© Simon de Trey White / WWF-UK

Sacred Himalayan Landscape (SHL)

Referred to as the Third Pole, the Himalayas are the source of some of Asia's major rivers and future water supply for huge populations across the Indian subcontinent.
The Himalayas includes the highest mountain ranges in the world, with nine of the world’s ten highest peaks—including Mount Everest. Located along the eastern Himalayas, the trans-boundary Sacred Himalayan Landscape extends from Nepal's Langtang National park, through India and into Bhutan's Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve, covering an area 39,021 sq. km. 73.5% of the landscape falls in Nepal, 24.4% in India, and 2.1% in Bhutan. 

The Sacred Himalayan Landscape represents two priority regions in the Eastern Himalayan Ecoregion Complex, identified under WWF's Global 200 Ecoregions, namely, the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forest and the Eastern Himalayan Alpine Meadows. The ecosystems within this landscape harbor diverse and globally important biodiversity. 

WHY SHL

Major threats and vulnerabities  include: forest fire, encroachment, prolonged dry period, floods, infrastructure, unsustainable extraction, over extraction of forest resources, overgrazing, invasive species, floods, poaching and illegal wildlife trade,  

HISTORY

Initiated by the governments of Nepal, India and Bhutan, in partnership with WWF Nepal, the Sacred Himalayan Landscape (SHL) was developed to preserve the fragile and complex mosaic of biodiversity, achieve conservation while creating sustainable livelihoods and sustain diverse culture and traditions in the globally important Eastern Himalayan Region. The Government of Nepal subsequently declared the Sacred Himalayan Landscape in 2006. 

The area includes five million people of diverse cultures who speak 40 languages. However, most face abject poverty and are in need of sustainable livelihoods. While WWF Nepal has been working in the region since 1961, its forests are strained as demand continues to grow for timber and food crops. Protected areas are becoming isolated pockets, and international criminal networks are emptying forests of rare wildlife.

The impact of global climate change is melting the once mighty Himalayas at a rate faster than ever recorded in human history, jeopardizing a vital source of freshwater for billions of people in Asia. The landscape supports a remarkable array of flora and fauna with over 85 mammal species and over 440 bird species, including the charismatic snow leopard, the clouded leopard red panda, and the Tibetan wolf.      

 

PROTECTED AREAS

Envisioned as a transboundary conservation landscape, the Sacred Himalayan Landscape extends from the Sindhupalchowk district in central Nepal to Taplejung in eastern Nerpal covering 23,336 sq.km. The landscape is endowed with Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Makalu, the first, the fourth and the fifth tallest mountain peaks of the world, respectively.

A key characteristic of the Sacred Himalayan Landscape is its linkage with one of the largest protected areas in Asia—the vast Qomolongma Nature Preserve in the Tibet Autonomous Region of ‎China in the north.

Nepal - Langtang National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, Makalu Barun National Park, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, and Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale Complex

India - Khangchendzonga National Park, Singalila National Park and Neora Valley National Park

Bhutan - Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary, Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Shingba Sanctuary and Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, and Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary  

© Simon DeTrey White

CHALLENGES

Although SHL is presently sparsely populated with about 5 million people, its inhabitants face abject poverty. Forestry, agriculture and tourism are dominant livelihood strategies adopted by over 80% people in the SHL.

Degradation of large tracts of agriculture, forest and pasture lands in the hills and mountains of the SHL seem to have considerably increased in last 2-3 decades. The predominant agro-pastoralist livelihood such as slash and burn or shifting cultivation or ‘khoriya’ practices in the mountains are associated with land degradation. Croplands are characterized by increasing soil erosion, landslides, slope failure, poor fertility and reduced cropping intensity. The mountains in the Sacred Himalayan Landscape are prone to natural disasters due to unstable geology and extreme climate. Landslides are the most common natural disasters in this region, caused by intense seasonal precipitation during monsoons. 

WWF