South and Central Asia Biosphere Reserves Network meeting took place in Bhutan

3 May 2019

The 9th South and Central Asia Biosphere Reserves Network (SACAM) Meeting on “Citizen Science in Biosphere Reserves” took place in Thimphu, Bhutan, on 25-27 April 2019.

Recognizing the potential resources of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, the Network of Biosphere Reserves representatives from South and Central Asia (SACAM) region, encompassing eight countries, as well as international partners and experts, including those from ICIMOD and IUCN, met in Bhutan to exchange about the status of the SACAM network, report on ongoing activities in their countries and discuss citizen science perspectives for biosphere reserves in the region.

Participants of the meeting at the plenary discussion, Thimphu, Bhutan ©UNESCO Almaty

Participants of the meeting ©UNESCO Almaty

The meeting focused on building regional capacity in biosphere reserves management through sharing of experiences of member states, raising awareness with interested participating states without biosphere reserves. It explored opportunities and strategies for citizen science in fulfilling the logistics function of biosphere reserves, including education, research, monitoring and periodic review. A field visit was organized by the hosting country to the Royal Botanical Garden of Bhutan, the first proposed biosphere reserve of the country.

Participants of the meeting getting acquainted with unique biodiversity of Bhutan’s forests ©UNESCO Almaty

Biosphere reserves are recognized internationally for their role in harmonizing biodiversity conservation of biological and cultural diversity, economic and social development through partnership between people and nature. Biosphere reserves are established by countries and recognized under UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) as sites of excellence to promote innovative approaches to sustainable development where scientific knowledge and governance modalities are combined to reduce biodiversity loss, improve livelihoods and enhance social, economic and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability. Currently there are 686 BR sites in 122 countries worldwide.

Meeting local community member in the future biosphere reserve of Bhutan ©UNESCO Almaty

In the South and Central Asia, there are 44 biosphere reserves in the following countries: India (11), Iran (13), Kazakhstan (10), Kyrgyzstan (2), Maldives (1), Pakistan (2), Sri Lanka (4) and Uzbekistan (1), while Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Tajikistan have no biosphere reserves yet. Thus, SACAM provides with an excellent platform for knowledge and experience sharing among the countries in the sub-region, including those with advanced MAB programme and those, which do not have biosphere reserves yet.

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