Tucked away in the northern mountainous frontiers of this subcontinent, the quintessential Himalayas lie some of the most mind boggling species of flora and fauna to have ever taken shape. It really doesn’t require awanderlust’seyes to spot the mesmerizing scenes unfold as he/she travels across the mighty Himalayas. They are so obvious that it often compels a traveller to fall in love with these razzmatazz of scenes, sounds and smells so very associated with the innermost recesses of this mighty mountainous range. Few services or jobs in this country qualify to take a willing and not so willing employee to its vast nooks and corners as does the armed forces of this country.Full credit is supposed to be bestowed upon the Indian armed forces to make sure that by the time its personnel shed their olive greens, he/she turns into a willing enthusiast of nature’s conservation. The above postulation befits me in equal measure.
Cutting back to the fall of 1996, saw me traverse the icy slopes of Ladakh in my unit’s convoy from Leh enroute to the enchanting valley of Rupain distant land of Kinnaur of Himachal Pradesh after my operational sojourn with Siachen glacier. Taking the now famous Leh-Manali route which acts as a trunk route for various Indo-China border roads in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, one is witness to fast changing scenes of flora and fauna with change of landscapes as he or she progresses further on this amazing route. As one reaches the village of Banjaar located astride the highway connecting district Kullu with rest of Himachal Pradesh one could spot a host of signage boards and direction markers put right on the highway indicating the route to be followed for the major conservation efforts undertaken by the GOI.
But way back in 1996 when I had traversed this area it was not that bustling place with hordes of signboards as it is now. The great Himalayan national park was initially formed in order to protect and foster wildlife. The region that is now the park first received protection under the wild life protection act in 1972. The process from the initial creation to the park being a full-fledged heritage site however was an arduous one with its accompanied twists and turns. In the initial stages Himachal wild life project carried out its survey in district Kullu from 1980-83 in order to find out the best place for the place, and zeroed on to Banjaar village as the area most suitable for the project.
In fact this process carried on till 1988 when things were finally concretized and SAHARA (Society for advancement for hill and rural areas) came into the picture along with wild life institute of India as the front runners in formulating the present park. The year 2014 dawned as the year when UNESCO finally bestowed its prestigious “World heritage site” on this piece of land thus accrediting it with a world famous tag and catapulted Himachal Pradesh on to “ world conservation map” as such.The great Himalayan national park is approximately 1171 square kilometers in area sitting at the junction of two major faunal realms, i.e. Indomalayan which is in the southern part of the national park and the Palearctic which lies in the north. Because the Himalayas are so remote and also at the same time vary in elevation plant diversity is high in these areas. With little or no human activity in these areas most of these species have been able to survive and also thrive in abundance.
It is estimated that over 25000 different species of plants can be found in the Himalayas. This means that in totality about 10% of all plant species on the planet and roughly about half of all recorded endemic plants in all of India are habituated over here in the high lands of Himalayas. Out of these 25000 species, roughly 7000 are fungi, 1000 are lichens and 2000 are bryophytes which include mosses and warts. The park itself has registered some 832 different plant species which include plants from 128 different families and 427 genera. These again make up 26% of the total flora of Himachal Pradesh. The great Himalayan Park in addition to the flora is also home to an abundance of fauna despite the seemingly harsh climatic conditions. Some 240 mammals, 218 different species of fish,149 reptiles ,74 species of amphibians ,and 528 species of birds have all have been recorded living in the area.
Most of these animals are protected under the Indian wildlife protection act, and hunting has been banned in the area for over a decade. Due to the mountainous nature of the region, most of the animals that live here are those well adapted to rocky terrain and high altitudes. Musk deer and Himalayan tahr live among the rough mountain ranges within the park. The great Himalayan national park is also home to blue sheep, or Bharal which do well in the sparsely populated high altitudes of the range. The snow leopard also known as” once is listed in the IUCN red list” as vulnerable and endangered species. Same is the case with the Himalayan brown bear which also is on the IUCN red list of vulnerable species. In more ways than one our national parks and sanctuaries are a testament to the well-known adage of historians – the past lives in the present.
Our flora and fauna along with the environment is a legacy of the past which ought to be conserved for posterity. It’s a matter of great satisfaction that this one of the largest national parks in the country is away from the sordid drama of naming and renaming as per the whims and fancies of the government of the day and retains the pristine name of Himalayas as a metaphor for all it stands today.
Names of public places, cities, no doubt have close links with the dominant political ideology of an era. The above article of mine was dictated precisely by a news item which appeared in the national dailies as also the TV media a few weeks back regarding changing the famous name of Jim Corbett national park to “Ram Ganga national park” as suggested by a minister . Though the proposal has generated a lot of justifiable outrage, and stoked fears of replay of name changing spree in the realm of conservation, it stands to conviction that most of the people in that region have out rightly rejected the proposal as being archaic and out of turn of events. The very fact that the national park at Banjaar in district Kullu has the prefix of name, Himalayas puts it out of harm’s way from the devious machinations of the present day wily politicians.
(The writer is a Retired Army Officer and Regular Contributor to RK. He can be approached on the email: email@example.com)