state forestry departments and advocated the concept of social forestry.

The commission itself worked on the first two objectives, emphasizing traditional forestry and wildlife activities; in pursuit of the third objective, the commission recommended the establishment of a new kind of unit to develop community forests.

Following the leads of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, a number of other states also established community-based forestry agencies that emphasized programs on farm forestry, timber management, extension forestry, reforestation of degraded forests, and use of forests for recreational purposes. The State community forestry agencies emphasized such projects.

Both individual farmers and tribal communities were also encouraged to grow trees for profit. For example, in Gujarat, one of the more aggressive states in developing programs of socioeconomic importance, the forestry department distributed 200 million tree seedlings in 1983. The fast-growing eucalyptus is the main species being planted nationwide, followed by pine and poplar.

The National Forest Policy of 1988 further emphasized on the role of India`s forests in the National economy and ecology. It focused on ensuring environmental stability, restoring the ecological balance, and preserving the remaining forests. Also in 1988, the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was amended to facilitate stricter conservation measures. A new target was to increase the forest cover to 33 percent of India`s land area from the then-official estimate of 23 percent.

Better late than never- people have realized that deforestation threatened not only the ecology but also their livelihood in a variety of ways. Thus, people have become more interested and involved in conservation.

The Chipko movement in India was the best-known popular activist movement, wherein local women decided to fight the government and the vested interests to save trees. This movement took place in Uttar Pradesh where women literally `stuck to` or `chipko` to the trees, and would not let the manufacturers cut them down. This movement has spread and become an ecological movement leading to similar actions in other forest areas. The movement has slowed down the process of deforestation, exposed vested interests, increased ecological awareness, and demonstrated the viability of people power.

India possesses a distinct identity, not only because of its geography, history and culture but also because of the great diversity of its natural ecosystems. The panorama of Indian forests ranges from evergreen tropical rain forests in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Western Ghats, and the northeastern states, to dry alpine scrub high in the Himalaya to the north. Between the two extremes, the country has semi-evergreen rain forests, deciduous monsoon forests, thorn forests, and subtropical pine forests in the lower montane zone and temperate montane forests. The Andaman and Nicobar Island islands have tropical evergreen rain forests and tropical semi-evergreen rainforests as well as tropical monsoon moist monsoon forests.

The Indian forest type recognizes 16 major types of forests, subdivided into 221 minor types. Structure, physiognomy and floristic are all used as characters to define the types.

The main areas of tropical forest are found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; the Western Ghats, which fringe the Arabian Sea coastline of peninsular India; and the greater Assam region in the north-east.

The Western Ghats Monsoon forests occur both on the western (coastal) margins of the ghats and on the eastern side where there is less rainfall.

These forests contain several tree species of great commercial significance, e.g. Indian rosewood Dalbergia latifolia, Malabar Kino Pterocarpus marsupium, teak and Terminalia crenulata.

Clumps of bamboo occur along streams or in poorly drained hollows throughout the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of southwest India, probably in areas once cleared for shifting agriculture.

The tropical vegetation of northeast India, which includes the states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya as well as the plain regions of Arunachal Pradesh embraces evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forests, moist deciduous monsoon forests, riparian forests, swamps and grasslands.

Evergreen rain forests are found in the Assam Valley, the foothills of the eastern Himalayas and the lower parts of the Naga Hills, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Manipur where the rainfall exceeds 2300 mm per annum.

Central Indian forests has been defined by Birdlife International as a Secondary Area for bird endemism, as it includes the range of the critically endangered Forest Owlet.

It includes the southern region of Madhya Pradesh, the Vidarbha region of Maharastra and Chattisgarh. This forest is of Dry Decidous type, i.e, the trees shed their leaves in the summer season.

Many Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks are housed in these forests. Some of them are Kanha National Park, Pench National Park and Melghat wildlife sanctuary. The Forest Owlet was thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in Melghat.

A communal forest in India is a specific term which refers to forests governed by local communities in a way compatible with sustainable development, and can be of various types.

Such forests are typically called village forests or panchayat forests, reflecting the fact that the administration and resource utilization of the forest occurs at the village and panchayat level, which is an elected rural body.

Such community forests are usually administered by a locally elected body, usually called the Forest Protection Committee, Village Forest Committee or the Village Forest Institution.

Such committees are known as Van Panchayats in the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand, Forest Co-operative Societies in Himachal Pradesh and Van Samrakshan Samitis in Andhra Pradesh.


Project Elephant

Last updated on: 21/10/2019


Project Tiger Reserves

Project Tiger was incorporated in 1973 with nine tiger reserves covering an area of 16,339, which has increased to 37,761 in 27 Tiger Reserves.

The budgetary provision of the Government of India during 1973 was only Rs. 23 million, which has increased to 230 million during 2000-2001.

In the beginning of the 1970s, once tiger hunting had officially been banned in India, a tiger count was done across the entire country. This lead to the astonishing discovery that only 1800 specimens of this magnificent animal were left. This jolted the concerned authorities and some serious thought went into devising plans to save the tiger. The result was the launch of "Project Tiger" in 1972 at the Dhikala Forest Rest House in Corbett National Park.

The main idea behind the project was to provide safe havens for tigers where they could flourish as a species and hopefully reverse the startling decline in their population.

The project initially had 9 parks that were chosen for it's implementation. This number has slowly risen and a total of 19 parks are now attached to the project.

The project was begun in association with and still receives its main funding from the WWF.

Project Tiger Reserves in India :

Name of the Reserve State
Nagarjunasagar Andhra Pradesh
Namdhapa Arunachal Pradesh
Pakhui Arunachal Pradesh
Manas Assam
Nameri Assam
Valmiki Bihar
Indravati Chhatisgarh
Palamau Jharkhand
Bhadra Karnataka
Bandipur Karnataka
Periyar Kerala
Pench Madhya Pradesh
Kanha Madhya Pradesh
Bori Satpura Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgarh Madhya Pradesh
Panna Madhya Pradesh
Melghat Maharashtra
Tadoba-Andhari Maharashtra
Dampha Mizoram
Simplipal Orissa
Sariska Rajasthan
Ranthambore Rajasthan
Kalakad Mundanthurai Tamil Nadu
Dudhwa Uttar Pradesh
Corbett Uttranchal
Buxa West Bengal
Sundarbans West Bengal

Last updated on: 21/10/2019


Wildlife Sanctuaries in India

State Wildlife Sanctuaries Started Area (km2)
Andhra Pradesh Srisailam Sanctuary 506.94
Manjira Wildlife Sanctuary 1978 20
Nagarjunasagar Wildlife Sanctuary 1978 3568
Gujarat Sasangir Wildlife Sanctuary 1965 1153.42
Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary 1973 4953.7
Haryana Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary 1989 1.43
Kerala Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary 1976 77
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary 1950 472
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary 1973 344.44
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary 1984 55
Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary 1958 128
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary 1983 55
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary 1973 285
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary 1981 1258.37
Karnataka B R Hills Wildlife Sanctuary 1987 539.52
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary 834.16
Ranganathittu Wildlife Sanctuary 1984 119
Madhya Pradesh Karera Wildlife Sanctuary 1981 202.21
Maharashtra Sanjay Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary 1983 86.96
Orissa Chilka Lake Bird Santuary 1987 15.53
Bhitarkanika Sanctuary 1985 70
Rajasthan Sambhar Wildlife Sanctuary
Sikkim Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary 31
Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary 43
Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary 104
Tamilnadu Mudumalai Sanctuary 1978 321.55
Uttar Pradesh Hastinapur Sanctuary 1986 20.73
Kishanpur Sanctuary 1972 227.12
National Chambal Sanctuary 1992 635
Uttarakhand Assan Barrage Bird Sanctuary
West Bengal Satkosia Basipalli Sanctuary

Last updated on: 21/10/2019


Conservation of Wild Life

The National Wildlife Action Plan provides the framework of the strategy as well as the programme for conservation of wildlife.

The first National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) of 1983 has been revised and the new Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) has been adopted.

The Indian Board of Wildlife, headed by the Prime Minister, is the apex advisory body overseeing and guiding the implementation of various schemes for wildlife conservation.

Project Tiger , now renamed as the National Tiger Conservation Authority, was launched in 1973 with a mandate to conserve tigers in a holistic manner. Its mandate was to be fulfilled by facilitating focused, concerted management of eco-typical reserves in various states, constituted on a core-buffer strategy through funding the technical support including site-specific inputs to elicit local community support for conservation.

The project has put the tiger on an assured course of recovery from the brink of extinction, apart from conserving the floral and faunal genetic diversity in some of our unique and endangered wilderness ecosystem.

Project Elephant , which was launched in February 1992, States that have a free-ranging population of wild elephants are being given financial as well as technical and scientific assistance to ensure long-term survival of identified viable populations of elephants in their natural habitats.

Elephant Task Force Report, Gajah, lays out a comprehensive action agenda for protecting elephants in the wild and in captivity, and for addressing human-elephant conflict.

Established in 1982, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) offers training programmes, academic courses and advisory in wildlife research and management. The Institute is actively engaged in research across the breadth of the country on biodiversity related issues.

Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)  is a statutory body under Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 with its headquarters at Chennai. Its basic mandate is to advise the Government on animal welfare issues, and create awareness regarding animal welfare.

AWBI gives financial assistance to the eligible Animal Welfare Organisations for Shelter Houses, Model Gaushalas, for setting up Bio-Gas Plants, Famine/Drought Relief, Earthquake Relief, etc., in the various states.

Zoological Survey of India  is a nodal organization under Ministry of Environment and Forests which plays a significant role in fulfilling India's commitments under various international conventions.

This organisation is a vast repository of National Zoological Collection in the form of various types and reference collections needed for the bio-systematic research and conservation strategies.



The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is a premier Indian organisation in zoological research and studies.

It was established on 1 July 1916 to promote the survey, exploration and research of the fauna in the region.

The activities of the ZSI are coordinated by the Conservation and Survey Division in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with its headquarters in Kolkata and 16 regional stations is responsible for surveying the faunal resources of India.

Possessing a tremendous diversity of climate and physical conditions, India has great variety of fauna, numbering 89,451 species, which include protista, mollusca, anthropoda, amphibia, mammalia, reptilia, members of protochordata, pisces, aves and other invertebrates.

The mammals include the majestic elephant, the gaur or Indian bison - the largest of existing bovines, the great Indian rhinoceros, the gigantic wild sheep of the Himalayas, the swamp deer, the thamin spotted deer, nilgai, the four-horned antelope, the Indian antelope or black-buck - the only representatives of these genera.

Among the cats, the tiger and lion are the most magnificent of all; other splendid creatures such as the clouded leopard, the snow leopard, the marbled cat, etc., are also found.

Many other species of mammals are remarkable for their beauty, colouring, grace and uniqueness. Several birds, like pheasants, geese, ducks, mynahs, parakeets, pigeons, cranes, hornbills and sun birds inhabit forests and wetlands.

Rivers and lakes harbour crocodiles and gharials, the latter being the only representative of crocodilian order in the world.

The salt-water crocodile is found along the eastern coast and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

A project for breeding crocodiles, started in 1974, has been instrumental in saving the crocodile from extinction.

The great Himalayan range has a very interesting variety of fauna that includes the wild sheep and goats, markhor, ibex, shrew and tapir.

The panda and the snow leopard are found in the upper reaches of the mountains.

Depletion of vegetative cover due to expansion of agriculture, habitat destruction, over-exploitation, pollution, introduction of toxic imbalance in community structure, epidemics, floods, droughts and cyclones, contribute to the loss of flora and fauna.

More than 39 species of mammals, 72 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians, two species of fish, and a large number of butterflies, moth, and beetles are considered vulnerable and endangered.



Coral reefs are one of the Earth’s most beautiful, ancient and complex ecosystems. 

They play an essential role in sustaining life in the sea and serve as a source of food and protection for human communities. But coral reefs face an uncertain future.

As a result of growing human and environmental assaults, reefs are among the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Ecological research provides information fundamental to understanding and combating this trend.

Many of you might wonder, what are corals – Plants or Animals?

They are actually animals with plants living inside them. A coral structure is actually composed of hundreds or thousands of these tiny animals growing together as a colony which make a coral. Several polyps make a coral which together form a reef.

Coral reefs are the most diverse communities on the planet. These tropical marine communities occupy less than 1% of the ocean floor, but are inhabited by at least 25% of all marine species. Scientists estimate that more than 25,000 described species from thirty-two of the world’s thirty-three animal phyla live in reef habitats - four times the number of animal phyla found in tropical rain forests.

Coral reefs are one of the oldest complex ecosystems on Earth. Similar marine communities have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. Most of the reefs we see now have been growing for over 5,000 years. Coral reefs are found within the jurisdiction of more than 100 countries and occupy more than 600,000 square kilometers of tropical oceans. 

They generally require clear, warm water and high light intensity for survival. This limits them to shallow water, with maximum diversity occurring between 10 to 30 meters below the surface. Reefs exist in nutrient-poor environments and for that reason small changes in the nutrient content of the water can adversely affect their survival.

Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar (Tamilnadu), Gulf of Kutcch (Gujrat) are well known for their coral reefs, each are being unique and distinct in their diversity

In addition to their high diversity, coral reefs are very productive marine communities. They play a critical role as habitat and nursery grounds for 10 to 20% of the world’s fisheries. 

They are intimately connected to other marine communities such as mangrove forests, sea grass beds, and the open seas as water currents transport larvae, plants, animals, nutrients, and organic materials. 

Coral reefs play a significant role in the development of other ecosystems such as mangroves and wetlands and protect coastlines from wave and storm damage and erosion. Life-saving medicines, such as anticoagulants, and anticancer agents such as prostaglandins come from coral reefs.

The rocky framework of coral reefs is formed from the calcium carbonate deposited mainly by calcareous algae and the stony corals, most of which are colonial animals resembling tiny, interconnected sea anemones. 

Reef-building corals contain symbiotic algae in their tissues, enabling them to develop the large, massive, branching, or encrusting carbonate skeletons that provide habitat and food resources for support of other reef organisms, such as fish, lobsters, giant clams, and sea urchins to name but a few. 

Reefs maintain a network of intimate ecological relationships and delicate food webs. Disruption of coral reef communities can break up these ecological bonds. Under natural conditions, a healthy coral reef can recover from natural disturbance such as hurricanes, within 10 to 20 years. But when subjected to chronic human-induced stress, recovery from even natural disturbance may be impossible.

"Globally, best estimates suggest that about 10% of coral reefs are already degraded, many beyond recovery, and another 20% are likely to decline further within the next 20 years. At least two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs may collapse ecologically within the lifetime of our grandchildren, unless we implement effective management of these ecosystems as an urgent priority."

Human activities, both direct and indirect, are driving the loss of coral reefs, including: 

• Over-fishing, particularly of long lived, low density fish such as grouper, and destructive fishing practices such as the ubiquitous use of cyanide and dynamite to capture fish. 

• Pollution, especially from increased sedimentation (from poor land use) that smothers the coral tissue and nutrients (from runoff) that promote algae growth which, in turn, suffocates the corals. 

• Physical damage from tourists damaging the reefs, anchors dropped in coral beds, and ships colliding with reefs. 

• Alteration of coastline/Island habitats , such as deforestation, coastal development and so on.

• Harvesting live aquarium fish and coral for food, traditional medicine, and aquaria. These bring high prices and have resulted in destructive fishing practices that destroy the reefs, as well as their inhabitants. The United States is one of the top importers of live coral for aquaria. 

Ecologically based management can provide important steps to restore reef ecosystems by addressing some of these threats. For example, improved water quality and fisheries management are necessary to restore reef ecosystems. Protected areas such as sanctuaries, reserves, and no-fishing zones (where reef populations can remain unharvested and protected) can allow damaged ecosystems to recover and enable baseline studies on natural reef conditions to be conducted.

• Coral reefs are vital to fisheries.

• Coral reefs are often considered the medicine cabinets of the 21st century. They offer great promise for pharmaceuticals now being developed as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses and other diseases. And just one million of possibly nine million reef species have been identified.

• Coral reefs also buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and erosion. Globally, about 20 countries have few resources other than coral reefs. In developing countries, they contribute about 25 percent of the food catch, providing food to one billion people in Asia alone.

• Coral reefs are also living museums. Not widely known is that some of the largest individual coral colonies found today were alive and thriving for centuries.

Ecology is the study of interconnectedness. By their very nature, coral reef ecosystems are complex and are not always easy to understand. Ecological research provides valuable insights into the workings of coral reefs and how these can be disrupted.

• Ecological research has helped identify some of the causes of reef degradation. Recent studies suggest that the loss of large predatory fish and other key components of the ecosystem, such as snappers and lobsters, have caused major disruptions of reef food webs. 

These disruptions have lead to the loss of coral and increases in algae. Ecologists have discovered diseases such as black-band disease and white plague that can kill coral in less than 1/100th of the time it takes for coral to grow. The causative agents of these diseases are still not fully understood.

• Alternatives to destructive fishing practices can be obtained through information collected on the life and breeding cycles of threatened reef species such as groupers can lead to reduced stress through commercial breeding.

• Ecological knowledge is key to reef management and restoration, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the status of reefs are essential components of these efforts.

• Ecology can play a role in the development of new environmental technologies that integrate ecology, economics, technology, and social science.

Corals around the world have been adversely affected by sedimentation, bleaching and diseases such as cyanobacterial infections. These affect growth, reproduction, productivity and survival of coral. Recent studies indicate that both the variety and extent of coral diseases are increasing dramatically.

Coral bleaching occurs when coral expels its symbiotic zooxanthellae. As a result, the coral loses its coloration. Without zooxanthellae, the coral polyps have little energy available for growth or reproduction. 

This is due to elevated water temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, and diseases or viruses affecting the zooxanthellae

Global Warming and Coral Reefs 
Climate Change and Global warming are already affecting corals in many part of the world . Increase in temperatures and changes in sea level are causing the corals to bleach.

Changes in sea level are detrimental to established corals and reefs.

a. A rise in sea level decreases the amount of available sunlight and may inhibit growth. Added emissions of carbon dioxide and other trace gases (called greenhouse gases) into our atmosphere may be causing a gradual warming of our planet. This warming could cause the polar ice caps to melt, thereby raising sea level. 

b. Rises in sea level can also release nutrients trapped in soil.
Coral diseases can wipe out entire strands of coral reefs. Diseases may be connected to the sea level rise and nutrient level increase.


Gulf of Kutch
The reefs here are also of fringing type around a chain of islands from Jodhiya in the north to Port Okha in the south. These are the most northern reefs in the Indian subcontinent. Because of the environmental conditions which are extreme, with a large range in temperature and salinity, at this site, the reefs are relatively less developed and harbor a low biodiversity compared to other Indian reefs. 

The Gulf of Kutch is also a region of high industrial development - this has been responsible for a large scale of mortality of reef corals in the recent past. The entire Gulf of Kutch reefs have now been declared as a Marine National Park.

Lakshadweep Islands
The coral formation consists of 10 atolls with 36 islands of which 10 are inhabited. The atolls, with the lagoon at islands cover areas ranging from 30 to 300 sq. km. 

The islands, however, range from less than a km to about 9 km in length. The maximum width does not exceed two km across. The health of the reefs is generally excellent, especially in the uninhabited atolls whereas in the habitant islands, human impacts, as elsewhere, are significant.

Gulf of Mannar
Fringing reefs occur around a chain of 20 islands from Rameswaram in the north to Tuticorin in the south. 

The reefs at the northern and southern ends of the chain are partially degraded due to human activities (mining, fishing and industrial development) whereas those in the middle, because of their location away from human settlements, are in a relatively better condition. These reefs form part of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere reserve.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands
These islands in the Bay of Bengal number around 500 and all of them have fringing reefs. Most of them, like those at Nicobar, have healthy reefs with a large biodiversity. 

However, near human settlements, such as Port Blair, impacts are readily visible. A serious natural threat to these reefs in the last two decades was infestation with the crown-of-thorns starfish.


Wetlands in India

Wetlands are the link between water and land. These ecologically sensitive areas are getting depleted fast, causing a threat to the environment. Wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water (permanent or temporary), with water that is static or flowing. They can be natural or manmade.

Wetland characteristics:
The soil must remain water logged or submerged for whole or part of the year. The wetland biota depends upon and is adapted to this water logging or submergence during atleast part of their life cycle.

India has a varied terrain and climate that supports a rich diversity of inland and coastal wetland habitats which are unique ecosystems. The health of inland freshwater wetlands affects the health of coastal wetlands also. They hold rainwater, snowmelt and sediments; act as filters, thereby protecting and purifying sources of drinking water.

Wetlands have the dual capacity of being ‘water providers’ and ‘water users’. Being critical components of the water cycle that delivers the fresh water, the wetlands need some quantities of water to keep their functions in perfect order. Wetland and water play an important role in the livelihood security of the rural poor. 

Globalization has prevented rural communities from developing trading initiatives to market wetland products. Promoting sustainable trade in wetland products is a way to alleviate poverty and conserve wetland.

Wetlands Help In:
  • Controlling floods
  • Water storage or supply
  • Water purification, retention of pollutants/nutrients/sediments
  • Ground water recharge or discharge, maintenance of underground water tables
  • Freshwater cycle
  • Staging ground for waterfowl, nurseries for fisheries and wildlife
  • Stabilization of local climate
  • Protecting bio-diversity
  • Recreation, tourism and cultural heritage
  • Providing livelihoods to local people.
Wetland Habitats Have Been Destroyed by:
  • Draining and land filling
  • Over-exploitation of fish resources
  • Pollution
  • Agricultural production and residues, industrial wastes reach wetlands and suffocate them
  • Other human activities like cultivation and to meet the demands of the increasing population.
Loss of Wetlands Result In:
  • Increased flooding
  • Decline in water quality
  • Degraded freshwater supply
  • Threatening the ecosystem, the flora and fauna
  • Clogging of the natural conduits in the marshland
  • The runoff in the low-lying marshland gets blocked.

Facts of WetLands:
  • More than ½ of the worlds remaining wetlands have been destroyed in the 20th century, especially in developing countries by the demands of industrialisation.
  • 1/3rd of Indian wetlands has already been wiped out or has been severely degraded.
  • Coastal wetlands provide nearly 12% of the total fish catch.
  • Nearly 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe freshwater, and nearly 1.7 billion people live in water scarce areas. (Source: The World Summit On Sustainable Development, 2002)
  • One of the most important wetlands in India is the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, which is a manmade wetland. Various migratory birds visit this park almost every winter.
  • Chilka in Orissa is another important wetland and is the largest (1100 sq km) Brackish-water Lake in India.
  • The Government identifies 6,48,507 hectares as wetland in India.
Degraded Wetlands in India

Ladakh: It is home to a large va riety of flora and fauna. This land of the Indus River is considered a cold desert. The environment is ideal for the endangered black necked crane, Brahmini ducks, Kiangs and various medicinal flowers. 

These wetlands face dangers from the nomadic tribes, growing demand for Pashmina wool, over-grazing in the pasture lands, non biodegradable garbage thrown into the lakes, pollution, cars washed in water bodies, off track driving by tourists, all is harmful for the balance of the eco-system.

Wular lake (Jammu and Kashmir): This lake in is grossly encroached by farmers who convert vast catchment area into agricultural land. Besides, pollution from fertilisers and animal waste, hunting pressure on waterfowl and migratory birds and weed infestation has led to problems.

Tsomoriri lake (Jammu and Kashmir): This basin was connected by road that promoted tourism and economic activities, however, affecting the breeding of waterfowl population.

Harike wetland (Punjab): Surface and ground water are utilised on a large scale for irrigation. Untreated waste from catchment town is discharged into the lake. Deforestation is on the rise in lower Shivaliks, causing soil erosion and siltation.

Ropar lake (Punjab): Siltation from the adjoining barren and soft hills cause threat to the lake. Water quality degradation is caused by fertilizer and thermal power plants in the vicinity. Besides, interference with the resident and migratory birds, illegal fishing and poaching of wildlife puts these species in danger.

Point Calimere (Tamil Nadu): Illegal extraction of timber and non-timber produce has led to an ecological imbalance in this wildlife and bird sanctuary which already faces danger from industrial pollution and poaching.

Sambhar lake (Rajasthan): Grazing pressure from the 20-odd villages around the lake causes desertification.

East Calcutta Wetlands (West Bengal): Landuse changes over a period of time have led to conversion of some of the largest fish farms pisciculture to paddy cultivation in these wetlands. Waste water effluents of the industries are emptied into the city outfall channels, illegally, resulting in metal deposition in the canal sludge. Thus this waste water is incapable of ensuring the edible quality of fish and vegetables grown in the wetland.

Asan Barrage (Dehradun): This 3.2 wetland has been host to a number of migratory water fowls. Though covered under the national biodiversity strategy action plan and declared as ‘important bird areas (IBA)’, poachers kill the birds indiscriminately, also turning the wetlands into unfit marshy lands. This is because of the delay in declaring them as sanctuaries.

Existing Government Initiatives

Wetland Conservation Programme: The forest ministry took up this programme in collaboration with state governments to revive the dying lakes and ponds of the country. The ministry has identified 24 wetlands that require urgent conservation and management. Financial assistance has also been released to the state governments for supporting various activities for conserving water points.

National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP): Urban wetlands subjected to deterioration due to urbanisation and other anthropogenic pressures, are incorporated in this plan, taking up 10 lakes initially.

The ministry has also asked the state governments to survey and demarcate the areas, take up activities of weed control, catchment area treatment, desiltation, conservation of biodiversity, pollution abatement, education awareness, community development etc.

State steering committees  are set up in various states with the chief secretary as the chairman, for carrying out these activities.

Wetlands Classification Scheme

Inland Wetlands
1. Natural
  • Lakes/Ponds
  • Ox-bow lakes/ Cut-off meanders
  • Waterlogged (Seasonal)
  • Playas
  • Swamp/marsh

2. Man-made
  • Reservoirs
  • Tanks
  • Waterlogged
  • Abandoned quarries
  • Ash pond/cooling pond

Coastal Wetlands
1. Natural
  • Estuary
  • Lagoon
  • Creek
  • Backwater (Kayal)
  • Bay
  • Tidal flat/Split/Bar
  • Coral reef
  • Rocky coast
  • Mangroove forest
  • Salt marsh/marsh vegetation
  • Other vegetation

2. Man-made
  • Salt pans
  • Aquaculture

sr. No. Name of Wetlands State/UT
1 Wullar Jammu and Kashmir
2 Tso Morari Jammu and Kashmir
3 Tisgul Tso Jammu and Kashmir
4 Renuka Himachal Pradesh
5 Pong Dam Himachal Pradesh
6 Chandratal Himachal Pradesh
7 Harike Punjab
8 Ropar Punjab
9 Kanjli Punjab
10 Chilka Orissa
11 Kabar Bihar
12 Sambhar Rajasthan
13 Kolleru Andhra Pradesh
14 Loktak Manipur
15 Ashtamudi Kerala
16 Sasthamkotta Kerala
17 Ujni Maharashtra
18 Nalsarovar Gujarat
19 Deepar Beel Assam
20 Rudrasagar tripura
21 Hokersar Jammu and Kashmir
22 Mansar-Surinsar Jammu and Kashmir
23 Pangong Tsar J and K (Ladakh)
24 East Calcutta West Bengal
25 Sunderbans West Bengal
26 Point Calimer Tamil Nadu
27 Kottuli Kerala
28 Palak Mizoram
29 Tamdil Mizoram
30 Barilla Bihar
31 Kusheshwar Asthan Bihar
32 Ban Ganga Jhilmil Tal Uttaranchal
33 Rewalsar Himachal Pradesh
34 Ahiron Beel W. Bengal
35Rasik BeelW. Bengal
36NawabganjUttar Pradesh
37SandiUttar Pradesh
38Lakh BahoshiUttar Pradesh
39SamaspurUttar Pradesh
43Gudavi Bird Sanctuary Karnataka
45Hidkal and GhataprabhaKarnataka
48Great Rann of KachhGujarat
49Thol Bird SanctuaryGujarat
50Khijadiya Bird SanctuaryGujarat
51Little Rann of KachhGujarat
52Pariej Gujarat
55BarnaMadhya Pradesh
56Yashwant SagarMadhya Pradesh
57Wetland of Ken RiverMadhya Pradesh
58National Chambal SanctuaryMadhya Pradesh
59GhatigaonMadhya Pradesh
60RatapaniMadhya Pradesh
61Denwa Tawa wetlandMadhya Pradesh
62Kanha Tiger Reserve Madhya Pradesh
63Pench Tiger ReserveMadhya Pradesh
64SakhyasagarMadhya Pradesh
65DihailaMadhya Pradesh
66RanjitsagarJammu and Kashmir
67GovindgarhMadhya Pradesh


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