Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks

India
Inscribed in
1988
Criteria
(vii)
(x)

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

Summary

2017 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
08 Nov 2017
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. The status of flora, fauna and their habitats monitored periodically through scientific expeditions indicates improvement in the population status of key wild animal and plant species. The level of current threats to the site is low; however, development of hydroelectric projects in the vicinity or in the buffer zone represents a high potential threat. Particularly, the cumulative impacts of various projects are of high concern and need to be considered during planning and approval stages of each project.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Good
Trend
Stable
The natural beauty and wilderness values of the site remain well preserved, largely thanks to its inaccessibility and limited use. Results of monitoring surveys indicate the status of flora, fauna and their habitats inside both Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks is good.

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
The existing level of current threats to the site is low. The main current conservation issues include poaching of snow leopard and its prey species, and accumulation of solid waste associated with high visitors’ numbers in the buffer zone of the Valley of Flowers National Park. Development of hydropower projects in the buffer zone of the site, however, remains a high potential threat. The cumulative impacts of various hydroelectric projects in the area are of particular concern and need to be considered during planning and appraisal stages of each project.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

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
08 Nov 2017

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 (SoOUV, 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 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. 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 (SoOUV, 2012).

Assessment information

Low Threat
The existing level of threats to the site is low. The main current conservation issues include poaching of snow leopard and ungulates (snow leopard prey species), and the accumulation of solid waste associated with high visitors’ numbers in the buffer zone of the Valley of Flowers National Park.
Poaching
High Threat
Inside site
In the Valley of Flowers National Park, there is a looming threat from local the local poachers who may come from outside the Valley specially during winter when the park staff as well as local people descend to the lower altitude and a few ungulates descend down to the lower altitudes in winter (WCMC, 2011).
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
The presence of prominent shrines outside the site but in the buffer zone attract a large number of pilgrims. The problem of solid waste is increasing rapidly due to heavy influx of tourists and insufficient management response (Kuniyal, 2005; Singh et al., 2009; Tiwari et al., 2010).
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
Low Threat
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
A few native opportunistic herbs, e.g., Polygonum polystachyum and Impatiens sulcata dominate the valley portion of the National Park suppressing other dwarf herbaceous communities. However, this is a natural succession and specific to certain habitats only. However, ongoing field monitoring is required.
High Threat
The site is susceptible to hydropower development (run of the river project) due to presence of Himalayan rivers and variations in topography. Development of hydropower projects in the buffer zone of the site remains a potential threat. The cumulative impacts of various hydroelectric projects in the area are of particular concern and need to be considered when projects are planned.
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
Low Threat
Inside site
There is a constant 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 NP.
Roads/ Railroads
Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
Due to general inaccessibility in the mountain environment, there is a constant demand for road construction for improved access (IUCN Consultation, 2014).
Dams/ Water Management or Use
Very High Threat
Outside site
The site is suitable for hydropower development (dams) due to presence of Himalayan river and variations in topography. Development of hydropower projects in the buffer zone of the site remains a potential threat (SoOUV, 2012). The cumulative impacts of various hydroelectric projects in the area are of particular concern and need to be considered when projects are planned (WII, 2012).
The existing level of current threats to the site is low. The main current conservation issues include poaching of snow leopard and its prey species, and accumulation of solid waste associated with high visitors’ numbers in the buffer zone of the Valley of Flowers National Park. Development of hydropower projects in the buffer zone of the site, however, remains a high potential threat. The cumulative impacts of various hydroelectric projects in the area are of particular concern and need to be considered during planning and appraisal stages of each project.
Relationships with local people
Effective
The local communities residing in the buffer zones of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve actively participate in the conservation programmes of the Forest Department (SoOUV, 2012). The Eco-Development Committees have been established to help address some of the issues, particularly litter management (IUCN, 2005).
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 Evaluation, 2005). The Nanda Devi National Park was 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 VoF 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).
Enforcement
Effective
The area is protected by law under the Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act of Government of India, and the conservation management and legal provisions are enforced as a part of regular management (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Effective
The site is also a Biosphere Reserve and generally is covered under the National Wildlife Action Plan, and other conservation management agenda at regional and national strategies.
Management system
Effective
The World Heritage site consists of two component 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 encompassed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (WCMC, 2011; SoOUV, 2012). The Nanda Devi NP is being managed as a core zone of the Biosphere Reserve (PR, 2002). Management of the Valley of Flowers NP is planned and carried out
within the overall management of the Biosphere Reserve, for which there is a Landscape Management Plan for the period 2003/04 – 2012/13 (IUCN, 2005).
Management effectiveness
Effective
Both component protected areas 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 (SoOUV, 2012).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Highly Effective
No recent Committee decisions
Boundaries
Effective
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 buffer to this Biosphere Reserve (SoOUV, 2012).
Sustainable finance
Data Deficient
In 2005 the total annual budget for Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve equated to US $272,000, of which US $ 45,000 was for the Valley of Flowers National Park and US $ 75,000 for Nanda Devi NP (IUCN, 2005). No recent data is available. However, 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 (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Staff training and development
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 NP. The available resources were considered adequate (IUCN, 2005). Significant amount of management, e.g. trail maintenance, is achieved through cooperation of local communities.
Sustainable use
Highly Effective
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 (SoOUV, 2012).
Education and interpretation programs
Effective
There is a Tourist Interpretation Centre at Gangaria 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.
Tourism and visitation management
Effective
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.
Monitoring
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 (SoOUV, 2012).
Research
Effective
Research and monitoring on various aspects are ongoing.
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
Data Deficient
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.
World Heritage values

Natural beauty and aesthetic values

Good
Trend
Stable
The natural beauty of the site and its aesthetic values have been well preserved. The area is almost inaccessible and there is very limited use which contributes to the conservation of the site’s aesthetics and wilderness values.

Important site for in-situ conservation of biological diversity

Good
Trend
Improving
Results of the surveys and analysis of remote sensing data indicate substantial improvement in the status of flora, fauna and their habitats inside Nanda Devi National Park. Similarly, studies and annual surveys in Valley of Flowers National Park indicate the maintenance of the status of the flora, fauna and habitats (SoOUV, 2012). The biodiversity values of the site continue to be well preserved (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Good
Trend
Stable
The natural beauty and wilderness values of the site remain well preserved, largely thanks to its inaccessibility and limited use. Results of monitoring surveys indicate the status of flora, fauna and their habitats inside both Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks is good.

Additional information

Wilderness and iconic features
The site has un-matched aesthetic and wilderness values
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Moderate
Pollution
Impact level - Low
Overexploitation
Impact level - Low
Invasive species
Impact level - Low
Habitat change
Impact level - Low
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.
Water provision (importance for water quantity and quality)
Environmental services
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
Habitat change
Impact level - Low
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.
The site provides significant values in terms of natural beauty, biological integrity and provides valuable ecosystem services.
Organization/ individuals Project duration Brief description of Active Projects
1 Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun The WII has been implementing several UNESCO sponsored research and monitoring projects in this site.
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 & Climate Change of the Government of India for research and monitoring activities in the site.
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 made to assess climate change effects and adaptation strategies through various Task Forces.

References

References
1 Climate Change Adaptation Workbook: Responding to Climate Change. A guide for managers of natural World Heritage sites - Nanda Devi & Valley of Flowers National Parks. 2013. UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris. Pp. 34.
2 IUCN Evaluation, 2005.
3 Kuniyal, J.C., 2005. Solid waste management in the Himalayan trails and expedition summits. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 13(4), pp.391-410.
4 Mathur, V.B., et al. 2015. Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in India. Process and Outcomes 2006 to 2014. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. 2009 Pp.
5 Nanda Devi World Heritage Site: Biodiversity conservation for over two decades and challenges for the future. 2008. V.B. Mathur. Paper presented in the Training workshop on 'Management and conservation of world heritage sites – Conservation for peace', Hiroshima, Japan, March 30–April 4, 2008
6 Prajapati, S.R. (2010). Management of Valley of Flowers (Ed. B.K.Gangte). Pp. 1-198 W.P.O, Forest Dept., Uttarakhand.
7 Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SoUV), 2012.
8 Sathyakumar, S. 2003.Conservation status of Mammals and Birds in Nanda Devi National Park: An assessment of changes over two decades (IN) Biodiversity Monitoring Expedition Nanda Devi 2003. A report. Pp. 1-14.
9 Singh, R.B., Mal, S. and Kala, C.P., 2009. Community responses to mountain tourism: A case in Bhyundar Valley, Indian Himalaya. Journal of Mountain Science, 6(4), pp.394-404.
10 Uniyal, V.P. 2002. Nanda Devi Expedition (Report). Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun
11 WHBPI Implementation in Keoladeo and Nanda Devi World Heritage Sites: Key Activities, Outcomes and Learnings. 2013. V.B. Mathur. Paper presented in regional conference on „Conservation and Management of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites: Sharing experiences and Best Practices from South Asia‟ on 17-18 September, 2013.
12 Wildlife Institute of India (WII), 2012. Cumulative Impact Assessment of Ganga hydel projects on biodiversity.