Conference commemorating the “1st International Day for Biosphere Reserves” held at the UNESCO cluster office in New Delhi.

Keynotes by Esteemed guests

Dr. Benno Boer

Programme Specialist for Natural Science Unit in UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office for India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal the Maldives, and Sri Lanka

Dr. Rita Bissoonauth

Director at UNESCO Liaison office in Addis Ababa with the African Union and UNECA

Dr. (CDR) Arnab Das

Founder, and Director of Maritime Research Centre, Pune, India

Mr. Bharat Singh

Director of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, and Secretary of UNESCO MaB National Committee in India

Ms. Liliana Adhiambo Juma

Director of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, and Secretary of UNESCO MaB National Committee in India

Dr. Neha Midha

Programme Officer for Natural Sciences, UNESCO New Delhi

Dr. Swayamprabha Das

Deputy Regional Vice Chair of South & East Asia, IUCN Commission of Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy

Closing Remarks

In his closing remarks, Dr. Arnab Das shared details about MRC and the UDA Digest e-magazine platform and various articles and research papers that MRC has published in past years. He shared details related to blue bonds and other aspects of the UDA Framework. He thanked all the speakers and attendees for their keynote addresses and illustrious presentations. 

Dr. Benno in his closing remarks thanked all the speakers and Dr. Arnab for his words. He then shared a webpage of one of the UNESCO’s websites “Quest 4 Action”. He also talked about the marine environment, commenting on the quantity of plastic in our oceans. Dr. Benno suggested on North-South cooperation along with South-South cooperation. He also mentioned about the funds that are being lost because of issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine, which he said, could have been avoided.

Besides, Ms. Nishtha Vishwakarma, who works in the Communication and Advocacy team at MRC delivered the ‘Vote of Thanks’ speech to all those who had joined and participated in the conference.  She concisely mentioned key extracts from all the esteemed guest speakers’ speeches and the discussions that were held. She highlighted the main issues being raised at the conference that day.

Glimpses of the Event

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    Dr. Benno Boer
    Programme Specialist for Natural Science Unit in UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office for India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal the Maldives, and Sri Lanka

    We want to generate positive changes, be it tangible or intangible, and changes in Human Behaviour. We need to learn how to live in harmony with nature, but for that, we need to go forward and apply the solutions that we have. We have many solutions available to solve environmental and socio-ecological problems, but we do not have the solutions for certain aspects, e.g., microplastic in the oceans. There is a need to mobilize universities to study that.

    • Benno delivered the opening address amongst the offline as well as online attendees, wherein he mentioned about the coordination between UNESCO and MRC for organizing this webinar on the special occasion of the 1st International Day of Biosphere Reserve.
    • He also provided background on UNESCO including programs for Education, Natural Science, Social & Human Sciences, Culture, and Communication & Information. Supporting UNESCO’s south-south cooperation, Dr. Benno mentioned the ‘Pockets of Hope,’ a booklet developed by UNESCO picturing beautiful BRs in India.
    • He extended the discussion by introducing the BRs in the world and the challenges associated with an increased population on the planet and dependency on Natural Resources.
    • He welcomed the guests from Addis Ababa from Ethiopia, and mentioned the South-South cooperation, initially with India being a giant player.
    • He also read the message from the Director General of UNESCO on the 1st International Day of Biosphere Reserve, which dictated, “to improve the understanding of nature we must first understand how we affect the living world that sustains us and vice versa.”
    • He mentioned the “Centre of Excellence” to be set up by MRC and UNESCO on ‘Coastal Marine and Riverine Biosphere Reserve,’ which shall aim to involve other Riparian regions along with India around the Indian Ocean.
    • He also proposed to work on the development of BRs along with the MRC and the Indian government in the areas of North East India.

    Dr. Rita Bissoonauth
    Director at UNESCO Liaison office in Addis Ababa with the African Union and UNECA

    “Dear distinguished guests, it is clear that the power of transformative and inclusive environmental management and socio-economic development requires unprecedented collaboration among governments, industry, academia, civil society International partners.”

    • Dr Rita mentioned about massive BRs that Ethiopia has and nation being listed as one of the Biosphere Hotspots in the world.
    • She added that Ethiopia is amongst the world’s 12 recognized ancient countries for crop plant diversities and contains a reserve of significant crop diversities. Ethiopia along with the world has lost a big amount of its primary forest reserve, she mentioned.
    • She also emphasized the fact that as we move within the last decade of Agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is vital that we act together to implement innovative, multisectoral and multidisciplinary solutions for environmental sustainability and prosperity, not only in Ethiopia but different countries around the world.
    • Rita explained that the climate stability capacity of biosphere reserves is envisaged through a diversity of vegetation which can contribute to increased carbon sequestration, leading to neutrality and stabilization of temperatures within the 1.5-2 Degrees Celsius which is agreed upon among international communities.

    She concluded her address with a note, “Let us build a future where no one is left behind and where opportunities have no boundaries.”

    Dr. (CDR) Arnab Das
    Founder, and Director of Maritime Research Centre, Pune, India

    “If the communities are in distress, it will be a security hazard. Our understanding of the ecosystem that exists in the Indian Ocean needs a lot of improvement. We cannot put sensors in the huge area of 3.1 sq. lakh km.”

    • Dr. (CDR) Arnab Das started by presenting the organizational focus, and the comprehensive perspective of the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework.
    • He emphasized the requirement of the UDA Framework for Safe, Secure, Sustainable growth for all Indo-Pacific region, the idea of Digital oceans.
    • He explained the importance of the tropical region in terms of political, economic, military, and physical facets.
    • He added that, when we take any decision, as a global community, we need to be mindful of the sustainability aspect.
    • His presentation focused on Technology and Policy interventions and the ways to build upon them sustainably using Mapping tools. The possibilities of using the tools are different for different stakeholders, he noted.
    • Moving forward he shared pictures and experience of standing off giant Whales due to Marine Noise. When we talk of Environment Impact Assessment, the impact of Noise cannot be neglected.
    • Maritime Domain Awareness has remained a security-driven formulation and remained on the surface, the scientific committee must come together.
    • On the blue economy, he said we have an energy-hungry economy in the east and then, on the other hand, we waste a whole lot i.e., 80% of the energy. UDA has become important there.
    • If the communities are in distress, it will be a security hazard. Our understanding of the ecosystem that exists in the Indian Ocean needs a lot of improvement. We cannot put sensors in the huge area of 3.1 sq. lakh km.
    • Arnab explained the cube of the UDA Framework and its component. It represented studies that we need to focus on and the sectors that need more exploration.
    • He also explained the Underwater Radiated Noise Framework and Sediment management framework. He added by mentioning the issue, “Sediment transport or siltation in tropical waters is completely different, we run to Nordic countries for solutions, irrespective of understanding our geographical needs,”, Dr Das mentioned.
    • He mentioned a tool developed by MRC that will help deploy submarines and for the community level, it was translated for shrimp farming and see weeds and is being taken forward.
    • He then shared pictures from UDA Summer school, where officials from the Indian Navy and other reputed backgrounds come up and share information with the youth.
    • He proposed the “Outreach, Engage and Sustain” model for Acoustic Capacity and Capability building and suggested setting up a Centre of Excellence with UNESCO which will include subcentres of Research, skilling, innovation, academic program, and public policy under one roof.

    Mr. Bharat Singh
    Director of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, and Secretary of UNESCO MaB National Committee in India
    • Mr.Bharat explained the Management Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves, which he is heading. He presented a brief background of the program and said that the need for a monitorable, quantifiable, and tangible outcome led him to set up a committee.
    • He explained the pilot program by the government that is running in four of the Biosphere Reserves in India. Mr. Bharat said that he is looking forward to learning ideas from Informative cooperation and applying that to his programs.
    • The major features of the 5-year Integrated Management Plan were also explained, in which he said that the focus is on getting the biosphere reserves mapped in a digitized format so that we have a clear-cut delineation as well as actions are also mapped digitally.
    • He marked the need to map these biosphere reserves digitally to have a clear understanding of actions taken and the effects.
    • For the action plan, he mentioned about Kanha and Pench in Madhya Pradesh, which are proposed to be Biosphere reserves. He further mentioned the nomination of Manas Biosphere Reserve in Assam in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO.
    • Biosphere Reserve Index card as an indicator of the health of any Biosphere Reserve is an important component of the management plan, Mr. Bharat stated.

    He shared success stories of biosphere reserves including Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu, Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttarakhand, and Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in Meghalaya.

    Ms. Liliana Adhiambo Juma
    Ethiopia, Earth, and Ecological Sciences Associate, Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO Liason office to AUC and UNECA

    “In every aspect of sustainable development, be it ecological, economic and social aspect, we can have enormous solutions for different issues of Biosphere Reserves.”

    • She commenced her presentation with the fact that there are 5 Biosphere reserves in Ethiopia, with 5 different challenges as the reserves are made on themes that are way too different from each other.
    • Ethiopia, as she mentioned, has lost the carrying capacity, hence there is a need for these biosphere reserves for conservation purposes.
    • The first Biosphere Reserve is Kafa, which was established in 2010 containing nearly 5000 wind varieties of plants.
    • The second Biosphere Reserve is Yayu, which was established in 2010 and is rich in natural ecosystems. This BR has enough forest and wetlands. The reserve is suffering from high population growth.
    • The third is the Sheka Biosphere reserve, established in 2012, which is facing encroachment as agriculture is the main source of income there. Irrigation is done without looking at the soil quality.
    • The fourth Biosphere Reserve is Lake Tana, established in 2015 facing an issue of water hyacinth. Sharing details of other nations that are facing similar issues can help resolve the issues.

    The Majang forest, the last biosphere reserve established in 2017 is facing political problems. People from other parts are moving to Majang and removing the natives from their places.

    Dr. Neha Midha
    Programme Officer for Natural Sciences, UNESCO New Delhi

    “Over 3 billion people depend on biosphere reserves for their livelihood. The tradition of honey-collection in biosphere reserves has been causing loss of lives.”

     

    • She explained the definition of UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserves and then a few facts and definitions covering, the core area, the buffer area, and the transition area.
    • She then focused on the Sundarbans Biosphere reserve in West Bengal and its key factors.
    • Neha noted that over 3 million people depend on the biosphere reserve for their livelihood. The tradition of the honey collection has been causing the loss of lives, she mentioned.
    • Scientific solutions have been provided to the community by providing fencings, she explained. She then presented a video related to Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve showing key features and actions of the communities.
    • Further, she explained details related to the Gulf of Mannar, which has 1,10,000 families dependent on it and is the best example of community-based resource management. Her videos also explained a lot about the livelihood and beauty of Mannar.
    • Another full-of-resources biosphere reserve that she introduced to the audience was Kanchendzonga, which was established in Sikkim in 2018. It has 150 glaciers and 73 glacial lakes alone in the core zone. It is a mountain-based BR practicing Sustainable Forest Management.
    • She also introduced Nilgiri (also called the Blue Mountains), which is an important biodiversity hotspot with more than 5,800 species of plants. It is also known to be home to more than 500 tigers and 11,000 elephants.
    • Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, as Mr. Bharat and Dr. Neha mentioned, has an ‘Award-winning Community Owned Responsible Tourism.’

    Dr. Swayamprabha Das
    Deputy Regional Vice Chair of South & East Asia, IUCN Commission of Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy

    “One day we will have more plastic in our oceans than we have fish, thus eliminating plastics is of great importance. We know more about outer space than that of our oceans

    • She talked about marine biodiversity and marine conservation and noted how we are related to oceans and marine ecosystems.
    • She noted that Oceans absorb major chunk of heat from carbon emissions and regulate climate & weather patterns.
    • She explained the challenges associated with the declining marine and coastal biodiversity, which according to her are caused due to over-exploitation of resources, expansion of anthropogenic activities, effects of climate change, etc.
    • Resultantly, we have exploited 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks, 50% of the world’s coral reef, and 50% of the mangrove forest have been lost.
    • Underwater noise, shipping, cables, and underwater pipelines are majorly affecting the marine ecosystem.
    • She then explained the peculiarity of Tropical Waters and the recent facts from the IPCC report specifically for marine ecosystems and the cryosphere.
    • Apart from the challenges to the marine ecosystem, she explained the challenges in front of researchers, policymakers, conservation practitioners, marine resource managers, and the public at large.
    • She also talked about the measures to enhance biodiversity conservation, in which she mentioned women’s participation and capacity building are of great need.
    • Swayamprabha raised questions on ocean literacy, marine pollution management, circular marine/blue economy, blue carbon, and the great green blue wall in the Indian Ocean realm.
    • In her final discussion, she mentioned some new upcoming events in 2022 related to oceans and marine ecosystems, for e.g., UN Oceans Conference, which was held from 27th June to 01st July 2022.
    • She also talked about ecosystem-based approaches, nature-based solutions, data, and shared information on interconnectedness, tropical ecosystems, and SDG-14. She raised her thoughts concerning a healthy ocean, a healthy planet, and a healthy us.