Types of Protected Areas in India

India has a vast network of protected areas spanning different biogeographic zones from high mountains to coastal regions. As of 2024, India has around 1000 protected areas covering about 5% of its total geographic area. This includes 566 wildlife sanctuaries, 109 national parks, 28 community reserves, and 254 conservation reserves.

Types of Protected Areas

The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 defines five types of protected areas in India viz. Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks, Community Reserves, Conservation Reserves and Tiger Reserves. The act has six schedules with varying degrees of protection to different kinds of animals and plants.

Wildlife Sanctuary

A wildlife sanctuary is defined by State Government via a Notification. There is no need to pass a legislation (act) by the state assembly to declare a wildlife sanctuary. Fixation and alternation of boundary can be done by state legislature via resolution. No need to pass an act for alternation of boundaries. No alternation of boundaries in wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL (National Board of Wildlife). Limited human activities are permitted in the sanctuary.

National Parks

Similar to the Wildlife Sanctuaries, a National Park is defined by state government via notification. The state government can fix and alter boundaries of the National Parks with prior consultation and approval with National Board of Wildlife. There is no need to pass an act for alternation of boundaries of National Parks.  No human activities are permitted in a National Park.

Similarities / Difference between a National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
Similarities

Commercial exploitation of forest produce in both areas is NOT allowed; except for local communities. No wild mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, fish, crustacean, insects, or coelenterates listed in four Schedules of the WLPA can be hunted either within or outside both of them, and also other conservation areas.

Differences

No grazing or private tenurial rights land rights are allowed in National Parks. In Wildlife sanctuaries, they may be provided at the discretion of Chief Wildlife warden.

Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves

These areas provide a greater role and opportunity for local communities, stakeholders and civil society to protect many areas of conservation value that cannot be designated under strict categories such as wildlife sanctuaries or national parks.

Tiger Reserves

Tiger Reserves are declared by National Tiger Conservation Authority under Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 under centrally sponsored scheme called Project Tiger. To declare an area as Tiger Reserve, the state governments can forward their proposals in this regard to NTCA. Central Government via NTCA may also advise the state governments to forward a proposal for creation of Tiger Reserves. Tiger Reserves are managed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). No alternation of boundary can be done without the recommendation of National Board for Wildlife and without the advice of the Tiger Conservation Authority.

Schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act

There are six schedules in wildlife protection act with varying degrees of protection. Out of the six schedules:

  • Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provide absolute protection and offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
  • The penalties for Schedule III and Schedule IV are less and these animals are protected.
  • Schedule V includes the animals which may be hunted. Such animals include Common crow, Fruit bats, Mice & Rats only.
  • Schedule VI contains the plants, which are prohibited from cultivation and planting. These plants are as follows
    • Beddomes’ cycad (Cycas beddomei)
    • Blue Vanda (Vanda soerulec)
    • Kuth (Saussurea lappa)
    • Ladies slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum spp.)
    • Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana)
    • Red Vanda (Rananthera inschootiana)]

Whose permission is needed to hunt a man-eater?

India does not have a robust scientific or policy mechanism to minimise tiger human conflicts. A Standard Operating Procedure was released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority a few years back to deal with emergency arising due to straying of tigers to human settlements. The guidelines prohibit killing the tiger unless it has been declared a maneater. Only the chief wildlife warden of a state can permit hunting of man-eaters.


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