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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Payson Stevens

(Del Mar, California)

October 2000, Jiwanal-Parvati Trek:
This trek was one of the peak Nature experiences of my life (along with trekking in Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and the Nepal Himalaya). GHNP is a gift from the people of India to the people of the world. It is a tangible symbol of their effort to protect a dwindling and unique environment for posterity.

One moves through many zones of the forest: from lush lowlands up into the arid and cold higher elevations. Nature is constantly changing and reminding you of how life adapts at so many levels. The trek, at times, is very strenuous. If you're going to do this one, make sure you work out for two months in advance to get in shape. Your breath and stamina must be strong. Trekking Phanchi Galu is hard work but the rewards and visions will become part of your great life memories. I could continue with superlatives but perhaps this poem, written as we ascended through the Phanchi Galu Pass (4636 meters), will provide another kind of impression.

Phanchi Galu Pass

let the cold pure wind
empty my lungs
of my current life
here under the silhouette
crags and stars.
freeze my past
and leave it behind
as one ice crystal
on the alpine grass.

let the air currents
empty my mind
as I balance each step
for i have dreamt of the
snow leopard
beckoning me onward
to the place i've studied
and now visit;
no more symbols,
no more science,
almost no more art.

let the wind stop
so I can collect my thoughts.
let the wind start
so I can let them go,
last words taken on thermals.

let the mountain devtas*
take my breath
transform my thought
into energy;
here at the high pass
I offer my life
to the wind.

Copyright 2000, Payson R. Stevens

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tony Gaston

Tony Gaston (Ottawa, Canada)
I first visited the upper Beas Valley in 1969, when Manali had only two guest houses and a government run tourist bungalow; when Manikaran could scarcely be reached by jeep, and before the road up the valley and across Rhotang Pass was funneling a thousand trucks a week into Lahaul and Spiti. I loved the valley then, but already it was clear that natural ecosystems were in retreat. In fact, after several visits to Himachal in the early 1970s, I began to believe that there was no such thing as an undisturbed temperate forest in the state.

Then, in 1973, inspired by Penelope Chetwode's book (“End of the Habitable World”) on Kullu, my wife, Anne-Marie and I trekked across the Bashleo Pass from Rampur to Inner Seraj and saw for the first time the wonderful forests of the Upper Tirthan. It was that trek, through luxuriant oak and rhododendron forests, beside crystal, sparkling streams, seeing signs of bears, martins and leopards, and hearing the hoarse calls of the Koklas pheasants at dawn, that convinced me that the true ecology of the Western Himalayas still existed in these remote valleys. From those early glimpses grew the Himachal Wildlife Project, the dream and hard work of many, both in India and abroad. Through this vision, the tenacity of Forest Officers, and local enthusiasts, the great wilderness area known now as the Great Himalayan National Park was created.

No one could reach the high meadows of Tirath or Dhel and be unmoved by the clearness of the air, the great vista of the peaks, and that sense of freedom that comes with leaving behind all artificial light, all mechanical transport, all trace of industrial civilization. The headwaters and high peaks of Inner Seraj have been places of pilgrimage for local people since time immemorial. Once again they can be places of veneration for a new generation of pilgrims. Those for whom wilderness and the creatures that depend upon it are symbols of a better world: a world of harmony, where nature lives out its age-old drama of life and death, unaffected by the dissonance of the modern world.

But beware! 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. Even in the cities of the West, my mind returns ever and again to that beauty, that awe, that freedom, that I knew where the Sainj and Tirthan are born, among the snowy peaks. To deny such experiences to future generations by failing to protect such places now would be an act of enormous folly. The Great Himalayan National Park is a jewel in the crown of Himalaya.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Great Himalayan National Park

The Himalayas have been a source of awe and inspiration for millennia to countless individuals. They are the largest, tallest and geologically youngest mountains on our planet. In India, they are the Dehvbumi--the home of the gods. The Himalaya are also one of the most fragile mountain regions of the world and hold an enormous repository of biological diversity which is increasingly under pressure from human activities.

The unique ecological aspects of the Western Himalaya led to the creation of the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in the Kullu district of India's mountain state of Himachal Pradesh. These features include biodiversity, sparse human populations, inaccessibility, little tourism, and a local economy based on traditional livelihoods.

GHNP is a major source of water for the rural and urban centers of the region with four major rivers of the area originating from the glaciers in the Park. It is also a source of sustenance and livelihood for the local community living close to GHNP. In addition to lumber, the forest environment provides local people with Non- Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) such as honey, fruit nuts, bark of birch and yew, flowers and fuel wood.

Globally, as well as locally, the Great Himalayan National Park has a very high public profile. The international community regards at it as a pilot site where the community based Biodiversity Conservation approach is being tested. The local people in the Ecozone (or Buffer Zone adjacent to the park) of GHNP recognize the fact that they have overexploited the medicinal herbs and NTFPs, and their sheep and goats have overgrazed the pastures.

About the Park .

In 1980, the Himachal Wildlife Project (HWP) surveyed the upper Beas region to help establish the boundaries of the park. An area comprising the watersheds of Jiwa, Sainj, and Tirthan rivers became the Great Himalayan National Park in 1984. Starting from an altitude of 1,700 metres above mean sea level, the highest peak within the Park approaches almost 5,800 metres. The area of the National Park at the moment is 754.4 sq kms and it is naturally protected on the northern, eastern and southern boundaries by permanent snow or steep ridges. To facilitate conservation a 5 km wide buffer area, extending from the western periphery of the Park, has been classified as theEcodevelopment Project Area (EPA) or Ecozone. The EPA has an area of 326.6 sq km (including 61 sq kms of Tirthan wildlife sanctuary) with about 120 small villages, comprising 1600 households with a population of about 16,000. Since, the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972 does not permit any habitation in the National Park, an area of 90 sq. kms. in Sainj valley encompassing the two villages of Shakti and Marore has been classified as Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS). These two villages although technically "outside" the National Park, are physically located between two parts of GHNP. Thus the total area under the National Park administration is 1,171 sq km.GHNP


The GHNP is at the junction of world's two major faunal regions: the oriental to the south and palaearctic to the north. The temperate forest flora-fauna of GHNP represents the western most extension of the Sino-Japanese Region. The high altitude ecosystem of the Northwest Himalaya has common plant elements with the adjacent Western and Central Asiatic region. As a result of its 4,100m elevation range the Park has a diversity of zones with their representative flora and fauna, such as alpine, glacial, temperate, and sub tropical forests. These biogeographic elements are result of geological evolution of Himalaya which continues today from the action of plate tectonics and continental drift. Over 100 million years ago, the Indian sub-continent broke off from the large, southern landmass, Gondwanaland and moved north. It eventually slammed into the northern land mass, Laurasia, and formed the gigantic folded mountains of the Himalaya. Due to this union of Gondwanaland and Asiatic landmasses, exchange of flora and fauna was possible and this ultimately led to the unique biogeographical features in the region.GHNP

Creation of GHNP

It took twenty years from inception to inauguration for GHNP to be realized as part of the Indian National Park system.

The following is a brief timeline:

1980: Preliminary Park survey of the watersheds of Tirthan, Sainj, and Jiwanal in Banjar area of Kullu district 1983: Continued Park survey, the Banjar area of Kullu district.

1984: Notification by state of Himachal Pradesh of the intention to create the Great Himalayan National Park with buffer zone.1987: First Management Plan of the Great Himalayan National Park.

1988: Settlement Proceedings and settling of rights of local communities

1992: The Himachal Wildlife Project re-assesses wildlife abundance, livestock grazing, and herb collection and reviewed the existing management plan.

1994: The Government of HP revised the Notification of intention to include the Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary and the upper Parvati watershed.

1994-1999: Conservation of Biodiversity Project (CoB), the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun conducts research to assist in the management of the Park.1999: Declaration of Award upon Completion of Settlement Proceedings. Monetary compensation for individuals who had rights of forest produce in the park area, including a package for providing alternative income generation activities to everybody living in the Ecodevelopment Project Area or Ecozone.

Final Notification of the Great Himalayan National Park. The GHNP becomes the latest and newest National Park of India.

The Conservation of Biodiversity (CoB) Project completed on 31st December, 1999.