Tirthan Valley Green Initiatives
Save the Tirthan – Our fight against the Hydroprojects
This is one of the greatest environmental victories of Tirthan ! “Over our dead bodies” was the cry of the villagers from the Tirthan Valley in response to a hydel project under arbitration in a Chandigarh Court. After facing a stiff resistance from local folks and a strong PIL against the four hydel projects which would have played a havoc to the pristine ambience of the Tirthan valley , the high court finally stalled the construction . The news said “To propagate trout in the natural waters of the Tirthan river of Himachal Pradesh, the state government has decided against setting up hydropower projects in the picturesque Tirthan Valley in Kullu district”. Thus Tirthan became the only river in Himachal Pradesh devoid of all hydro activity. The pretty skyline of the valley thus avoided disappearing behind a maze of power lines, spelling doom for a species that came to beautiful Tirthan all the way from the icy waters of Europe. You can read more about the struggle here http://hillpost.in/2011/04/27200/27200/ and see this beautiful documentary entitled “ Run of the Rivers “ of this historic struggle http://shimlafilmfestival.com/run-rivers-documentary-category-open-aravind-mak/ . This unique green initiative triggered several revolutions all across the state to save the rivers!
Tirthan Valley Women Saving & Credit Groups
Over Seven Hundred Women of the Tirthan valley have organized themselves into saving and credit groups by saving a humble amount of Rs 1 everyday. They empower themselves by using these savings to generate alternate livelihoods -such as vermicomposting, apricot oil production, ecotourism, handicraft skills and organic farming – to reduce pressure on the alpine meadows and other ecosystems in the park. Bans on livestock grazing and NTFP (Non-timber forest product) collection have further increased density of rare herbs and herbivores such as ghoral, Himalayan tahr, musk deer and blue sheep along with pheasants. Through these activities, the WSCGs earn more than fifteen lakh rupees annually, which to some extent compensates for the loss to the villagers due to the creation of the park. This was beautifully documented in a documentary called Naari Shakti by award winning US director Ana Grillo as a part of the Good Karma Project.
UNESCO World Heritage Site Status :
In June 2014 , Great Himalayan national Park Conservation Area including Tirthan Valley Wild Life Sanctuary was declared a World Heritage Site ! However behind this was the continuous dedication of some individuals without much Government support and the whole hearted support of the people of Tirthan valley who knew the importance of getting the World Heritage Site status. The WHS team was received by people from all over the Tirthan valley especially women and local NGO’s and was overwhelmed by the hospitality offered. The UNESCO decared GHNPCA a World Heritage site under Criterion (x): The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area is located within the globally significant “Western Himalayan Temperate Forests” ecoregion. The property also protects part of Conservation International’s Himalaya “biodiversity hot spot” and is part of the BirdLife International’s Western Himalaya Endemic Bird Area. The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area is home to 805 vascular plant species, 192 species of lichen, 12 species of liverworts and 25 species of mosses. Some 58% of its angiosperms are endemic to the Western Himalayas. The property also protects some 31 species of mammals, 209 birds, 9 amphibians, 12 reptiles and 125 insects. The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area provides habitat for 4 globally threatened mammals, 3 globally threatened birds and a large number of medicinal plants. The protection of lower altitude valleys provides for more complete protection and management of important habitats and endangered species such as the Western Tragopan and the Musk Deer.
Gharat Powering Electricity :
Tirthan was one of the first valleys of Himachal to revive their traditional watermills by converting them into micro hydel projects with the help of WWF & NABARD. This amazing green initiative to introduce Pico Hydro technology to the Kullu District as an appropriate means of generating renewable energy and providing employment without negative impact on the environment was soon replicated by several other valleys. One Pico Hydro unit installed in the Tung Village of Tirthan Valley in October 2010 had the dual function of generating 5kw of electricity as well as providing direct shaft power to grind flour. The unit now provides electricity to approximately 20 households. You can watch more of this green initiative here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqW56KSmMSU
Public Private Initiative – THE UNDP Award :
The local Tirthan Valley NGO called Biodiversity Tourism & Community Advancment won a UNDP – Govt. of India national level prize in the comanagment category. An NGO, Biodiversity Tourism Community Advancement (BTCA), was set up in 2000 by the Park Administration of Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) to address the economic needs of 2400 poor households living in the Park’s Buffer Zone. GHNP supports a unique biota of many distinct altitude-sensitive ecosystems and is home to a number of IUCN listed species. BTCA works with 70 Women’s Saving and Credit Groups (WSCG) to generate alternate livelihoods -such as vermicomposting, apricot oil production, ecotourism, handicraft skills and organic farming – to reduce pressure on the alpine meadows and other ecosystems in the park.
BTCA is now working on second generation issues of linking local produce to external markets and establishing sustainable eco-tourism in the area. The joint effort has empowered the community socially, economically and intellectually. You can download more information here
Poachers to Protectors – Birdwatcher initiative of Tirthan Valley
Our Birding Guides: The declaration of Great Himalayan National Park in 2000 led to the ban of traditional rights to enter the park . Earlier people used to enter the park not only for collecting rare herbs but also poaching endangered pheasants and animals such as western tragopan, monal , musk deer, black bear, ghoral etc . However with the coming of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures as a ecotourism operator , things changed and soon poachers became protectors. The ecotourism program continues developing a paradigm wherein local villagers actually benefit from having their ancestral lands turned into a wilderness preserve. Part of the plan is to train local youth in bird watching and trekking so that more resources become available to them than ever in the past while wild nature is preserved for posterity. A plan of simple elegance and sweeping implications!
Pakshi Bacaho Punya Kamao :
This unique initiative by Mr. Panki Sood (cofounder of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures) was to create local awareness about birding in the Tirthan Valley. School Children were involved in doing wall paintings of animals & birds , young men were encouraged to create a constituency in favour of wildlife protection particularly pheasants which were still commonly poached. One of the biggest initiatives of this campaign was to launch the first FIR in the Kullu against a Western Tragopan killing. This led to a big joint operation by the Kullu Police and the forest department to eradicate poachers from another valley of Kullu. The members of RSBP recognized the initative and made Sunshine Himalayan Adventures a comlimetary member of their club .
Healing Himalayan Herbs : Villagers in the Tirthan valley have been collecting herbs from the world heritage site of the Great Himalayan national Park conservation area. However all this traditional wisdom and practices are now being lost due to commercialization. Completing a full circle the people of the Tirthan are now trying to revive these ancient medical practices and growing the healing Himalayan herbs in their backyards as well as the land provided by the management of GHNP to the women saving and credit groups.
Happy Himalayan Homestays :
Just imagine the experience of the cold mountain waters of Tirthan river gurgling unhurriedly you breathe the crisp mountain air and sipping a delicious tea, reclining languorously on your chosen rock to lazily read a book. All this with birds chirping around you while the brown trout jumps in the pools of tirthan to catch its evening meal. Mesmerizing views and homemade food all combine to make every homestay of Tirthan valley a unforgettable holiday! The Tirthan would have kept its share of secrets had not some enterprising local people opened their hearts and homes to people who love nature. With basic facilities these homestays are clean and comfortable and a classic example of community based ecotourism which differentiates this valley from other popular hill stations in India.
Voices & Choices , Naari Shakti, Run of the Rivers are some of the several documentaries which have been made in the Tirthan valley appreciating these green initiatives and inspiring several other Himalayan areas to follow the unique example of Tirthan Valley. These documentaries can be seen here