Introduction

The State of Gujarat; situated on the western coast of India; is mainly arid and semi arid and its vast coastal areas are saline, which is characterised by support low productivity, low regeneration capacity and are highly susceptible to ecological disturbances. Its growing population with aspirations for further development has chosen the route of industrialisation. Low productivity, sensitive ecosystems and higher rate of industrialisation has adverse impact on the sustainability of lively hood and development of people of Gujarat. The environment and ecosystems of Gujarat have already started showing signs of stress in terms of depleting ground water, ingress of salinity, depletion biological diversity, including species loss, heavy soil erosion, desertification etc. The onus of maintaining environmental balance and restoration of ecosystems by recharging ground water, preventing salinity ingress, conserving biological diversity, soil conservation etc, is more on forestry sector and therefore, the forestry practices in forest lands and protected areas of Gujarat should be more conservation oriented. Material needs of people should be met mainly by increasing productivity of non forest areas through social/ community forestry.

Diverse geo-physical and eco-climatic features of the maritime state of Gujarat having long coastline, merging of major mountain systems of India viz. The Aravali, Vindhyas, Satpuda and Sahyandri [Western Ghats] have given rise to diverse ecosystems including various types of Forests, Grasslands, Mangroves, water bodies, wetlands, arid deserts, saline deserts, etc. The diverse ecosystems, evolutionary history, trans-continental migration of species in the past, location en-route to the annual migration of species and long conservation efforts of the people of Gujarat have given rise to the rich bilogical diversity [BD]

Though, Gujarat has saved many known endangered and threatened species from getting extinct such as Asiatic. Lion, Leopard, Indian Crocodile, The Wild-Ass, Indian Wolf, Black-buck, Chinkara, Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican, etc. populations of many species particularly Tiger and its associate species in south and eastern Gujarat and those of birds and plants, are declining. In absence of monitoring of BD, it is difficult to assess the loss. However, degrading habitats and increasing environmental imbalances learnt from the observations of physical environmental factors, give indication about possible extinction or loss of species before even knowing them. In order to minimise such loss, the state is participating in global and national pursuit of wildlife and BD conservation by implementing the National Action Plans including establishing and managing the PA network.

The PA network of the State of Gujarat comprises of 28 PAs including 23 Sanctuaries, 4 National Parks and 1 Conservation reserve having total area of 16619.81 sq.km. (8.37%) and 480.12 sq.km. (0.24%), respectively. Though, the geographical area of Gujarat is only 5.9% of the total area of India, it contributes 11.37% (17099.93 sq. km.) area to the total PA (148532 sq.km) of the country. Out of the total 17099.93 sq.km. Of PA, only 4640.58 sq.km. 27.45% is Forest Land of various categories, whereas larger contribution is from non-forest ecosystems including mainly the saline deserts [124559.92 sq.km. i.e.73.71% of the total PA].

The PA network of Gujarat covers all the Bio-geographical zones and regions as well as all types of ecosystems represented in the state. It also covers important habitat types essentially required for the conservation of the endangered/threatened species. Though, most [20 out of 24] of the districts have at least one PA, the spatial distribution of PA network in Gujarat is not satisfactory.

Protected Areas of Gujarat since the year 1970.

Year SanctuaryNational Park Total
No.Area sq.kmNo.Area sq.km.No.% to total(1996)Area sq.km.% to total(1996)
197021380.01--281380.010.70
198075872.953298.8710403171.823.14
1988168729.904479.6720609209.574.70
19982116584.304479.672575170.638.70

2004

22

16602.52

4

480.12

26

80

18.22

8.67

2008

23

16619.81

4

480.12

27

100

178.87

8.37

Region-wise distribution of PAs in Gujarat [area in sq.km.]

RegionGeo. Area Forest Area% of Forest to Geo. AreaNo. of PAsArea of PAs% of PA to the Geo. Area
Saurashtra and Kutchh1099917356.8
(+~3000 of Banni)
6.11815431.9414.03
Central and North Guj.623306229.8010.0061035.21.70
South Gujarat237035806.624.53729.533.3
Total19602418868.28
+ Banni
9.622517196.678.77