Perhaps Alaap’s presence in the Central Himalayas is mere coincidence. But perhaps, there is a deeper reason why we choose to fulfil our mission of forest creation 6000 metres above sea level.
One might be tempted to think that a region that is considered one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots may be somewhat immune to ecological threats. Indeed, the abrupt rise of these young mountains creates perfect conditions for a variety of micro-climates and a diversity of ecosystems. The Himalayas are home to important populations of flora and fauna, including many species that are endemic to this region – over 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species and over 500 species of reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish.
Yet, the last decade has shown us why Uttarakhand’s ecology and economy are both fragile, and a large part of it has to do with our natural resources. Even though the Himalayas are home to countless glaciers which feed the rivers for the rest of the country, 1 out of 5 villages in Uttarakhand face droughts in the summer. The 2013 flash floods, considered among the worst in the region’s history, claimed 5,748 lives and caused $1.1 billion in damages. Forest fires have become commonplace, and swallow vast swathes of forest land every year.
At the same time, the state’s mountain communities face the triple threat of environmental degradation, large-scale migration and a lack of reliable livelihoods and jobs.
According to the India State of Forest Report 2017, satellite data shows that the forest cover in Uttarakhand is 45.43% of geographical area. But only 9% of this can be considered high density forest (defined as forest area with over 60% canopy cover).
Coupled with a high percentage of invasive mono- cultured pine forests that do not capture rainwater, this diminishes biodiversity, increases the threat of forest fires and threatens human- animal coexistence.
Our triple bottom line approach aims to attack this very triple threat faced by Uttarakhand’s people. As a social enterprise, we aim to tackle the challenges of climate change, revival of natural and cultural heritage as well as the creation tangible and intangible values through native forest creation. We choose to invest in people, and not just the problem – by co-creating forests with local governments and local communities.
Native Forest Regeneration is a development issue for the Himalayas, in the same breath as education, health and livelihood. In the words of American comedian George Carlin:
“The planet isn’t going anywhere. We are.”

2 Comments

Nirmalya · September 10, 2018 at 9:28 am

Nice short write-up describing the defining characteristics of Alaap’s work. p.s. please fix the meters to feet in the second sentence. Thumbs up !

Nirmalya · September 10, 2018 at 9:44 am

Also I had a query regarding Alaap’s reforestation efforts. While the spread of chir pines with land and climate disturbance is a cause for concern, but it does get its resilience and sturdiness as a local species, and is not really an invasive in that sense.

Has Alaap considered diversifying the chir pine stands with other native conifers by working along with the forest department and the local communities? While planting conifers in the lowest (< 1000m) elevations may not be a good idea, conifers like Bhutan pine (or blue pine, P. wallachiana), Chilgoza (P. gerardiana) are native to the W Himalayan landscape, and an active diversifying process may open up the canopy for other non-conifers as well. There are also other pines which may be available in isolated stands – which the Forest Dept. personnel may be aware of (like densata, armandii, bhutanica, kesiya, etc.), and non-pine conifers – and trying them out may be a worthy effort …

Just some thoughts. Best wishes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *