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Protected areas: IUCN and India

Protected areas are those in which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited. The definition that has been widely accepted across regional and global frameworks has been provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its categorisation guidelines for protected areas. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organisations involved. The term “protected area” also includes Marine Protected Areas, the boundaries of which will include some area of ocean, and Trans-boundary Protected Areas that overlap multiple countries which remove the borders inside the area for conservation and economic purposes.

IUCN category of Protected Areas

Category I:  Strict Protection

It is sometimes also called strict nature reserve/wilderness areas. Protected areas managed mainly for science or wilderness protection. Generally smaller areas where the preservation of important natural values with minimum human disturbance are emphasized.

Two sub-categories:

  • Category Ia — Strict Nature Reserve
  • Category Ib — Wilderness Area

Category II:  Ecosystem Conservation and Tourism: National Park

It is sometimes also called national parks. Generally larger areas with a range of outstanding features and ecosystems that people may visit for education, recreation, and inspiration as long as they do not threaten the area’s values.

Category III:  Conservation of Natural Features/ Natural Monument or Feature

It is sometimes also called natural monuments.  It is similar to National Parks, but usually smaller areas protecting a single spectacular natural feature or historic site.

Category IV:  Conservation through Active Management/ Habitat/Species Management Area

It is sometimes called habitat and wildlife (species) management areas. Areas managed to protect and utilize wildlife species.

Category V: Landscape/Seascape Conservation and Recreation

It is sometimes called protected landscapes/ seascapes.

Category VI: Sustainable Use of Natural Ecosystems/ Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources

Sometimes called managed resource protected areas. Protected areas managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

Protected Areas of India from 2000 to 2016 (as on 14 June, 2016)

Year No. of National Parks Area Under National Parks No. of Wild Life Sanctuaries Area Under Wild Life Sanctuaries No. of Community Reserves Area Under Community Reserves No. of Conservation Reserves Area Under Conservation Reserves No. of Protected Areas Total Area under Protected Areas
2000 89 37593.94 489 117881.68 - - - - 578 155475.63
2006 96 38183.01 506 120244.39 - - 4 42.87 606 158470.27
2013 102 40074.46 526 124234.52 4 20.69 57 2017.94 689 166347.6
2014 103 40332.89 525 116254.36 4 20.69 60 2037.11 692 158645.05
2015 103 40500.13 531 117607.72 26 46.93 66 2344.53 726 160499.31
2016 103 40500.13 536 118005.33 26 46.93 67 2349.38 732 160901.77

 Source: National Wildlife Database Cell, Wildlife Institute of India

Note:  All areas are in km2

- Community Reserves have been established in India from 2007 onwards and Conservation Reserves from 2005 onwards. Hence these values are zero.

Protected Areas of India (as on 14 June, 2016)

No Area (km2) % of Geographical Area of India (%)
National Parks  103 40500.13 1.23
Wildlife Sanctuaries  536 118005.33 3.59
Conservation Reserves  67 2349.38 0.07
Community Reserves 26 46.93 0.001
Protected Areas  732 160901.77 4.89


Geographical Area of India = 32,87,590  km2
Forest cover of India (FSI, 2013) =   6,97,898  km2
Percentage Area under Forest cover = 21.23 % of Geographical Area of India



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