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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


Biogeography

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.



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