Conservation of High Altitude Wetlands in Ladakh
New Delhi Main
New Delhi Main
Nestled in the Trans Himalayan ranges of Eastern and North Eastern Ladakh between 4000 and 5000 m are found one of the most unique ecosystems of the world - the high altitude wetlands.Nestled in the Trans Himalayan ranges of Eastern and North Eastern Ladakh between 4000 and 5000 m are found one of the most unique ecosystems of the world - the high altitude wetlands. These wetlands lie in the Western most extension of the Northern Tibetan Plateau the Chang Tang region which is a repository of ancient culture and religious practices, holding strong, the bond between nature and culture. These wetlands are facing the growing impact of tourism in the region which adds significantly to pressure on adjoining grasslands, leading to pollution, disturbance of the wildlife, change in local life styles leading to a loss of cultural heritage. The degradation process is still in its initial stage and there are thus good prospects for conservation, if implemented at the earliest, with the support of local communities.
Three of these wetlands, namely, Tsomoriri, Tsokar and Pangong Tso have been identified for priority action in the first phase. These wetlands are believed to be the most important breeding site for waterfowl in Ladakh and represent the only breeding ground of bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) in India and the globally threatened Black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis) outside China. In addition, this region also supports some of the most endangered species of mammals such as Kiang, Snow Leopard, Lynx, Himalayan Blue Sheep etc.
In view of the extreme fragility of the lake ecosystems and their gross under representation at the national and International level, the thrust of the project is to develop a strategy and action plan, involving all stakeholders, for the conservation of these lakes, with special emphasis on their recognition as sites of International importance under the relevant International Convention(s) as World Heritage / Ramsar sites.
WWF-India operates from the field offices at Leh, Tsomoriri (at an altitude of 4595 m, it is probably the highest WWF Office in the entire WWF-Network) and Tsokar. Project related activities like the education and awareness programmes for various target groups (e.g. tourists, tour operators, school children, and local communities), liaison with the local Government authorities, field surveys, monitoring the breeding sites are carried out on a regular basis. For the smooth functioning of the programme, and to achieve sustainable results, WWF India representatives ensure networking and capacity building involving the stakeholders like the local communities, educational institutions, tour operators and tour guides, NGOs, members of the Armed forces and Government departments.
The highlight achievements have been:
- Tsomoriri designated as Ramsar site in Nov. 2002
- Tsomoriri been pledged as a ‘Sacred Gift to the Earth’ by the Korzok local community at WWF’s Annual Conference in Nepal
- Scientific documentation on major wetlands of Ladakh complete
- Regulation and restriction of camping sites around Tsomoriri in consultation with local community Vehicular traffic flow and parking streamlined at Tsomoriri
- Regular garbage clean up campaigns with help of ITBP, tour operators and local population
- Traditional and social fencing around wetlands eg. Korzok community voluntarily building a wall to protect breeding and feeding grounds from vehicular traffic
- Formation of Tsomoriri Conservation Trust
- Twenty WWF-India Nature Clubs registered in different schools in Ladakh Indian Army’s commitment and support to set up a Nature Interpretation Centre at 'Hall of Fame' , Leh.
The future plans are:
- Maintenance of existing field presence at Leh , Tsomoriri and Tsokar and increase presence at Chushul and Hanle marshes as well. Increased field presence to ensure better results
- Continue biological and socio-economic surveys around selected wetlands and document for future reference
- Capacity building workshops for Tour operators, Army, Teachers and local communities
- Regular education and Awareness Programmes for various target groups Management Planning for Tsomoriri, Tsokar and Pangong Tso involving major stakeholders using PRA
- Prepare Guidelines for introducing EcoTourism Certification Scheme in Ladakh
- Establishment of a Sustainable Tourism Model managed by Local Communities at Tsomoriri Plan
- Raise funds to carry out a comprehensive Strategic Environment Assessment for Ladakh
- Develop Environmental Management Systems, implement and certify the Environment Management Systems with special focus on tourism sector
- Collaborate with WWF NOs ( e.g. China) to raise funds for preparing an Ecoregion Action Plan for Tibetan Plateau Steppe a Priority WWF G200 site