48_G15_Arena

Global Issue 15

Arena Himalayas Paradise in peril Hidden wonders of the Himalayas are being lost, even before they are all discovered, due to the economic demands of population growth and the effects of climate change Kamal Bawa and Sandesh Kadur The Himalayas – the abode of Gods, the land of snow, and the last Shangri La – is full of life. The Himalayan ranges of India alone constitute one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots – regions of the world extraordinarily rich in the number of species found nowhere else on earth. The mountains are home to two thirds of all species found in India. And the Greater Himalayas, extending to the Tibetan Plateau and into southeastern China, harbours, perhaps, 10 per cent of our planet’s total. If the Himalayas as a whole is outstandingly rich in plant and animal life, the Eastern Himalayas are spectacularly so. The tiny state of Sikkim, for example, is just 7,096 square km. But because its altitude ranges from 280 metres to 8,585 metres, it contains examples of virtually every type e tremendous biodiversity of the Himalayas – a product of millions of years of evolution – is being rapidly lost of ecosystem encountered in the entire Himalayas – from lowland semi-evergreen forests to alpine meadows. It occupies less than 0.0025 per cent of India’s land area, yet hosts 20 per cent of its plant and animal species. The sheer abundance of the Eastern Himalaya’s ecosystem defi es description. It is the teeming home to nine per cent of the world’s mammals, including such iconic species as the Royal Bengal tiger, the greater one-horned rhinoceros, Asian elephant, red panda, snow leopard and clouded leopard – the smallest of the big cats. Its seemingly boundless and beautiful birdlife embraces the Bengal fl orican, blood pheasant, black-necked crane – worshipped as a reincarnation of an early Dalai Lama – the green magpie, fi re-tailed sunbird and ten species of extravagantly beaked hornbills. 48 l www.global -br ief ing.org thi rd quar ter 2013 global


Global Issue 15
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