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Nanda Devi National Park

The landscape of this remotely located national park in the Garhwal Himalayas is one of snowy splendour: an icy basin surrounded by imposing granite slopes and the snowy peaks of some of India's highest mountains. Located in the east of the Uttarakhand state, close to the Tibetan border, this national park occupies an area of 624.62 sq km and forms a ring of protection for Nanda Devi, India's second highest mountain peak. Recognised as a World Heritage Site since 1988, the park's ecosystem was protected as the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme in 2004. Located at a latitude of 30°16' to 30°32'N and longitude of 79°44' to 80°02'E, access to the park is by a difficult trek via Rishi gorge, one of the world's deepest gorges, to reach an icy valley. The valley is surrounded almost completely by mountain peaks, of which 16 peaks tower at 6,000 m and above. Mountains surrounding the glacial basin include Dunagiri (7,056 m), Kalanka (6,931 m), Nanda Devi (7,434 m), Nanda Khat (6,811 m) and Trisul (7,127 m). Water for the Upper Rishi Valley or Inner Sanctuary comes from the northern Changbang, North Rishi and North Nanda Devi glaciers while that for the lower Rishi Valley or Outer Sanctuary is from South Nanda Devi and South Rishi glaciers.

Vegetation in this park is a mix of fir and birch forest and alpine meadows up to altitudes of 3,350 m, followed by dry alpine, squat alpines and lichens at higher altitudes. The fir forests have a predominance of West Himalayan fir (Abies pindrow) and rhododendron (Rhododendron campanulatum) while the birch forests are dominated by Himalayan birch (Betula utilis). At higher altitudes, scrub juniper (Juniperus pseudosabina) occurs in abundance while at still higher altitudes, grasses, mosses and lichens are seen. A study carried out in 1993 by the Nanda Devi Scientific and Ecological Expedition identified 793 species of plants belonging to 400 genera and 120 families in the Nandadevi Biosphere Reserve. As many as eight nationally threatened species like Nardostachys grandiflora, Picroehiza kurrooa, Cypripedium elegans, Cypripedium himalaicum, Dioscorea deltoidea and Allium stracheyi have been identified in the forests of this park.

Six nationally endangered mammals too have been found here. These include bharal or blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), mainland serow (Naemorhedus sumatraensis), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicu), snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Himalayan brown bear (U. arctos), common leopard (Panthera pardus) and Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus). According to a survey carried out by the Indian National MAB (Man, Animal and Biosphere) Committee, as many as 83 species of wild animals have been sighted in the park.

In 1993, the Nanda Devi Scientific and Ecological Expedition reported the presence of nearly 114 species of birds in 30 families. Species commonly seen include spot-winged tit (Parus melanolophus), yellow-bellied fantail (Rhipidura hypoxantha), orange-flanked bush robin (Erithacus cyanurus), blue-fronted redstart (Phoenicurus frontalis), olive-backed pipit (Anthus hodgsoni), rosy pipit (A. roseatus), common rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus) and spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes).

Culturally significant as the abode of Goddess Parvati, the Nanda Devi mountain peak has always been venerated as a sacred monument. The region is home to people of the Indo-Mongoloid Bhotiya tribe who started the world famous Chipko movement. The Chipko Movement was a strong resistance put up by the local communities against government efforts to chop down the forests in the region. Since 1993, with effective management practices and participatory conservation measures in place with strong community involvement, threats to the park have been reduced. However, those that persist include litter produced by mountaineering expeditions and pilgrims who once in 12 years undertake a Nanda Devi Raj Jat pilgrimage to the foot of Trisul to worship Nanda Devi.


Kazmierczak, K. 2000. A field guide to the birds of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistn, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. OM Book Service, New Delhi, India. 352 pp.

Menon, V. 2003. A field guide to Indian mammals. DK (India) Pvt Ltd and Penguin Book India (P) Ltd. 201 pp.

WII. 2007. List of protected areas. National Wildlife Database Cell. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India

World Heritage Sites in India-United Nations Environment Programme. Accessed in March 2008.

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