SECURE Himalaya Project

Context-

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is implementing a unique model in Ladakh to conserve the habitats of Snow Leopards.

About SECURE Himalaya Project-

  • The SECURE Himalaya project is part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded “Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development” (Global Wildlife Program).
  • The project was launched in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • The project’s aim is to conserve locally and globally significant biodiversity, land, and forest resources in the high Himalayan ecosystem, which spans over four states- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
  • The SECURE project aims to secure livelihoods, conserve, and restore high-altitude Himalayan ecosystems.
  • The project’s prime focus areas are the protection of snow leopards and other endangered species and their habitats, including securing the livelihoods of people in the region and improving enforcement to decrease wildlife crime.

SECURE Himalaya Project – Objective

  • The project promotes long-term management of Alpine pastures and forests in high altitude Himalayan ecosystems to ensure the conservation of globally important wildlife, like the endangered snow leopards and their habitats, and sustainable livelihoods and cultural benefits for communities in the trans and greater Himalayan regions.
  • The project assists the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), a collaborative effort by 12 range country governments, international organization, civil society, and the private sector.

Key Components-

  • The project seeks to implement four interconnected and mutually beneficial Components (project strategies) aimed at addressing barriers related to unsustainable land and forest use and limited options for alternative livelihoods, insufficient protection and management of areas outside protected area networks, and limited wildlife monitoring and wildlife crime deterrent systems.
  • Component 1- Enhanced management of high Himalayan landscapes for conservation of snow leopard and other endangered species and their habitats and sustaining ecosystem services.
  • Component 2- Improved and diversified sustainable livelihood for communities to bring down pressure on fragile ecosystems.
  • Component 3- Enhanced enforcement, monitoring and cooperation to decrease wildlife crime and related threats.
  • Component 4: Improved knowledge and information system for landscape conservation approaches.

SECURE Himalaya Project – Landscape

  • Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul-Pangi and Kinnaur valleys.
  • Kanchenjunga – Sikkim’s Upper Teesta Valley..
  • Gangotri – Govind and Darma – Byans Valley in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand.
  • Changthang in Jammu and Kashmir.

SECURE Himalaya Project – Achievements

  • Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) has been introduced to correctly assess the Snow Leopard population.
  • 2,000 frontline forest staff and community members were trained in wild habitat monitoring.
  • Improved the skills of 1,000 women and youth in areas like adventure and nature-based tourism.
  • Encouraging innovation and youth participation in conservation through the SECURE Himalaya Hackathon.
  • Developed a Virtual Reality experience to raise awareness of the importance of snow leopards among the general public and promote policy initiatives aimed at saving the critically endangered species.

Project Snow Leopard-

  • The “Secured Himalaya Project” aimed to maintain snow leopard habitat while also improving the ecosystem of Himalayan ranges and the lives of mountain population, all of which are among the hardest affected by climate change.
  • The Snow Leopard is an internationally endangered species and the mountain region’s most important flagship species.
  • In 2009, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change launched Project Snow Leopard to encourage an inclusive, participatory, and landscape-based approach to conserving Snow Leopards and their habitat in India.
  • The project’s objective is to conserve biodiversity through community involvement.
  • With active support from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation, the project will be operational in five Himalayan states- Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Conclusion-

  • The SECURE Himalaya prioritizes protecting people’s livelihood because the extreme vastness and seclusion of mountain communities (including tribes) have made them to keep final keepers of the diverse cultures and local knowledge with global implications. To combat the illegal trade in medicinal and aromatic plants in these areas, the implementation of stricter surveillance and regulation is the absolute necessity.

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