Great Himalayan National Park
Great Himalayan, India
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The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is the newest addition to India's national parks, located in Kullu region in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The park was built in 1984. The park is spread over an area of 1,171 km2 that lies between an altitude of 1500 to 6000m. The Great Himalayan National Park is a habitat to more than 375 fauna species that comprises nearly around 31 mammals, 181 birds, 3 reptiles, 9 amphibians, 11 annelids, 17 mollusks and 127 insects. They are protected under strict guidelines of Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, hence any sort of hunting is not permitted. It also supports the variety of plant life, scattered over the park..
In 1984, 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 km² 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 the Ecodevelopment Project Area (EPA) or Ecozone.
The EPA has an area of 326.6 km² (including 61 km² 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 km² 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 km².
Lush coniferous forests, emerald meadows strewn with exotic flora, soaring snowy peaks and pristine glaciers make for an ideal Himalayan retreat. The secluded Sainj and Tirthan valleys are home to a plethora of fauna - wild mountain goats like the bharal, goral and serow, the brown bear and predators like the leopard and the elusive snow leopard. Different varieties of pheasants - monal, khalij cheer, tragopan and other exotic Himalayan birds can be found in the region.
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.
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 4,100 m 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.
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 31 December 1999.
The Great Himalayan National Park is home to more than 375 faunal species. So far species of 31 mammals, 181 birds, 3 reptiles, 9 amphibians, 11 annelids, 17 mollusks and 127 insects belonging to six orders have been identified and documented. Most of the Himalayan fauna has been given protection under the high priority protection category of Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The state government of Himachal Pradesh has banned hunting in the state for more than ten years. A trek of 35 to 45 km in any of the Park's valleys brings one into the high altitude habitat (3,500 m and above) of animals such as blue sheep, snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan thar, and musk deer. Best sightings can be made in autumn (September–November) as animals start their seasonal migration to lower altitudes.
The GHNP also supports a great diversity of plant life thanks to its wide altitude range and relatively undisturbed habitats. From the lofty pinesand spruces and the great, spreading horse chestnuts of the lower valleys, to the dense cushions and prostrate branches of the alpine herbs and junipers, the Park presents an endless variety of vegetation. Although some areas have been modified by grazing, this is one of the few areas of the Western Himalayas where the forests and alpine meadows can be seen in something approaching their original state. The subalpine zone is richest in species, followed by the alpine and upper temperate zones.
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