As of January 2019, there are 1092 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. India has 37, out of which there are 29 cultural sites, 7 natural sites, and 1 mixed site. These sites worldwide are given this status because they have cultural, historic, scientific significance about them. Let's learn how, why and what of the seven natural sites in India. There are in total 10 criterias that give a site the coveted designation. Four out of ten are for the natural sites:
## Contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
## Is an outstanding example representing major stages of Earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
## Is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems, and communities of plants and animals.
## Contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Here are the seven natural sites that have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Located in Assam, Kaziranga National Park was declared a World Heritage Site back in 1985, nine years after it was declared a national park. The Indian one-horned rhinoceros call this park their home.
Manas National Park, Assam
Also from Assam is Manas National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Another important site for it is home to various endemic plants and animal species. An erstwhile reserved forest, Manas, after getting included in the Project Tiger, got the status of a tiger reserve.
Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan
The national park was formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Home to over 230 species of birds, Keoladeo National Park is one of the most popular national parks in India. Thousands of birds flock here during winter, migratory as well as residents. Because of this, the site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1985.
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand
The Nanda Devi National Park was given the status in the year 1988. The site consists of two core areas: Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers National Park. The unmatched and iconic beauty of the Nanda Devi Peak and the flowering haven that is the Valley of Flowers, are the reasons why the site is also one of the most visited in the country.
Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal
A national park, biosphere reserve and a tiger reserve, all three are what Sundarbans National Park is all about. The site is adjacent to the Sundarban Reserve Forest in Bangladesh and hence is home to the famous mangrove forest, residence of the great Bengal tiger and crocodiles. Sundarbans National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
One of the world's biodiversity hotspots for sure owns a place of its own. The heavily wooded mountain range hugs the western part of India and is home to a number of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. This was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.
Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
Relatively recent, the Great Himalayan National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Amidst alpine meadows, mountain peaks and deep forests and glaciers, you will find many species of animals and birds.