Trees+ for Himalayan Biodiversity
Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
Project PurposeTrees for the Himalayas
The plantation project is implemented in 16 Van Panchayats (Forest Councils) in the Kumaon region of Nainital district, Uttarakhand.
Uttarakhand is situated in the northern part of India surrounded by the mighty Indian Himalayas. The Himalayas are continuously facing stresses from the global climatic scenario which are consequently impacting its fragile ecosystems, rich biodiversity and sensitive local livelihoods. Forests and Climate Change are intimately intertwined; according to the United Nations Environment, forests capture atmospheric carbon dioxide at a rate equivalent to about one-third the amount released annually by burning fossil fuels. Stopping deforestation and restoring forests, therefore, could provide up to 30 per cent of the climate change solution.
The forest resource management in the state is administered by the autonomous local institution which has been in existence since 1921 –the ‘Van Panchayats’ or Forest Councils. 20 to 30 per cent of the local households in the selected villages are living below the poverty line with a very high dependency on forest resources for their day-to-day requirements, primarily for firewood and livestock fodder.
The chirpine is found in abundance in the region and have high survival rates. They easily regenerate even in exposed sites where most of the broad-leaved species rarely succeed; which makes the area prone to forest fires. ‘A carpet of the Pine needles on the forest floor makes the water drain off, adversely affecting soil conservation. These trees do not allow any undergrowth; thus the expansion of this species affects the availability of food for wild animals too’ (The Times of India, August 13, 2015)
This Himalayan state earns most of its revenue from the tourism sector. Frequent disasters like landslides and cloudbursts have led to various obstructions in the tourism sector mentions Business Standard in it’s 29th September 2013 article, which restricts the ample job opportunities for the people. The state faces various threats in the development of the tourism and agriculture sector, major being impending disaster, as reported by Hindustan Times on September 27th, 2018. All these issues make forests extremely important in this Himalayan state. A study by TERI University mentions the importance of forests in hydrological services, carbon sequestration and storage, pollination services for agriculture and also the overuse of the resources for livelihood requirements of the local community, making plantation of valued native trees extremely important for the local community and the ecology of the area.
Flora and Fauna
The selected villages for the project implementation form a subtropical habitat with elevation ranging between 1400 and 1800 meter with sal, pine, oak, rhododendrons, kaphal being dominant trees. The flora covers a wide and diverse range of plants ranging from Bryophytes, orchids, rare climbing plants, ferns, lichens, fungi, medicinal herbs and shrubs. The project involves plantation of mainly Banj (Quercus leucotricophora), Aonla (Pahytolacca emblica), Bhatula (Desnodium tilaefolium, Bhimal (Grevia optiva.), Majuna (Salix alba), Shatoot (Morus serreta), and Bakian (Melina azedarach).
The area is equally rich in faunal diversity, which is home to macaques, jackal, and foxes, Himalayan black bear, marten, civet, barking deer, sambar, porcupine among others. The rich avian diversity of the area makes it a birds’ paradise, some of the prominent avian fauna include magpies, barbets, parakeets, thrushes, woodpeckers, jungle owlet, fish eagle, lammergeier, Himalayan griffon, crested serpent eagle, flycatchers, and cheer pheasants, kalij pheasant,and koklas pheasants.
Traditional Khals (Water Bodies): As a Trees+ project, it also includes construction of 2 traditional water bodies (known as Khals locally) in each of the proposed van panchayat. Average dimension of the individual khal would be approximately LBH - 6*5*0.75 = 22.5 cubic meter.
Aonla (Phytolacca emblica), Banj (Quercus leucotrichophora), Bakian (Melia azedarach), Bhatula (Desmodium tiliaefolium), Bhimal (Grewia optiva), Majuna (Salix alba), Shatoot (Morus serrata), Utish (Alnus nepalensis), Falyat (Quercus glauca), Tilonj (Quercus lanuginosa), Padam (Prunus cerasoides), Karak (Celtis australis), Darim (Punica granatum), Majena (Salix alba), Shatoot (Morus serrata), and Pangar (Aesculus indica).
The project involves plantation local tree species in the selected seven Van Panchayat areas. This will primarily strengthen the unique ‘Van Panchayat’ governance for sustainable natural resource management. The plantation will encourage participatory approach with direct community involvement in conservation action simultaneously generating local employment while project implementation and monitoring which supports the sensitive rural economy. The project is implemented with the promotion of multipurpose native trees with the focus on raising oak species because of its multiple socio-environmental benefits. Oaks foliage is a major source of fodder, acorns are edible and are suitable for silvi-horticultural systems with several cash crops of the area with high rhizome yield being grown best under Oak canopy. The selected native species will be planted in the identified areas to reclaim into forest lands to improve wildlife habitat, control top soil erosion, check surface water runoff and aid ecosystem services to overall support benefit-cost ratio to the locals. Upon maturity, each tree can absorb approximately 20kg of CO2 per year which is considered globally as a conservative estimate for sequestration potential of trees.
Creating employment for the locals, the current project seeks to value standing forests, work towards afforestation programmes, regulate the dynamics of resource extraction from the forests and promote alternative livelihood options and energy sources to local communities. This works towards a clear strategy towards achieving maximum benefits from standing forests for local communities as well as the environment at large.
|Name of the Company||Number of Trees Planted||Fiscal Year|
|Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Ltd||1,00,000||2021-22|
|Randstad India Private Ltd||14,957||2021-22|
|ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund||59,875||2020-21|
|HDFC Bank Ltd.||50,000||2020-21|