Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Himachal park gets Unesco’s heritage tagShimla: After Gujarat’s Rani ki Vav (queen’s stepwell), the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA) in Himachal Pradesh, India’s richest biodiversity spot in the western Himalayas, Monday got the coveted UNESCO tag of a World Heritage site.
The World Heritage Committee, which met in Doha, Qatar, included GHNPCA in the World Heritage Natural Site List. It was India’s lone entry.
Earlier, the UNESCO added Rani ki Vav in Gujarat’s Patan town to the list of World Heritage sites.
“It’s a great honour. Now it’s an international site… will get global attention. The uniqueness of the park is that the rights of the locals have been protected,” state Principal Secretary (Forest) Tarun Sridhar said.
Besides the GHNPCA, India has six other natural sites in the Unesco World Heritage list, including the Sundarbans in West Bengal.
The state’s chief conservator of forests Sanjeeva Pandey, who was in Doha to represent the state’s claim for the heritage status, said this was indeed a significant moment in the conservation history of the western Himalayas.
“This was about nine years ago when the Friends of GHNPCA, an informal group of volunteers, started believing that the area should have global support to protect a part of the unique environment and biological diversity,” Pandey wrote on his Facebook page.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Unesco’s advisory panel on nature, last year deferred “the examination of the nomination of the GHNP to allow the state to finalise the addition of Tirthan and Sainj wildlife sanctuaries (adjoining the GHNP) to the nominated property to create a single area”.
The World Heritage Committee said the state “has to continue to resolve rights-based issues with respect to local communities and indigenous people in the site”.
Official sources said the legal process of inclusion of Sainj (90 sq km) and Tirthan (61 sq km) wildlife sanctuaries into the GHNP (754.4 sq km) involve resettlement of three villages from Sainj and providing monetary compensation to the right holders, specifically shepherds, in Tirthan sanctuary.
With the inclusion of both the wildlife sanctuaries in the GHNP, the total area, known as Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA), spreads over 905 sq km.
Formally declared a national park in 1999, the area stretches from 1,800 metres to 5,200 metres in altitude with a major part of the GHNPCA lying above 4,000 metres.
“GHNPCA harbours the most important gene pool of the Western Himalayan flora and fauna,” the Unesco said on its official website.
The GHNPCA, located in Kullu district and some 250 km from here, is home to several rare and threatened species, including the western tragopan, chir pheasant, snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer, Asiatic black bear, Himalayan tahr, blue sheep and serow.
Some 25 threatened IUCN Red-listed plant species are also recorded in the park.
Wildlife officials said the GHNP is one of the two national parks in the world that is home to the brilliantly plumaged western tragopan. The Machiara National Park in Pakistan also supports this species.
Another endangered pheasant, the cheer, is also found in the GHNPCA’s grassy slopes. Other pheasant species, the monal and the koklas, are in abundance in the temperate zone, while the kaleej occurs in small numbers below 2,000 m.
“I count 70 blue sheep… the largest group of mammals I have seen in my years of trekking in the park (GHNP)… It is a good sign that the park is providing a safe habitat for a species that once was hunted for its meat and fur coat,” US expert Payson R. Stevens and Sanjeeva Pandey wrote in an issue of Sanctuary Asia journal.
Since 2000, the two experts have trekked over 1,500 km in the park.
Sunshine Himalayan Adventures - Your gateway to the GHNP !
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Meadows in the core park zone
Ropa village, one of the villages in the ecozone of the park
Great Himalayan National Park area in Kullu. Photos by writer
- The park is home to 377 documented species of fauna. The Wildlife Institute of India has identified 832 plant species belonging to 427 genera and 128 families of higher plants. Of these, 794 are angiosperms, 11 gymnosperms and 27 ferns.
- Himalayan musk deer (listed as near threatened); the vulnerable Himalayan tahr; the endangered snow leopard; Himalayan black and brown bears; and western tragopan (on red list of threatened birds) inhabit the park.
- Its forests consist of extensive stands of oak, blue pine, west Himalayan silver fir, spruce, and Himalayan cedar; broad-leaf forests contain horse chestnut, rhododendron arboretum, and pure patches of birch at higher altitude, yew, a rich variety of shrubs and patches of ringal bamboo, shrubs, juniper, berberis, cotoneaster, vibernum, rosa (at 3,700 m) and alpine flora above 4,000 m.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Like a typical Punju, holidaying for me meant staying in luxurious hotels, air travel, and buying expensive stuff to take back home. And yes, how could I forget the high that came out of announcing before the whole class, when your teacher asked you, so what did you do in the vacations? With immense pride, I used to say names of fancy places each year. We punjus spend lakhs travelling to exotic locale and once there what is the first thing we search for? Any guesses? Yes, you got it right! All-time favourite dal makhani and butter chicken! Let’s move a little ahead in time. When last year in August, my family (not immediate) got to know I am going for a trek to the beautiful Tirthan Valley, I am sure they considered me mad. Staying in tents, pooping in open and no TV? And you will be paying for this? You must be kidding me? Is this is a holiday or self-imposed torture. For the patient person I am, I just smiled and said to myself, ‘you don’t have it in you so just eat your dal and stay happy’. Not much of an outdoorsy person, I wanted to give hiking a try. Once there, I adored the evening campfire and the clear sky with thousand twinkling stars. But hiking was another matter entirely. To others, it must be an easy stroll. To me it was a steep, winding climb that seemed never to end. When we finally reached the destination, I couldn’t wait to start back down. Sleeping in the tent by the river, I used to get up in the middle of night asking myself, what am I doing here? What went wrong in my head to abandon the confines of my comfortable city life to take up this? Am I just following what other people doing? I am not made for this adventurous stuff.
But when I began to explore the valley, a new sense of wonder and appreciation enveloped me. Walking atop logs and playing in streams made me feel young again. I have learned that you can’t compare yourself with anyone, or shy away from a challenge just because others might do it better. If I had kept thinking the way I did in my 20s, I would have missed a marvellous adventure. John Muir had it right when he wrote, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. A few days back, I read a blog which said that if you intend on marrying someone, go on a trek with him or her. The mask of the city wears off quickly and the real person surfaces while you are in nature. Interesting, isn’t it? I don’t know about marriage but yes, the mask does come off. The mask of make-up, fancy clothes, coffee shops, eating at fancy places is taken off by the nature and what comes out is how disciplined, considerate and cooperative are you? A late riser who has been lucky not to be working in a 9 to 5 job, getting up at six in the morning was an impossible task but I did it. So yes, I am disciplined (conditions apply ;)). Trekking is not easy. Complaining about food, location, tents is not an option. We were lucky that we were served delicious, fresh meals five times a day. (I should give a special mention to Panki Sood ( www.sunshineadventure.com ) for this. No matter how much I speak of the hospitality his team offers, it would be less.) The most important thing, how considerate you are toward the environment. If you on a trek and you litter around, and shout at the top of your voice, sorry you are not meant to be there !
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Friday, November 02, 2012
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Nomination for declaring the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site had been accepted and it would be granted the prestigious status after an evaluation is done early next year, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal disclosed while presiding over a Wild Life Board meeting he presided over yesterday.
At the same meeting he also stated that redrawing of the state wild life sanctuary area would enable to bring out about 1.5 lakhs people in 775 villages from 33 sanctuaries and 2 national parks regions.
He said that the rationalization process was nearing completion and it would help to bring out people being affected by restrictions imposed in the wild life sanctuary areas
The 33 wild life sanctuaries and 2 national parks covered an area of about 7161 square kilometers, he added.
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Trekking was in my blood being a mountain lad. Right from organizing day bunks into the pristine wilderness which surrounded the Bishop Cotton School ( Shimla) in the mid eighties and going on hikes, I have always drawn inspiration from nature and its elements. One of my first organized treks was to Chandertaal Lake in 1988 where we were led by our geography teacher to experience the sheer power of nature. It was tough for me then as I slogged the heights of Kunzum la in Spiti and was last to reach the camp. As I entered the camp all my trek mates clapped and my teacher “proudly said” Now you have become a man”. And this man never looked back. I was trekking in the dry desert of Ladakh doing valleys like Markha, Nubra and climbing peaks such as Stok Kangri. My adventures in Himachal took me to Spiti and Kinnaur where I became a hard core trekker.
As I got to spend more and more time with mother nature, I also started exploring my home valley. I came to know about a newly created National park but It was not unless April 2003 when I was invited for a trek by Mr. Sanjeeva Pandey ( Director GHNP) to explore India’s most newest national park ,”THE GREAT HIMALAYAN NATIONAL PARK”. Seeing such a pristine area right in my backyard made me such a GHNP addict that whenever I got the time, I was exploring the deep jungles of the park with my innovative mentors Payson Stevens and Sanjeeva Pandey. This park is one of the last remaining unscathed virgin areas of the western Himalayas. On my first trek to Dhela thatch, I was really mesmerized at the true wilderness which the park offered. Sparkling rivulets, crystal clear air, virgin forests with pine, oak and spruce that seems that they existed forever, this was truly like walking back at least 500 years into the time machine.
As we started from Neuli the road head in Sainj Valley we had to walk for over 22 km to reach the first camp at Shakti in the Sainj wildlife sanctuary. This distance though seems much lesser due to a very gentle slope as you go from 1500 to 2100 meters. The Shakti village in itself was great. Years of being alienated from the road with no electricity meant that they lived like this forever preserving their rich heritage and culture. The second day we started our accent towards the Dhel Thatch thus entering the Great Himalayan National park. It was awe-inspiring for me to see a pristine forest like this . Fuelled by inspirational talks about nature from Sanjeeva and Payson, I was at an all time high. As we camped near Humkhani midway between Shakti and Dhel, the magic of the forest came alive with calls of birds , animals and the wind all making the most amazing natural orchestra. The third day was one of the greatest as I was sanctified with the sighting of the Tragopan early morning along with Sanjeeva Pandey who had been the Director of the park for 5 years but had never seen it thus making us Tragopan Brothers. The western Tragopan is one of the rarest species of birds found in small pockets of Himchal Pradesh with the GHNP being one of the only national parks supporting a sizable population. The sighting of the Tragopan was one of first initiation into bird watching as I began to learn more as this trip enfolded into being one of my most out of the ordinary journeys of my life.
The Dhel Thatch was heaven. After a steep climb from Humkhani we came across this wide meadow giving us great views of Himalayan Vistas, pure fresh air and that feeling of being on the top of the world. A walk to the Jogini “Mountain Goddess “ gave us astounding views of the Sainj and Tirthan Valley. As I headed the way back towards Shakti it became quite evident for me that I have found my ultimate destination. As one of the founders of the GHNP, Tony Gaston writes “If you venture into the Himalayan wilderness, you run the risk of becoming a stranger in the common world. We who have been brushed by these places are forever changed; the goals of ambition and desire become muted when touched by the immensity and grandeur of the great mountains. To wander alone in these high places, however briefly, is to become a prey to yearnings that can never be extinguished or denied”.
Monday, January 17, 2011
A unique blend of dance, music, history , mythology, paintings , photographs and the Great Himalayan National Park.....all woven into one powerful presentations by one of the most talented couples in the world. In the words of Sanjeeva Pandey "
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Phase I: Installation of Demonstration Pico Hydro Flour Mill in the Ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park through BTCA ( www.btca.org.in )
To introduce Pico Hydro technology to the Kullu District as an appropriate means of generating renewable energy and providing employment without negative impact on the environment.
One Pico Hydro unit installed in the ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park in October 2010 (there are several possible sites, to be decided in Feb according to results of surveys). The unit will have a dual function of generating 5kw of electricity as well as providing direct shaft power to grind flour. The unit will provide electricity to approximately 20 households.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Projects planned for next year include:-
• Environmental education and introduction of recycling facilities in schools
• Improvement program for waste and segregation area in Tirthan Valley
• ‘Holy Cow’ campaign – awareness raising, food waste collections and links to be set up between hotels and owners of animals
• Clean up and recycling model to be extended to villages, mountain camps, trekking routes, pilgrimages and tourist areas
• Green Book providing local info and facts about responsible tourism. To include where tourists can buy filtered water, popular treks, wildlife, plastic ban, recycling facilities, hotels and eco friendly services. All proceeds from sale to fund eco projects in the area.
• Sale of eco products including solar lanterns and chargers, water filtering and purifying solutions, cloth bags etc. Profits to subsidise eco products for those with a low income.
• Recycling collections for households, businesses, shops, hotels etc in Bhagsu.
• A range of community composting solutions
• Tetra Pak recyclin
Sunday, July 18, 2010
FIRST EVER PHOTOGRAPH OF THE WESTERN TRAGOPAN CLICKED IN THE WILD by Mr. Dhritiman Mukherjee and the Sunshine Himalayan Adventure Team .
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
THE GHNP has been described as undoubtedly the most pristine mountain landscape in the Western Himalayas… and perhaps the planet. From the Andes to Nepal and Tibet, to the mountains of Eastern Europe and Western China - the pressures of a growing human population have left the landscape – even so-called “national parks’ - overgrazed, denuded of timber, devoid of wildlife and covered with signs of animals and their shepherds. Ironically, here in India, home to over a billion people, it is still possible to find vast virgin forests and endless fields of wildflowers and ranges of un-named, unclimbed summits. Blue sheep, Himalayan Thar, even bear and snow leopard abound.
At present, the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) comprises 750 sq km. It is naturally protected on the northern, eastern, and southern boundaries by areas under permanent snow or by impassable ridges. In addition, there are two wildlife sanctuaries adjacent to the Park: Sainj (90 sq.km.) and Tirthan (61 sq.km.). The total area under the National Park administration is 1,171 sq. km. The western boundary of the Park has historically supported communities that have had economic dependence on the designated area of the Park. Realizing the environmental pressures these villages would exert on the Park’s biodiversity, an area of over 250 square kilometers was set up as buffer zone. This Ecozone contains 160 small villages with a population of about 19,000 people. Almost 90% of the Ecozone is forest habitat which, when properly managed is leading to income generation of the locals without harming the environment. One such initiative is the community based ecotourism being practiced in the GHNP.
Community Based Ecotourism – Lessons 2005-2010
GHNP is also one of the major sites for studying community based ecotourism enterprise in the Western Himalayas. For over five years a private ecotourism company styled Sunshine Himalayan Adventures have been advocating and practicing ecotourism initiative along with a local NGO called BTCA (Society for Biodiversity Tourism & Community advancement). This initiative has increased awareness about the park and specifically ecotourism among ecozone residents themselves or those living near the zone providing balance in educating these important stakeholders realizing that the local community is going to be providing tourism services.
Amongst other initiatives are increasing public awareness of the GHNP and its ecozone among potential visitors and running programs which actually promote visitation to the ecozone or park structured carefully to avoid creating unrealistic expectations about the type of experience, available infrastructure and standards; care has been taken to develop the ecotourism “product” before marketing it.
We also work with the park authorities in matters like poaching, wildlife monitoring and improving roads and trails or other infrastructure , though realizing its a horse vs. cart problem: tourists must begin coming before they can express demand for better access and infrastructure. In my experience (unless a carefully designed large capital improvement program is initiated with national or international funding) this process will only slowly unfold, with more and more low- to medium-end tourists and activities eventually proving there is a demand for higher end activities and the infrastructure to support them. The process will go faster if there is effective communication between the park and regional stakeholders who influence capital budget decisions (especially for roads leading to the park).
Sunshine Himalayan Adventures realize that privatization (the role of private enterprise) is a complicated one and sometimes controversial means of stimulating and managing ecotourism in protected areas and buffer zones. In my experience the most successful examples are when there are mutually beneficial partnerships developed between private investors and community members and the relationships are supervised by an NGO to assure that neither partner takes advantage of the other. Since the protected area is generally providing the physical tourist attractions, the park must also be directly involved to assure that commercialization does not damage those resources.
NEED FOR AN ECOTOURISM AUTORITY
We have realized that at least in early stages these private/community partnerships will need protection from independent unsupervised operators such as low-qualified guides or food and accommodation services which do not favor local community members as labor. We are trying to develop an Ecotourism Authority where the “authority” of this enterprise has to be clear to prevent such independent operators from entering the market. In later stages the Authority may act to establish standards for independent tour operators, guides and other service providers in order to maintain a certain level of service. This establishment of an Ecotourism Society (better called Ecotourism Authority) with real decision-making authority and the ability to shorten implementation time and will be carefully designed with input from all the relevant stakeholders, including the Private operators such as Sunshine Himalayan Adventures , BTCA and the newly-formed tourism and home stay operators association called STDA( Seraj Tourism Development Association).
One is aware that it will be a huge challenge to avoid pressures to allow or even encourage large scale commercial tourism development especially in the ecozone. But there are dozens of examples in the world and even close by in northern India, (Corbett National Park, Ranthambore National Park) where such commercialization has failed to be a wise long term strategy because 1) it does not continue to be profitable; 2) it destroys the attractiveness of the area which prompted its commercialization; and 3) it loses essential support because it has betrayed original commitments to bring long term benefits to local communities.
Guided by zeal to create new models of ecotourism SHA & BTCA have a unique and exclusive relationship under the guidance of the park management. Our activities include promoting visits of friends from foreign lands to create a better understanding of the Western Himalayas, its people, religions and culture. The ecotourism program continues developing a paradigm wherein local villagers actually benefit from having their ancestral lands turned into a wilderness preserve. Our regular trainings with the local youths in various spheres of eco-tourism and trekking is empowering them to keep the wild nature preserved for posterity. This plan of simple elegance and sweeping implications requires patience and support, not only from the Government but civil society at large.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The GHNP is one of the most picturesque areas in the Western Himalayas, well known for its exquisite floral and faunal biodiversity.
The boundaries of GHNP are contiguous with the Pin Valley National Park (675 km2) in Trans-Himalaya, the Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary (503 km2) in Sutlej watershed and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (61 km2) covering a range of wildlife habitats representing the biodiversity of Western Himalaya - from tropical to alpine. GHNP is the crucial link that connects the above Protected Areas making this region a compact patch of inter-linked wildlife habitats.
During the process of continental drift the Gondwanaland mass collided with Asia resulting in the formation of gigantic fold mountains of the Tertiary Himalaya-Alpine System of Eurasia. The representation of the flora and fauna of Gondwanaland as well as Asiatic landmasses can be observed in GHNP. The Park has representation off our ecological zones: (i) the dry deserts of interior Asia and the well-watered lowlands of the Indian plains, (ii) the Oriental and Palearctic faunal realms, (iii) the high plateau of Tibet and the jumbled Himalayan peaks, and (iv) The catchments of the tributaries of the Indus, the Beas and Sutlej rivers. Thus, the bio-geographical peculiarities and the wide altitudinal variation contribute to range of species diversity, spanning sub-tropical and alpine vegetation characteristic of South-east Asian forests as well as Siberian and the Asian steppes. The GHNP harbours a wide variety ofwildlife habitats and high biological diversity within a small area.
The flora of GHNP shows affinities with Mediterranean, Tibetan and Himalayan region. For example, Valeriana jatamansi, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Taxus baccata, Leycesteria formosaare typical taxa which extends up to Afghanistan and west China. Other affinities that are met with here are in form of Hippophae of palaearctic region; Cedrus deodara, Viola biflora, and Poa alpina of mediterranean region; and Euphorbia of Peninsular India. In addition, the Himalayas have evolved a high proportion of their own endemic taxa, for example several species of balsams Impatience, Androsace primuloides, Hedysarum cachemirianum, Draba lasiophylla, etc. and Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus are well represented in GHNP. Occurrence of least disturbed temperate and alpine ecosystems in a geographical compact area, andinaccessible and rugged terrain representing the ecological, geomorphological and biological values of the North-west Himalaya make GHNP a significant area for mountain biodiversity conservation.
The GHNP harbours the most important gene pool of Western Himalayan flora and fauna. This includes endangered mammalian species such as Snow leopard Uncia uncia, Asiatic black bearUrsus thibetanus, Himalayan brown bear Ursus arctos, Grey Goral Nemorhaedus goral,Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster,Himalayan tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus and Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis. Five species of pheasants, viz., Westerntragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus), Cheer pheasant (Catreus wallichii), Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), Koklas (Pucrasia macrolopha) and Kalij (Lophura leucomelana) are found here. The charismatic Western Tragopan is the most spectacular among the pheasants and aptly named the 'King of Birds'. GHNP has one of the best populations of this bird across its range. The Western Tragopan locally referred to as "Jujurana" (King of the birds) is revered in several folk songs and lores. According to folklore, god created this colourful pheasant with the help of the most beautiful feathers of each bird in the universe.
GHNP is an Important Bird Area representing birds of three biomes viz.,Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest (Biome-7), Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8) and Eurasian High Montane - Alpine and Tibetan (Biome-5).