The Achanakmar Amarkantak biosphere reserve lies between lat . 22 o 15' to 22 o 58' N and long . 81 o 25' to 82 o 50' E , having an area 3835.51 km 2 , partly falling in Madhya Pradesh and partly in Chhattisgarh state . The area falls in almost northern part of Biogeographic zone of 6 and Biogeographic province 6a (Deccan peninsula , central highlands ). Out of the total area , 68.10 % lies in Bilaspur district followed by Anuppur (16.20 %) and Dindori (15.70 %). It includes one protected area (pa ) viz , Achanakmar sanctuary lying in Bilaspur district with a total geographical area of 551.15. Km 2 .
In line with Pachmarhi BR the notification of Achanakmar- Amarkantak area as Biosphere Reserve by itself has not in any way changed the status of legal ownership of land and forests nor affects the rights of tribal and local people in any way.
Presently the Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve has been divided into core and buffer zones area only. The entire area of 551.15 sq. km of Achanakmar sanctuary has been designated as core zone and remaining area of 3284.36 km 2 serves as buffer zone. Out of this an area of 1224.98 km 2 falls in Madhya Pradesh and the rest of the area of 2059.38 km 2 fall in Chhattisgarh state.
Thetopographyis very varied from the rice fields below in Bilaspur and Anuppur and wheat fields in Dindori to the hills of Maikal range of Satpuras, culminating in the Amarkantak plateau of bauxite rocks. Steep escarpments are seen surrounding the plateau. Numerous streams and Nallas, many of which are perennial, cut up the whole area. The biosphere reserve area is one of major watershed of peninsular India separating rivers draining into Arabian sea and bay of Bengal. Its uniqueness lays in the fact that it is the source of three major river systems namely Narmada, Johilla and Sone of the Ganga basin and Ama Nallah stream that join Arpa river of Mahanadi basin.
The biosphere reserve area includes Maikal hill ranges, the junction of Vindhyan and Satpura hill ranges forming a triangular shape. The geology of the area is varied.
The biosphere area has a typical monsoon climate with three distinct seasons namely summer from March - June, rainy from July - October and winter season from November - February. Generally May and June are the hottest months whereas December and January are the coolest months of the year. Clouds prevail during the south western monsoon season i.e. from June-September to the degree of about 6 oktas as recorded by the IMD station at Pendra.
The soils of the area are generally lateritic, alluvial and black cotton type, derived from granite, gneisses and basalts. Black cotton soil is occuring in Dindori-Pendra Road and also along the Narmada River. In parts of Amarkantak, laterite occurs mainly as cappings above the Deccan trap. Red soil is also found on hilltops, which is Murramy or loosely packed and gritty, generally shallow and incapable of supporting good forest growth. Alluvial soils are found along the Nallahs and rivers. Alluvial and black cotton soils are the most fertile for agriculture in the area. The soil cover on the plateau generally varies between 1 to 5 m thicknesses.
The land use and forest cover based on satellite data of 2000 revealed that out of the total geographical area of biosphere reserve area, 68.1% lies in Bilaspur district followed by Anuppur (16.2%) and Dindori (15.7%). The land use analysis indicates that the forests constitute 66.31% of the area (2423.54 sq. Km), while agricultural lands constitute 34.03% (1305.00 sq. Km) and wastelands are about 1.36% covering 52.22 sq. Km only. The rest of the area is built up land (0.28%), water bodies (1.03 %) and other uses (0.11%), totaling 1.42% of the total area. Under the forest category, maximum area is covered by dense forest with 64.20 % of total geographical area, open forest (0.30%) and degraded forests (1.80%). Open forests are found mainly in hilly and undulating tracts and fringes of forests boundary villages. The degraded forests are mainly confined on steep slopes, mining areas and human habitations.
The forest area of the Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve represents tropical deciduous vegetation and can be classified into Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous and Southern Dry Mixed Deciduous forests (Champion & Seth, 1968).
The area is "Genetic Express Highway" linking two biological Hot Spots namely Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas and also serves as confluence point for northern and southern type of vegetation. It is rich in plant diversity as combination of different climatic and edaphic conditions at various altitudes give rise to rich and luxuriant vegetation which is one of a few richest in Central India. Based on the studies carried by State Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur in 1995 on behalf of EPCO, the region is abode of various species belonging to thallophytes, bryophytes and pteridophytes apart from the gymnosperms and angiosperms.
A total of more than thousand species (996 + unidentified species) spread over 151 plant families have been reported from the area. The thallophyte, bryophyte, pteridophyte families support 95 species, which is an indicator of the extent of biodiversity and the comparatively good trophic status, as these primitive forms are the quickest to disappear under adverse conditions. In angiosperm, a total of 656 species belonging to 385 genera covering 103 families of dicotyledonous and 228 species belonging to 119 genera covering 24 families of monocotyledonous have been identified. Out of the 15 species of gymnosperms planted in the past few years, most of them have adopted and growing well in the region.
The percentage of dicotyledons and monocotyledons species with respect to total angiospermic species in the area is 74.17% and 25.83%, respectively against their respective world flora of 81.30% and 18.70%, which concludes that monocot percentage in BR area is higher than their global average. This is due to large number of grasses found in the BR area. This also indicates slightly high evolutionary rates amongst these plants.
Over 25 species of pteridophytes have been reported. Some of the important species of ferns viz., Selaginella ciliaris, Selaginella longipila, Equisetum debile, Aleuritopteris farinosa, Pteris quadriaurita, Ceratopteris thalickrioides, Blechnum orientale, Asplenium cheilosorum, osmunda sp., Cyclosorus parasiticus, Athyrium falcatum, Tectaria macrodonta, Lygodium flexuosum, Ophioglossum reticulatum etc., are commonly found in this area. Most of the ferns are terrestrial in habit and growing deep inside the ravines in the Sal forest habitat except some semi-aquatic ferns viz., Marsilea minuta and M. quadrifolia commonly found in the ponds in the area. Ophioglossum reticulatum, Lygodium flexuosum, Asplenium cheilosorum, Osmunda sp., Equisetum debile and Selaginella species are rarely found in the forest localities of the area.
Drosera , an insectivorous species, is found in the plateau of Amarkantak near origin place of mighty river Narmada, covering about 1 sq km area is named as 'Drosera plateau'.
Amogst angiospermic species, Thalictrum sp., Dillenia pentagyna, Cocculus hirsutus, Flacourtia indica, Talinium portulacifolium, Tamarix ericoides, Abelmoschuus ficulneus, Hibiscus subdariffa, Corchorus fascicularis, Grewia rothii, Biophytum sp., Oxalis sp., Tropaeolum majus, Gloriosa superba, Curcuma aromatica, Dioscorea sp., Chlorophytum tuberosum, Curculago orchioides, Hypercum japonicum, Cayratia pedata, Rotala maxicana, Pimpinella heyneana, Justicea betonica, Epipogon roseum, Malaxis mackinonii, Amorphophallus sp., Rhynchospora sumarginata, Myriophyllum oligonthum, Ceropegia hirsuta, etc, are observed to be rare in the area. The places where these species are met with are Kapildhara, Sonmunda, Amadoh, Divdhara, Lamni valley, Achanakmar, Panarpani, Sarasdol etc.
Among the planted gymnosperms, most of them are localized in the amarkantak plateau and have adapted to the local environmental conditions of the area. These can be treated as endemic species in these localities, including Cupressus torulosa, Thuja oreintalis, Araucaria bidwilli, Pinus caribbea, P. elliotti,P. gregaii, P. kesiya, P. mountzumae, P. oocarpa , P. patula, P. ponderosa, P. pseudostrobus, P. roxburghii, P. serotina,Cedrus deodara,Juniperus sp. and Taxodium sp., and can be gene bank amongst Gymnospermic species.
More than 105 species of medicinal plants have been reported in the area. Out of them 25 species are rare.
The faunal composition represents the Deccan peninsular zone of the Biogeographical classification of India by Rodgers & Panwar (1988). The Achanakmar sanctuary has a much better population of wildlife than the other reserved forest areas included in the biosphere reserve, due to the better protection and improved habitat conditions resulting from conservation actions therein. As per 2004 census 26 tigers, 46 panthers, 28 bears, 1936 Chitals, 1369 Sambhars, 376 barking deer, 552 bison (gaur), have been reported from Achanakmar sanctuary. The multiple use forests are heavily grazed and along the periphery exploited for fuel, minor produce and even usual forestry operation, all rather unsettling to wildlife. Yet, there are important species like the black buck, Chinkara, wolves, foxes and jackals outside the reserved forests in village lands and wastelands, which are important for conservation.
Tiger being the top carnivore is generally confined to the deep forests of wildlife sanctuary and adjoining forests of Dindori and Anuppur forest division. Similarly panthers are found to be well distributed in the area. Other wild animals, frequently found in the area are spotted deer, Sambhar, bison, wild boar, monkeys, etc.
Giant squirrels and flying squirrels (65 nos) are also seen in this area. Giant squirrels are observed to be found in the deep valleys along the Nallah, near Kabir chabutra in Dindori forest division. Red jungle fowl are also commonly found in almost all localities.
The variety of vegetational spectrum, sylvan expanse, scatter of water sources and wetlands and the climatic range from warm humid to cool and dry in the plains and hills topped by Amarkantak plateau offer a complete gamut of habitat niches to bird life. A total of 170 species under 51 families have been reported from the area without claiming to be anywhere near a complete compendium.
More than 13 species of snakes and lizards along with several sp. of frogs (cricket frog, burrowing frog, tree frog, ornate narrow mouthed frog, toad, bull-frog etc.) were also reported from the region.
The area is largely of agricultural rural settings with preponderance of forests indicative of its inter land-situation under 7 developmental blocks of 3 civil districts. The total area of AABR covers a total of 416 villages and 2 urban agglomerations (Annex-XV). Out of the total villages 349 falls under revenue villages and remaining 67 falls under forest village category. In Madhya Pradesh there is no urban agglomeration as per 1991 census. Out of total villages of the BR area 171(74 in Dindori and 97 in Anuppur) falls in MP and remaining 245 villages fall in Chhattisgarh. In Madhya Pradesh, there are only 10 forest villages all located in Dindori district.
Total population of the area is 3, 56,027 (2001 Census) of which 37.50 is located within MP and 62.5 % in Chhattisgarh. Of the total population of BR 59.2 % belong to Schedule Tribes (ST) and 7.7 % Schedule castes. Out of total population falling in MP ST population covers 74.0 % and SC population cover 3.6 % where as the ST and SC population is 50.7 % and 10.5 %, respectively, out of total population falling in Chhattisgarh state.
The Sex ratio in the area is far above than the national average figure as 978/1000 male. The literacy rate is 54.3.
Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve has very high concentration of tribal population. Some of the major tribal communities found in the region are Gonds and their sub tribes like Madia, Mudia, Gurva, Agariya and Rajgond. Other tribes are Baigas, Kol, Kanwar and Pradhans.
The tourist in flow records specially from Amarkantak plateau showed a huge increase in their number as 5, 73,014 in 1994-95 to 12,72,041 in 2002 with a majority of domestic tourists and followed the same trend so far in view of upgraded lodging and transportation facilities in the area. The most of the places of tourist's attraction located at Amarkantak plateau and in Achanakmar sanctuary. The scenic spots at Amarkantak include Chaura Dadar, Kabir Ka Chabutra, Durgdhara and Sambhoodhara, Sonemuda, temples of Narmada origin, etc and in Achanakmar sanctuary, Rakshasakh, Shinhawal Sagar and Mendri Sarai fall in this category. The religious places in the biosphere reserve area include Narmada temple, Mai Ki Bagia, Sone Muda Temple, Sidhi Vinayak and Paras Vinayak Pataleswar Mahadev and Shiv temple (Jaleshwar) at and around Amarkantak and Nagahra in Achanakmar Sanctuary.
Rangmahal at Amarkantak and Pandwani Talab and Lakshmandongri in Achanakmar sanctuary also attracts tourists as historical places in the area.
The year wise funds provided by the Ministry of Environment & Forests for implementation of management action plan is given below.