Sunday, July 2, 2023

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve UPSC

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is a vast region located in the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers, which straddles the border between India and Bangladesh. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest mangrove forests in the world. 

The region is dominated by the Sundari tree species (Heritiera fomes), which gives the Sundarbans its name. It is the largest mangrove forest in the world and plays a vital role in protecting coastal areas from erosion and natural disasters like cyclones and tidal surges.

The Sundarbans is incredibly rich in biodiversity and supports a wide range of plant and animal species. It is home to several endangered and threatened species, including the Bengal tiger, estuarine crocodile, Indian python, Gangetic dolphin, and numerous bird species.

Table of Contents

  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Location
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve History
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Area
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve River
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Flora
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Fauna
    • Mammals
    • Marine Mammals
    • Birds
    • Reptile
    • Aquatic Fauna
  • Top Things to do in Sunderban Biosphere Reserve
  • Sundarban Biosphere Reserve UPSC Questions

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Location

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is located in the delta region of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers, spanning both India and Bangladesh. It is situated in the southern part of the Indian state of West Bengal and the southwestern part of Bangladesh. The reserve covers a significant area, extending approximately 60% in Bangladesh and 40% in India.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Nearest Airport:

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, India: This is the nearest major international airport and serves as a gateway to the Sundarbans from the Indian side. It is located in Kolkata, West Bengal, which is approximately 110-130 kilometers away from various entry points into the Sundarbans.

Shahjalal International Airport, Dhaka, Bangladesh: For accessing the Sundarbans from the Bangladesh side, Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka is the closest major international airport. The distance to the Sundarbans varies depending on the entry point, but it is approximately 250-300 kilometers away.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Nearest Railway Station:

Canning Railway Station, West Bengal, India: Canning Railway Station is the nearest railway station to the Sundarbans from the Indian side. It is located in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, and various entry points into the Sundarbans can be reached from here by road.

Khulna Railway Station, Khulna, Bangladesh: Khulna Railway Station is the nearest railway station to the Sundarbans from the Bangladesh side. It is located in Khulna city, and from here, one can travel to different entry points in the Sundarbans by road or waterways.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve History

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve has a rich history that dates back centuries. Here are some key historical aspects of the Sundarbans:

Colonial Era: During the colonial period, the Sundarbans came under the control of various European powers. The British East India Company established trading posts and controlled the region for economic purposes, primarily exploiting timber resources.

Conservation Initiatives: Recognizing the ecological significance of the Sundarbans, conservation efforts were initiated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1875, parts of the Sundarbans were declared a reserved forest, and in 1927, the entire area was designated as a wildlife sanctuary.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: In 1987, the Sundarbans was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its outstanding universal value as a unique ecosystem and habitat for the Bengal tiger and other endangered species.

Biosphere Reserve Designation: In 1989, the government of India officially designated the Sunderbans as a biosphere reserve, acknowledging its immense ecological importance. This recognition highlights the distinctive mangrove ecosystem found in the area and the wide array of plant and animal species it sustains. 

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: In 2001, the Sundarbans was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, further highlighting its importance for conservation and sustainable development. The Biosphere Reserve designation aims to balance the preservation of natural resources with the needs of local communities.

Ramsar Site: In 2019, the Sundarbans was declared a Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty aimed at conserving and promoting the sustainable use of wetlands.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Area

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is spread over a significant area, encompassing parts of both India and Bangladesh. The total area covered by the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is approximately 10,000 square kilometers.

Out of this total area, around 60% is located in Bangladesh, primarily in the Khulna division. The Sundarbans in Bangladesh extends across the districts of Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagerhat. It includes the Sundarbans East, Sundarbans South, and Sundarbans West Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The remaining 40% of the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is located in the Indian state of West Bengal. In India, it spans the South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts. The Indian portion of the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve includes the Sundarbans National Park and parts of the Sajnakhali Wildlife Sanctuary, the Lothian Wildlife Sanctuary and Haliday Wildlife Sanctuary.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve River

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is located in the delta region of three major rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna. These rivers converge in the Sundarbans, creating a unique and dynamic ecosystem.

The Ganges River, one of the most sacred rivers in India, originates in the Himalayas and flows through northern India and Bangladesh before reaching the Sundarbans. It plays a crucial role in shaping the landscape and hydrology of the Sundarbans region.

The Brahmaputra River, originating in Tibet and flowing through India and Bangladesh, also contributes to the Sundarbans. It merges with the Ganges and Meghna rivers, further enhancing the complexity of the deltaic ecosystem.

The Meghna River is the third significant river in the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve. It originates in northeastern India, flows through Bangladesh, and joins the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers before reaching the Bay of Bengal. It brings additional freshwater and sediment to the Sundarbans, influencing the hydrological patterns of the region.

The interaction of these three major rivers in the Sundarbans creates a dynamic environment of brackish water, mudflats, and mangrove forests. The intricate network of waterways and channels provides a habitat for diverse species of flora and fauna, making the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve a unique and biologically rich area.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Flora

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its rich and diverse flora, adapted to the unique conditions of the mangrove ecosystem. Here are some key flora species found in the Sundarbans:

Sundari Tree (Heritiera fomes): The Sundarbans derived its name from the Sundari tree, which is one of the dominant and economically significant species in the region. These large and stately trees play a crucial role in stabilizing the mangrove ecosystem.

Goran Tree (Ceriops decandra): Goran is another prominent tree species found in the Sundarbans. It can tolerate higher salinity levels and is an important component of the mangrove forests.

Keora Tree (Sonneratia apetala): The Keora tree is well-adapted to the Sundarbans' brackish water environment. It has pneumatophores (breathing roots) that help it survive in waterlogged conditions.

Hental Tree (Phoenix paludosa): The Hental tree is a palm species that thrives in the Sundarbans. It is characterized by its slender trunk and feathery leaves.

Passur Tree (Xylocarpus granatum): The Passur tree is known for its large, round fruits. It is a key species in the mangrove ecosystem, providing food and habitat for various animals.

Nypa Palm (Nypa fruticans): The Nypa palm, also known as the mangrove palm, is found in the Sundarbans' freshwater areas. It forms dense stands and is important for stabilizing soil and providing habitat.

Mangrove Understory: The Sundarbans also hosts a variety of understory vegetation, including ferns, grasses, and shrubs. These plants are adapted to the saline and waterlogged conditions of the mangrove ecosystem.

The flora of the Sundarbans has evolved unique adaptations to survive in the challenging conditions of tidal waters, high salinity, and changing water levels. These diverse plant species not only contribute to the ecological balance of the region but also provide habitat, food, and resources for the rich array of wildlife that call the Sundarbans home.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Fauna (Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Animals)

The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is home to a diverse array of fauna, including several iconic and endangered species. Here are some notable fauna found in the Sundarbans:


  • Bengal Tiger
  • Fishing Cat
  • Indian Leopard
  • Rhesus Macaque
  • Indian Wild Boar
  • Indian Grey Mongoose
  • Smooth-coated Otter
  • Indian Flying Fox
  • Small Indian Civet
  • Hog Deer

Marine Mammals:

  • Ganges River Dolphin
  • Irrawaddy Dolphin 
  • Finless Porpoise False Killer Whales
  • While Minke Whales
  • Bryde's Whales


  • Mangrove Pitta
  • White-bellied Sea Eagle
  • Lesser Adjutant Stork
  • Oriental Darter
  • Pallas's Fish Eagle
  • Brown-winged Kingfisher
  • Black-capped Kingfisher
  • Spot-billed Pelican
  • Grey-headed Fish Eagle
  • Changeable Hawk-Eagle


  • Estuarine Crocodile
  • Indian Python
  • King Cobra
  • Water Monitor Lizard
  • Common Krait
  • Russell's Viper
  • Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle

Aquatic Fauna:

  • Giant River Prawn
  • Mudskipper Fish
  • Hilsa Fish
  • Estuarine Catfish

Top Things to do in Sunderban Biosphere Reserve

When visiting the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve, there are several exciting activities and experiences that you can engage in. Here are some of the top things to do in the Sundarbans:

  • Boat Safari
  • Tiger Spotting
  • Bird Watching
  • Visit Wildlife Sanctuaries
  • Cultural Experiences
  • Nature Walks and Jungle Treks
  • Visit Watchtowers
  • Educational and Research Activities
  • Explore the Sundarbans Mangrove Interpretation Centre
  • Enjoy Sunset Cruises

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve UPSC Questions

Q. Where is Sundarban Biosphere Reserve located?/In which state Sundarban Biosphere Reserve is located?

A. The Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is located in the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, primarily spanning across the Indian state of West Bengal and the neighboring country of Bangladesh. 

In India, the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve is located in the South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts of the state of West Bengal.

On the Bangladeshi side, the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve covers a significant portion of the Khulna division, including parts of the Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagerhat districts. 

Q. In which year Sundarban was declared as Biosphere Reserve?

A. Sundarban was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2001.

Q. When did Sundarban declared as Ramsar site?

A. The Sundarbans was declared a Ramsar site on May 21, 2019. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty that aims to protect and conserve important wetland areas around the world. The Sundarbans, with its unique mangrove ecosystem and rich biodiversity, was recognized for its ecological significance and designated as a Ramsar site to ensure its conservation and sustainable management. This designation highlights the international recognition of the Sundarbans as a vital wetland ecosystem and emphasizes the need to preserve its environmental integrity.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve

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