Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks

Country
India
Inscribed in
1988
Criteria
(vii)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "good with some concerns" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
Nestled high in West Himalaya, India’s Valley of Flowers National Park is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. The gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park. Together they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya, praised by mountaineers and botanists for over a century and in Hindu mythology for much longer. © UNESCO
Alosh Bennett CC BY 2.0

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020
Good with some concerns
The area has been under effective management for over three decades now. However, continued vigil is required as the area is large and terrain is difficult. The human resources for management of the site need to be augmented. The site holds significant populations of species of global conservation significance and their current state is good. However, prior to the site’s designation as a National Park in 1982, unabated mountain tourism led to large scale pollution, destruction of local wilderness and illegal activities such as poaching and exploitation of medicinal plants. The status of flora, fauna and their habitats is monitored periodically through scientific expeditions, which indicate recovery and improvement in the population status of key wild animal and plant species. While some threats, such as poaching, have decreased, others including increase in pilgrim tourism and extraction of medicinal plants in the buffer zone represents growing threats. Particularly, the cumulative impacts of all development projects, such as roads, tourism infrastructure and hydropower, are of high concern and need to be considered during planning and approval stages of each project. Another emerging threat is that from climate change and melting of glaciers in the Himalayas. Its resultant disasters, shifting phenologies, alteration of the treeline across altitudinal gradients and range expansion of alien invasive species are a cause of global concern (Bisht et al., 2018; Devi et al., 2018; Maletha, 2017; Singh et al., 2019).

Current state and trend of VALUES

Good
Trend
Stable
The natural beauty and wilderness values of the site remains well preserved due to its inaccessible mountainous terrain devoid of any human habitation. Results of monitoring surveys being conducted now comparing the last three decades indicate improvement in the status of flora, fauna and their habitats inside both Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks. However, unregulated exploitation of medicinal plants and impacts related to the rapid tourism increase in the buffer zone need to be addressed to ensure the protection and conservation of the site’s values.

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
The main current conservation issues and threats to the site include unregulated pilgrim tourism, over harvesting of medicinal plants and climate induced changes in distribution of native flora and fauna. The site is also under potential threat from infrastructure development demands, such as hydropower and road construction. Anthropogenic disturbances and climate change have led to an increase in forest fires in the buffer zone, which could potentially threaten also the core site.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Mostly Effective
The protection and management status is presently effective. However, continued vigil is required as the area is large and terrain is difficult. The human resources for management of the site need to be augmented to ensure long-term protection of the site.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
02 Dec 2020

Description of values

Natural beauty and aesthetic values

Criterion
(vii)
The Nanda Devi west (7,817 m), the highest and most sacred peak in Uttarakhand, is revered by the people of both Kumaon and Garhwal. This landscape is world famous for its beauty and majesty among the mountaineers and explorers all over the world. This spectacular landscape is complemented by the Valley of Flowers, an outstandingly beautiful high-altitude Himalayan valley, which has been acknowledged as such by the explorers, mountaineers and botanists in literature for over a century and in Hindu mythology for much longer. Its ‘gentle’ landscape, breathtakingly beautiful meadows of alpine flowers and ease of access complement the rugged, mountain wilderness for which the inner basin of Nanda Devi National Park is renowned (World Heritage Committee, 2012).

Important site for in-situ conservation of biological diversity

Criterion
(x)
The Nanda Devi National Park comprises of the Rishi Ganga Basin that has a rim of high Himalayan peaks and wide range of high altitude habitats from temperate forests to sub-nival zones and glacial moraines. This park holds significant populations of Himalayan flora and fauna, many of which have global conservation significance e.g., snow leopard, mountain ungulates and galliformes. The abundance estimates for wild ungulates, galliformes and carnivores inside the Nanda Devi National Park are higher when compared to similar protected areas in the western Himalaya. The entire Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve lies within the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA). Seven restricted-range bird species are endemic to this part of the EBA (World Heritage Committee, 2012).

Diverse alpine flora

Criterion
(x)
The Valley of Flowers is internationally recognised site for its diverse alpine flora, representative of the West Himalaya biogeographic zone. The rich diversity of species reflects the valley’s location within a transition zone between the Zanskar and Great Himalaya ranges to the north and south, respectively. This park houses a large number of floral assemblages in their pristine form, several of which have not been recorded from elsewhere in Uttarankhand. A number of plant species are globally threatened and the diversity of threatened species of medicinal plants is higher than has been recorded in other Indian Himalayan protected areas (World Heritage Committee, 2012).

Assessment information

High Threat
Some of the existing threats (such as poaching) have subsided whereas new urgent threats have emerged, such as spurt in pilgrim and cultural tourism, over harvesting of medicinal plants and climate led change in species distribution and expansion of invasive species. Nanda Devi National Park benefits from its overall remoteness and inaccessibility, however, the anthropogenic disturbances in the buffer zone may directly impact its values. Valley of Flowers National Park is also under direct threat from growth in uncontrolled tourism in its vicinity.
Hunting and trapping, Logging/ Wood Harvesting, Collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs)
(Poaching)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Poaching has been significantly reduced since the formation of the Eco-development Committee in 2003 and formalization of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve plan (Gupta et al., 2018a). Although, opportunistic hunting cannot be ruled out, especially during winter when the wildlife (as part of seasonal migration), park staff, as well as local people, descend to the lower altitudes (UNEP-WCMC, 2011). Eight species of large mammals (Hemitragus jemlahicus, Naemorhedus goral, Capricornis thar, Semnopithecus schistaceus, Ursus thibetanus, Panthera pardus fusca, Vulpes vulpes and Macaca mulatta) have been recorded in the area, which may come into human-wildlife conflict and therefore need effective protection (Yadav et al., 2019b). llegal hunting of Asian Black bears (Ursus thibetanus) has been reported, especially of conflict animals that crop-raid or at chance encounters when humans venture into the forest for minor forest produce collection (Yadav et al., 2019a). There are also occasional reports of Musk Deer (Moschus chrysogaster) poaching (Ilyas, 2015). 
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration
(Climate led shift in species distribution including range expansion of Invasives)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Climate change and melting of glaciers in the Himalayas and resultant disasters has been a cause of global concern. Shifting phenologies (Devi et al., 2018), alteration of treeline across the altitudinal gradient (Maletha, 2017; Singh et al., 2019) and range expansion of invasive alien species are some of the new emerging climate change related threats (Bisht et al., 2018). Previously, a few native opportunistic herbs, e.g., Polygonum polystachyum and Impatiens sulcata, dominated the valley portion of the National Park, suppressing other dwarf herbaceous communities thereby causing changes in floristic composition (Negi et al., 2017; Mal et al., 2018; Bisht et al., 2018). New reports of Cuscuta europaea, a stem parasite adversely affecting size and density of medicinal plant populations, is a new emerging threat (Bisht et al., 2018). Further, there are a number of species, such as Arenaria musciformis, Aruncus sylvester, Bupleurum dalhousieanum, Callianthemum cachemerianum, Campanula immodesta, Carpesium cernuum, Corydalis clarkei, Draba gracillima, Gentiana tenella, Geum elatum, Leontopodium monocephalum, Lychnis apetala, Melanoseris lessertiana, Nepeta eriostachys, Potentilla peduncularis, P. sibbaldia, Primula wigramiana, Saussurea piptathera, Sedum trifidum, Silene moorcroftiana, Swertia pulchella, Valeriana dioica and Viburnum erubescens that were recorded almost 100 years ago (Smythe, 1938), but seem to have become locally extinct in recent years (Bisht et al., 2018). The response of timberline to global warming, anthropogenic pressure and change in microclimatic condition has been observed in the form of increasing seedling and sapling recruitment and growth of Himalayan birch (Betula utilis) above the timberline (Maletha, 2017; Singh et al., 2019) and altitudinal additions of Himalayan blue pine (Pinus wallichiana) in Valley of flowers national park. The decline in suitable habitat of Royle’s pika (Ochotona roylei), an important high-altitude prey species due to climate change has also been reported (Bhattacharyya et al., 2019).
Collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs)
(Plant resource extraction for bioprospecting )
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Of the 8000 species of wild edibles reported from India, nearly 1748 species are known to have medicinal and therapeutic value and also utilized in traditional systems of healthcare and by pharmaceutical firms (Maikhuri et al., 2017). Most of these plant species (90%) used in traditional healthcare systems and in herbal industries are harvested from their natural habitats (i.e. sub-alpine and alpine meadows), sometimes rather extensively, thereby impacting their natural abundance (Maikhuri et al., 2017; Negi et al., 2019). A survey (Kumar, 2017) has indicated that 242 plant species of therapeutic significance grow naturally in the vicinity of Nanda Devi National Park and have been traditionally utilised by local inhabitants for medicinal purposes. Out of these, six species (2.2%) were identified as critically endangered, 19 species (7.1%) as endangered, eight species (3.0%) as rare, 17 species (6.4%) as threatened and 14 species (5.2%) as vulnerable (Kumar, 2017). Intruders/herb-smugglers also enter in the area and illegally collect tons of valuable medicinal and aromatic species, including the endangered ones, causing an extensive issue of unregulated exploitation. Species of Taxus, Bergina, Astragalus, Allium, Primula, Cupressus, Pleurospermum, Juniperus, Artemisia, Nardostachif, Jurinea, Acoitum, Batula, Crocos, Dactylorhiza, Rheum, Ephedra, Arnebia, Valeriana,Angelica, Orchis, Picrorhiza, Podophyllum and Swertia are under threat by their very high demand by pharmaceutical, ayurvedic and cosmetic industries (Kumar, 2017).
Illegal harvesting and over-exploitation of medicinal plants have led to local extinction of more than 150 species in the wild. Among the alpine meadows, Dibrugheta represents 44.65% (348 species) of the total species of Nanda Devi National Park, indicating highest priority for conservation of the meadow. Local community inhabitants, particularly from Lata, Tolma and Reni villages, have resorted to harvesting medicinal plants, such as Allium humile, Allium stracheyi, Angelica glauca, Arnebia benthamii, from the alpine meadows in Nanda Devi National Park and in the Dharasi and Dibrugeta meadows (Kumar, 2017). There is also widespread collection of Ophiocordyceps sinensis throughout the region. The ecology and impacts of this collection are not well known (Yadav et al., 2019). Other than this, trekkers, tourists, and pilgrims often pluck flowers, fruits, seeds, barks and/or the whole plant of specific species viz. Saussurea obvallata (Brahmakamal - a mythical flower of Gods), Aconitum heterophyllum, Arnebia benthamii, Betul autilis, Corydalis spp., Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Orchis habenarioides, Picrorhiza kurrooa, Rhem spp., Taxus wallichiana, Angelica glauca, Carum carvii, Hyssopus officinalis, Juniperus spp., Jurinea dolomiaea, Nardostachys grandiflora, Origanum vulgare, Pleurospermum brunois, Saussurea costus, Thymus linearia, Valeriana hardwickii, etc. as a ‘remembrance’ of their journey and as a gift of God (Maikhuri et al., 2017; Kumar, 2017; Negi et al., 2019).
Tourism/ Recreation Areas
(Religious and cultural tourism )
High Threat
Outside site
If tourism pressure from mountaineering tourism has subsided, the pressure from religious and cultural tourism has increased manifold. The presence of prominent shrines in the buffer zone attract a large number of pilgrims. The presence of Hindu and Sikh shrine Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib results in numerous visits to Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve for religious purposes (~1.5 million per year). The religious tourists do not require permit and do not have to pay any entry fee, resulting in a high volume of unregulated tourists (Dobriyal et al., 2017; Tiwari, 2019). Hemkund Sahib, the famous Sikh Shrine, has steadily emerged as a strong religious as well as a tourist destination, despite the fact that its geographical location is not accessible by road. It involves an arduous trekking on a steep slope for the last six kilometres and dearth of way-side facilities. Despite this, the pilgrim arrivals recorded at 340,578 in 2002 increased to 557,129 in 2007, witnessing an overall increase by over 63.5% and per annum average growth of over 10.5% during the period (Gupta et al., 2018a). High volume mass tourism leads to trail erosion, and introduction of non-native plants, undisposed non-biodegradable rubbish and human waste deteriorating water quality, are some of the emerging threats that are highly detrimental to the fragile Himalayan ecosystem (Huddart and Stott, 2020).
Low Threat
The site is susceptible to hydropower development (run of the river project) and cumulative impacts from several hydro-technical projects, due to the presence of large Himalayan rivers and variations in topography. Similarly, road and civil infrastructure development is in demand to further boost the economy of the state. The demand to reopen Nanda Devi National Park for mountaineering may be subsided for the time being, but political and developmental compulsions remain a potential threat. Forest fires have created a havoc in the buffer region and the core remains susceptible to damage due to fires. Migration of rural men from the buffer region is also a cause of concern for changing economies and preferred landuse options.
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Mountaineering and nature tourism )
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The Sino-Indian war in 1962 and a series of unconfirmed defence security-related events created an enigma around Nanda Devi, which is also a sacred peak to the local communities. Until 1982, it was also the second most popular (after mount Everest) peak to be climbed among mountaineers and trekkers. However, unabated mountain tourism led to large scale pollution, destruction of local wilderness and illegal activities such as poaching and collection of medicinal plants. Expedition garbage started piling up inside the National Park and so was the uncontrolled human activities in the forest fringe. All the environmental degradation coupled with increased mountaineering activities led to the declaration of the area as a National Park in 1982 and subsequently also officially closed for human activities including mountaineering from 1983. Following complete closure, evaluation and assessment of biodiversity have been made through decadal expeditions undertaken in 1993, 2003 and then in 2015 that has shown encouraging results on recovery of wild flora and fauna (Negi et al., 2018). However, there is constant geopolitical pressure from the mountaineering associations to open the site for expeditions (IUCN Consultation, 2014). Uttarakhand State Government has developed a Mountaineering Policy that permits mountaineering and adventure-based activities in the buffer zones, but in a regulated manner. Many peaks on the rim of Nanda Devi NP are open for climbing as they have access from the buffer zones without entering the NP. There are only four peaks inside Nanda Devi NP that are banned for mountaineers as the approach is through the NP. There is pressure to open those four peaks inside the National Park and as of today the only activity permitted is trekking up to Debrugata (9 km inside the park), but no camping is allowed inside the park (WII, 2015). Similarly, nature tourism has remained less attractive as compared to religious or cultural tourism. The famous Sikh Shrine Hemkund Sahib attracted 55,7129 pilgrims/tourists in 2007, while the same year the nearby Valley of Flowers National Park was only able to attract 6,944 tourists (Gupta et al., 2018a). This is in spite of the fact that until Ghangharia, there is a common trek for the two destination and that Valley of Flowers is only about 4 km apart from Hemkund Sahib. While high volumes of tourists to the fragile ecosystem of the national park is certainly discouraged, there is lost opportunity to generate environmental consciousness and outreach, and also to provide ecotourism facilities through local communities.
Roads/ Railroads
(Road and civil construction )
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Due to general inaccessibility in the mountain environment, there is a constant demand for road construction for improved access (IUCN Consultation, 2014). Roads and development of infrastructure has been a primary threat in the Himalayas (Gupta et al., 2018a). The pilgrim/tourist traffic is witnessing erratic growth in the Hemkund Sahib and Valley of Flower areas and development of roads and supporting infrastructure has been one of the primary drivers of visitor increase (Gupta et al., 2018a).
Dams/ Water Management or Use
(Hydropower development)
High Threat
Outside site
The site is suitable for hydropower development (dams) due to the presence of large Himalayan rivers and variations in topography. Development of hydropower projects in the buffer zone of the site, as well as the cumulative impacts of several hydro-technical projects, remains a potential high threat (World Heritage Committee, 2012), though stalled in the recent years (WII, 2015).
Fire/ Fire Suppression
(Increase in forest fires due to anthropogenic disturbances and climate change)
Low Threat
Outside site
The hills of Uttarakhand witness forest fires every year during the summer season and the number of these fire events is reported to have increased due to frequent anthropogenic disturbances, as well as changes in climate. These fires cause significant damage to the natural resources (Gupta et al., 2018b). Damage due to forest fire is more severe in logged and plantation (Pine forest) areas and repeated burning in forests results in destruction of the ground flora and reduced vegetative growth rate. This leads to change in plant community structure, changes in soil nutrient status and accelerated erosion. Satellite imaging does not record loss of habitat due to fires in the heritage site, but fire incidents in the buffer zone (Askot wildlife sanctuary) is a cause of worry in the near future (Gupta et al., 2018b).
Identity/social cohesion/ changes in local population and community that result in negative impact
(Gender gap and male migration )
Low Threat
Outside site
The gender gap is more evident in the mountain landscape of Himalayas than anywhere else in the country. Most of the male members are primarily engaged in market-based occupations while the female members are involved in the collection of natural resources, agriculture, and live­stock rearing and do not get any major benefit from tourism as such (Dobriyal et al., 2016). At the same time, due to fluctuating economic markets and natural calamities (e.g. flash floods of 2013 and frequent earthquakes), there is a massive exodus of youth male members to cities and townships in the state (Sajwan, 2018; Jasrotia and Sharma, 2020).
The main current conservation issues and threats to the site include unregulated pilgrim tourism, over harvesting of medicinal plants and climate induced changes in distribution of native flora and fauna. The site is also under potential threat from infrastructure development demands, such as hydropower and road construction. Anthropogenic disturbances and climate change have led to an increase in forest fires in the buffer zone, which could potentially threaten also the core site.
Management system
Mostly Effective
The World Heritage site consists of two Protected Areas. The Valley of Flowers National Park is administered by the Uttarakhand State Forestry Department. Together with the Nanda Devi National Park it is also administered as Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (UNEP-WCMC, 2011; World Heritage Committee, 2012). The Nanda Devi NP is being managed as a core zone of the Biosphere Reserve (State Party of India, 2002). Management of the Valley of Flowers NP is planned and carried out within the overall management of the Biosphere Reserve (IUCN, 2005). The site has good protection due to the inaccessibility of most parts of the PA and there are no anti-poaching camps inside the park. The only activity permitted is trekking up to Debrugata (9 km inside the park), but no camping is allowed inside the park (WII, 2015). In case of Valley of Flowers National Park, it is under active control of the Office of the District Forest Officer, Department of Forests, Joshimath (Gupa et al., 2018a). A Forest Range Office has been established for surveillance in the region with facilities at Govindghat and Ghangharia. The State Forest Department runs a number of conservation programmes, including regular monitoring of the status of wildlife and the focus has shifted towards supporting co-managed forest governance mechanisms (World Heritage Committee, 2012; ICIMOD 2019; Dhyani and Dhyani, 2020).
Effectiveness of management system
Mostly Effective
Both protected area components of the site appear to be well-managed and are also naturally well protected due to their inaccessibility. The State Forest Department runs a number of conservation programmes, including regular monitoring of the status of wildlife (World Heritage Committee, 2012). The Management effectiveness evaluation (a global framework to evaluate the performance of protected areas) was undertaken for the period 2009-2010 and Nanda Devi National Park secured a ‘very good’ rank with an overall MEE score of 75.78% (WII, 2015).
Boundaries
Mostly Effective
The two protected area components that comprise the World Heritage property are separated by the Dhauli Ganga with areas on either side of the river being reserved forests (IUCN, 2005). The integrity of this property is further enhanced by the fact that both the parks form the core zones of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and are encircled by a large buffer zone of 514,857 ha. The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary and the Reserved Forest Divisions located west, south and east of the Biosphere Reserve provide additional buffers to this Biosphere Reserve (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Boundaries of the resource system are well defined in Nanda Devi NP and extraction of natural resources, even from the buffer zone, is restricted (Badola et al., 2018). However, there is increasing pressure in the buffer zone from pilgrim and cultural tourism, unregulated infrastructure development and illegal harvesting and over-exploitation of medicinal plants.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Some Concern
The site is also a Biosphere Reserve and is generally covered under the National Wildlife Action Plan, and other conservation management agendas at regional and national strategies. It appears that there is considerable difference between the global or national conceptualisation of PA categories and the actual implementation on the ground. For example, while the concept of Biosphere Reserve envisages a zonation, it has at best been notional in practice and as the stringent legal provisions related to National Parks of the property override the zonation envisaged for Biosphere Reserve, this has led to conflict with local Bhotiya tribal communities over resource use (Saigal et al., 2018; Caplins et al., 2018). The Biosphere Reserve area is experiencing a rapid growth of unregulated pilgrim tourism and unplanned infrastructure development, leading to ecological pressure (Badola et al., 2018; Dobriyal et al., 2017; Tiwari, 2019). There is a constant demand for road construction for improved access and development of infrastructure is a primary threat in the Himalayas (Gupta et al., 2018a). Better integrated planning and regulations are needed to ensure long-term protection and conservation.
Relationships with local people
Mostly Effective
There is no human habitation within the two core zones (Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers National Park), but there are 47 villages in the buffer zone and 33 villages are in the transition zone (Dobriyal et al., 2017; Badola et al., 2017). The people residing in these villages are primarily of tribal origin (Tolcha-Bhotia community) who are entirely dependent on natural resources for cultural, agricultural and other livelihood activities (Badola et al., 2017). The local communities residing in the buffer zones of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve actively participate in the conservation programmes of the Forest Department (World Heritage Committee, 2012). The Eco-Development Committees have been established to help address some of the issues, particularly litter management (IUCN, 2005). In 2003, an Eco-Development Committee (EDC) was set up under the provisions of State’s Joint Forest Management Rules, and it took up the task of solid waste collection from June 2003 onwards (Gupta et al., 2018a). Its primary responsibilities included keeping trek trails clean and free from polythene/plastics, and facilitating pre-paid booking of mules/donkeys to tourists. The EDC collects the eco-development fee from mules and commercial establishments, utilizing funds from its revenue on training/capacity building of the local community members and local service providers with the assistance of Department of Forests. Similarly, in the buffer RF areas, the Van Panchayat responsibilities mainly include Protection and Conservation of Forests under its Area as per the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (Badola et al., 2018).
Legal framework
Highly Effective
The Valley of Flowers was declared a national park in 1982, under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. In accordance with this Act, livestock grazing ceased from 1982 (IUCN, 2005). The Nanda Devi National Park was also established in 1982. Mountaineering is regulated under State Government Order No. 997/CS/MT/2004, in accordance with new Guidelines for Mountaineering Expeditions in Uttaranchal. Two peaks, Rataban (6,126 m) and Ghori Parbat (6,601 m), within Valley of Flowers National Park are open for mountaineering, subject to permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden and special conditions. Legal Provisions were considered adequate by the 2005 IUCN Evaluation of the site’s extension (IUCN, 2005).
Law enforcement
Some Concern
The area is protected by law under the Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act of the Government of India, and the conservation management and legal provisions are enforced as a part of regular management (IUCN Consultation, 2017). At the same time, alpine meadows, and the natural capital contained within these spaces, are largely viewed as falling under customary resource governance frameworks, regardless of state-imposed conservation policies and are largely community managed through local governance regimes (Caplins et al., 2018). The remoteness of the area ensures inaccessibility yet at the same time the low manpower of National Park Authorities make it practically impossible to patrol the entire landscape for illegal activities. Herb-smugglers enter in the area and illegally collect tons of valuable medicinal and aromatic species, including endangered species (Kumar, 2017). Poaching, although significantly reduced since the formation of Eco-development Committee in 2003, cannot be ruled out, especially during winter when park staff move to the lower altitudes (UNEP-WCMC, 2011).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Data Deficient
In its Decision to approve the extension of Nanda Devi National Park to include the Valley of Flowers National Park, the World Heritage Committee also encouraged the State Party of India to enhance the natural values and protection of the World Heritage property by further extensions to include the corridor connecting Nanda Devi and the Valley of Flowers National Parks, and other areas to include the full altitudinal range and the trans-Himalayan element represented within the Biosphere Reserve (World Heritage Committee, 2005). However, no further extensions have been encompassed.
Sustainable use
Some Concern
Both parks are subject to very low levels of human use, with only some community-based ecotourism that is regulated and facilitated by the park management (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Traditional occupations like agriculture and forest based occupations such as livestock rearing are still practised, but are highly variable in terms of continuity due to various extraneous factors such as preference for tourism (as homestay owners, porters, trekking guides, drivers and tour operators), local climatic conditions, secondary occupation in townships, among others (Dobriyal et al., 2016; Badola et al., 2018). To meet the request for a few potential and highly demanded medicinal plants in the local and national markets, a few farmers are engaged in their cultivation in central Himalaya. Among the potential species, cultivation of Allium species (A. stracheyi, A. humile, A. rubellum) has been practised by the Bhotiya communities of Niti and Milam Valleys and Angelica glauca, Carum carvi and Pleurospermum angelicoides have been brought under limited cultivation at high altitude villages of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (Maikhuri et al., 2017). The promotion of domestication and cultivation of medicinal plants and further bioprospecting in the form of value added products is being promoted under the policy of sustainable use of natural resources (Maikhuri et al., 2017). However, unregulated exploitation of medicinal plants is of serious concern. Illegal harvesting and over-exploitation of medicinal plants have led to local extinction of more than 150 species in the wild and local inhabitants have resorted to harvesting medicinal plants from the alpine meadows in Nanda Devi National Park and in the Dharasi and Dibrugeta meadows (Kumar, 2017).
Sustainable finance
Mostly Effective
In 2005, the total annual budget for Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve equated to USD 272,000, of which USD 45,000 was for the Valley of Flowers National Park and USD 75,000 for Nanda Devi NP (IUCN, 2005). The Government of India continues to provide annual funds for management of the Biosphere Reserve, and the State Government has sufficient fund for managing the site (WII, 2015, IUCN Consultation, 2017). The tourism linked finance and economy accounts for 30% of the state economy making Uttarakhand one of the fastest growing economies of the country (Kumar, 2017). The Uttarakhand Tourism Development Master Plan 2020, prepared by the Tourism Department of the state, had projected up to 78.22 million national and international visitors in the year 2017-18, almost seven times higher than the state population of 10.12 million. The actual figure could not be found. This exponential rise in pilgrimage and tourism is demanding massive increase of infrastructural facilities resulting in fast peri-urban encroachments with a collateral threat to biodiversity of the area (Kumar, 2017). At household level, tourism income was found to be a more lucrative activity than from other livelihoods such as agriculture, floriculture, horticulture, bee keeping, dairy, government jobs and private sector jobs (Dobriyal et al., 2017). The majority of local community inhabitants (47% percent) still regard wildlife and nature-based tourism as the most important service provided by the World Heritage site (Dobriyal et al., 2017).
Staff capacity, training, and development
Mostly Effective
In 2005, there were 67 permanent staff for the Biosphere Reserve, with 16 deployed in the Valley of Flowers National Park and 20 in the Nanda Devi National Park. The available resources were considered adequate (IUCN, 2005). However, although the remoteness of the area ensures inaccessibility yet at the same time the low manpower of National Park Authorities make it practically impossible to patrol the entire landscape for illegal activities. Significant amount of management, e.g. trail maintenance, is achieved through cooperation with local communities. Five foresters and 17 forest guards of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve have been provided short term refresher training. At local-level, training programs/ workshops for the frontline staff, men and women form the village communities, are organised from time to time (WII, 2015).
Education and interpretation programs
Serious Concern
There is a Tourist Interpretation Centre at Ghangaria on the way to Valley of Flowers NP that provides resources for conservation education, appreciation of natural heritage and understanding of the fascinating mountainous landscape. The visitation numbers to the nearby Hemkund Sahib - a religious shrine - is far higher than the visitors to Valley of Flowers National Park (Gupta et al., 2018a). This is in spite of the fact that they both can be reached through a common access route. The rampant exploitation of flowers and herbs in the vicinity of the shrine clearly indicate the lack of awareness and the need to educate and sensitize all tourists on the fragile ecology of the Himalayas.
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
Local youth have been trained as guides and accompany tourists to Valley of Flowers NP. Guides also accompany trekkers in the buffer zones of Nanda Devi NP. In Nanda Devi NP, the only activity permitted is trekking up to Debrugata (9 km inside the park), but no camping is allowed inside the park (WII, 2015). In case of Valley of Flowers NP, tourism is managed through a forest range office established for surveillance of tourists entering through Govindghat and Ghangharia (Gupta et al., 2018a). Nature tourism in the buffer zone is largely co-managed through Eco-development Committees as locals serve as tourist guides, porters, mule owners, drivers, hotel employees and homestay owners (Dobriyal et al., 2015). The presence of prominent shrines in the buffer zone attract a large number of pilgrims and the religious and cultural tourism has grown rapidly in the last decades (Gupta et al., 2018a). High volume of mass tourism leads a demand for road development and supporting infrastructure. Trail erosion, introduction of non-native plants, waste, deteriorating water quality, as well as plucking of flowers and other plants, seeds and fruits as a ‘remembrance’ of their journey, are some of the emerging threats that are highly  detrimental to the fragile Himalayan ecosystem (Huddart and Stott, 2020; Maikhuri et al., 2017; Kumar 2017; Negi et al., 2019). The fact that nature tourism overlaps with pilgrim tourism makes it unregulated and beyond control in the peal seasons and adequate manpower and sustainable infrastructure is required to address the mass inflow.
Monitoring
Mostly Effective
The State Forest Department carries out regular monitoring of the status of flora, fauna and their habitats, as well as of limited routes that provide access to the two national parks (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Comparison of decadal expeditions and surveys for floristic diversity, community composition and regeneration status of different forests in Nanda Devi National Park was conducted in 2015 (Negi et al., 2017). As compared to surveys in 1993 and 2003, it indicated positive changes in plant diversity, forest composition and ecological conditions of the National Park. A total of 409 taxa belonging to 203 genera and 71 families (377 Angiosperms, 7 Gymnosperms and 25 Pteridophytes) were documented from the National Park. Two types of forest communities, i.e. Betula utilis along timberline, and mixed forest of Abies spectabilis with B. utilis formed the dominant forests inside the National Park. Proportionate distribution of individuals in seedling, sapling and tree layers showed considerable variation in the population structure of different communities. Among the studied alpine meadows, maximum species richness was observed in Dibrugheta (128) followed by Dharansi (43) and Sarsopatal (34), indicating their conservation importance (Negi et al., 2017).
Research
Mostly Effective
Research and monitoring on various aspects are ongoing and carried out by exclusive centres dedicated to the study of high altitude landscapes. The Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development at Almora, Uttrakhand, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun,  India and Integrated Mountain Institute, Kathmandu Nepal are some of the research institutes conducting regular projects in the area. Further, the Government of India and United Nations Development Programme, with support from the Global Environment Facility, are implementing a new programme (2017-2023 with investment of $8,378,880) in the high altitude Himalayas entitled “SECURE Himalayas - Securing livelihoods, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of high range Himalayan ecosystems”, to ensure conservation of locally and globally significant biodiversity, land and forest resources in the high Himalayan ecosystem, while enhancing the lives and livelihoods of local communities.
The protection and management status is presently effective. However, continued vigil is required as the area is large and terrain is difficult. The human resources for management of the site need to be augmented to ensure long-term protection of the site.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
Plant resource extraction and mass tourism in the buffer zone are some of the most pressing threats outside the site. Herb-smugglers enter in the area and illegally collect tons of valuable medicinal and aromatic species (Kumar, 2017), however, the low manpower of National Park Authorities make it practically impossible to patrol the entire landscape for illegal activities. Adequate manpower, better integrated management, regulations and sustainable infrastructure planning are also required to address issues related to the mass inflow of religious and cultural tourists into the buffer zone (Huddart and Stott, 2020; Gupta et al., 2018a). The area is protected by law under the Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act of the Government of India, at the same time, alpine meadows, and the natural capital contained within these spaces, are largely viewed as falling under customary resource governance frameworks, regardless of state-imposed conservation policies (Caplins et al., 2018), which has led to some conflict with local Bhotiya tribal communities over resource use (Saigal et al., 2018). There have been consistent effort in managing the area outside the site, due to its high tourism value, but the effectiveness needs to be understood fully.
Best practice examples
1. The site is implementing a community driven solid waste management system.
2. The site has identified ‘trekking routes’ for recreational/ adventure tourism which are on the periphery and these operations provide livelihood support to local communities.
3. The ban on mountaineering in the core of Nanda Devi National Park and the decadal research expeditions to understand the changes in flora and fauna are good examples of setting aside wilderness areas especially in the fragile Himalayas.
World Heritage values

Natural beauty and aesthetic values

Good
Trend
Stable
The two component protected areas that comprise the World Heritage property are separated by the Dhauli Ganga with areas on either side of the river being reserved forests (IUCN, 2005). The integrity of this property is further enhanced by the fact that both the parks form the core zones of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and are encircled by a large buffer zone of 514,857 ha. The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary and the Reserved Forest Divisions located west, south and east of the Biosphere Reserve provide additional buffers to this Biosphere Reserve (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Boundaries of the resource system are well defined in Nanda Devi NP and extraction of natural resources, even from the buffer, is restricted (Badola et al., 2018). Due to its inaccessible mountainous terrain devoid of any human habitation, the natural beauty of the site and its aesthetic values have been well preserved.

Important site for in-situ conservation of biological diversity

Good
Trend
Improving
Until 1982, Nanda Devi was the second most popular (after Mount Everest) peak to be climbed in the Himalayas. However, unabated mountain tourism led to large scale pollution, destruction of local wilderness and illegal activities such as poaching and collection of medicinal plants. The area was therefore declared a National Park and officially closed for human activities, including mountaineering, from 1983. Since then, results of surveys and analysis of remote sensing data indicate substantial improvement in the status of flora, fauna and their habitats inside Nanda Devi National Park (Negi et al., 2017). Similarly, studies and annual surveys in Valley of Flowers National Park indicate the maintenance of the status of the flora, fauna and habitats (World Heritage Committee, 2012). The biodiversity values of the site continue to be well preserved (IUCN Consultation, 2017).

Diverse alpine flora

Low Concern
Trend
Stable
Comparison of decadal expeditions and surveys for floristic diversity, community composition and regeneration status of different forests in Nanda Devi National Park was conducted in 2015 (Negi et al., 2017). As compared to surveys in 1993 and 2003, it indicated positive changes on plant diversity, forest composition and ecological conditions of the National Park. Two types of forest communities, i.e. Betula utilis along timberline, and mixed forest of Abies spectabilis with Betula utilis, form the dominant forests inside the National Park. Proportionate distribution of individuals in seedling, sapling and tree layers showed considerable variation in the population structure of different communities. Among the studied alpine meadows, maximum species richness has been observed in Dibrugheta (128) followed by Dharansi (43) and Sarsopatal (34), indicating their high conservation importance (Negi et al., 2017). However, unregulated exploitation of medicinal plants in the buffer zone is of serious concern. Illegal harvesting and over-exploitation of medicinal plants have led to local extinction of more than 150 species in the wild (Kumar, 2017). Rapid increase in mass religious and cultural tourism has led to rampant exploitation of flowers and herbs in the vicinity of shrines in the buffer zone, and together with trail erosion, introduction of non-native plants, waste and water pollution, this is having a detrimental effect on the fragile Himalayan ecosystem (Huddart and Stott, 2020; Maikhuri et al., 2017; Kumar 2017; Negi et al., 2019).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Good
Trend
Stable
The natural beauty and wilderness values of the site remains well preserved due to its inaccessible mountainous terrain devoid of any human habitation. Results of monitoring surveys being conducted now comparing the last three decades indicate improvement in the status of flora, fauna and their habitats inside both Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks. However, unregulated exploitation of medicinal plants and impacts related to the rapid tourism increase in the buffer zone need to be addressed to ensure the protection and conservation of the site’s values.

Additional information

Wilderness and iconic features,
Sacred natural sites or landscapes
The site has un-matched aesthetic and wilderness values. The presence of Hindu and Sikh shrine Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib in the vicinity of the site results in numerous visits to Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve for religious purposes (~1.5 million per year) which in its present form of maangement has been an environmental disservice.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Pollution
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
Overexploitation
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
Invasive species
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
Habitat change
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Natural disasters such as landslides and avalanches in the lower parts of Valley of Flowers poses a challenge for the management as it affects the visitation and interpretation of the PA.
Carbon sequestration,
Soil stabilisation,
Water provision (importance for water quantity and quality)
This site of high biological diversity offers significant water resources, air quality management regulation and influences local and regional weather characteristics including precipitation and temperature. The site provides good quality water at critical times of the year to the urban, industrial and agricultural activities that primarily take place in the buffer zone of Nanda Devi National Park.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Pollution
Impact level - Low
Overexploitation
Impact level - Low
Invasive species
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Habitat change
Trend - Decreasing
Climate change and melting of glaciers in the Himalayas and resultant disasters has been a cause of global concern.
The site provides significant values in terms of natural beauty, biological integrity and provides valuable ecosystem services. The site provides good quality water and sustain many communities and industries at critical times of the year.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun The WII has been implementing several UNESCO sponsored research and monitoring projects in this site.
http://www.wii.gov.in/
2 Govind Ballabh Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development (GBPNIHESD), Almora The Institute is the lead organization of the Ministry of Environment, Forests &amp; Climate Change of the Government of India for research and monitoring activities in the site.
http://gbpihed.gov.in/
3 Department of Science and Technology, Government of India Under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, a dedication mission called National Mission on Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) is being undertaken to assess climate change effects and adaptation strategies through various Task Forces.
4 UNDP and Govt of India The Government of India and United Nations Development Programme, with support from the Global Environment Facility, are implementing a new programme in the high altitude Himalayas entitled “SECURE Himalayas - Securing livelihoods, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of high range Himalayan ecosystems”, to ensure conservation of locally and globally significant biodiversity, land and forest resources in the high Himalayan ecosystem, while enhancing the lives and livelihoods of local communities.
https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/projects/securing-livelihoods-in-the-himalayas.html

References

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