From the snowbound summit of Everest, through alpine meadows and temperate forests, to humid lowland forests and savannahs, the Eastern Himalayas is a place of extraordinary richness and beauty. Millions of people and many unique species depend on the natural resources of the region, which stretches across north-east India, Nepal and Bhutan.
If your image of the ‘Himalayas’ is based on pictures of mountaineers on cold, rocky, barren snowscapes - think again. The Eastern Himalayas in particular is home to some 10,000 types of plant and 750 species of bird - many of them found nowhere else on the planet.
Not to mention its several threatened and iconic species, such as:
- Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, greater one-horned rhinos, red pandas, snow leopards, black-necked cranes, Gangetic dolphins…
Why we’re involved
Despite the rugged terrain, this is an environmentally fragile region that faces many challenges…
The Himalayas are the source of six of the great rivers of Asia. But changes in climate are melting mountain glaciers, bringing the risk of flooding as glacial lakes burst their banks. Downstream, water availability for people and agriculture will become increasingly uncertain - there’s likely to be either too much or too little.
The region’s forests provide fuel wood, timber and medicinal plants to local communities. But as human populations increase, people are taking these resources faster than the forests can replenish. Agricultural expansion and intensive grazing have added to the decline in forest cover and quality.
Forests have become fragmented, which is a big problem for species like tigers, rhinos and elephants that need large territories. As people and wildlife come into increasing contact, there’s more conflict between them as wild animals come into fields or kill livestock.
Poaching remains an ongoing threat too, since it offers enormous financial gains for people who have few other opportunities to make money, and also as demand increases from booming Asian markets.
How we’re helping
Protecting habitats and promoting sustainable development - through WWF’s Living Himalayas initiative we’re helping to protect, restore and reconnect natural landscapes across the Eastern Himalayas. The aim is to make sure plant and animal species can thrive while local communities are able to maintain and improve their livelihoods, including sustainable use of the natural resources of the forests, grasslands and freshwaters.
By 2012, WWF will share a vision developed by the governments of Nepal, India and Bhutan for the conservation and sustainable development of the Eastern Himalayas in the context of changing climate in the region.
We want to help conserve and connect a mosaic of forests, grasslands and wetlands covering more than 50,000km2. By protecting and restoring habitats so communities are able to have improved quality of life while also combatting poaching and reducing conflict between themselves and wildlife.
Coping with changes - we’re trying to better understand the impacts of climate change, and developing plans that will enable people and wildlife to cope with these changes. To begin with, this work will centre on two major river basins in the region.
We also want to ensure that tourism, oil and gas and hydropower develop in sustainable ways that do not pose threats to the environment or biodiversity.