The Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Government of India (known as the Central Government) both contribute to the management of the Great Himalayan National Park. The salaries of employees and funds to manage and develop the Park and Ecozone are contributed by the State and Central governments. Another institution called Biodiversity Conservation Society (BiodCS) also contributes to the Park’s conservation efforts. There are currently two types of institutional arrangements to:
(1) Manage GHNP (2) Interact with the local community in the Ecozone.
(2) Interact with the local community in the Ecozone.
Biodiversity Conservation Society (BiodCS)
Public (government) funds alone cannot fully do justice to conservation efforts at GHNP. To appreciate and care for the biological diversity of the unique ecosystems of the Park, the State Government created a new mechanism, the Biodiversity Conservation Society (BiodCS) in 1999. BiodCS shares responsibility for the management of the Great Himalayan National Park by providing fund advances, empowerment, adaptable administrative procedures, and governing board structure. This provides continuity of Park funding across fiscal years, eliminates most bureaucratic delays, renders managerial autonomy at the Park level, and helps to ensure the flexibility required for a process-oriented approach. The member-secretary (i.e.Director of GHNP) of the Governing Board of the BiodCS is responsible for the management, along with assumption of responsibility and accountability for production of outputs, achievement of the Park’s objective and for the use of the Park management funds.
The governing board structure is sufficiently powerful to provide autonomy at the Park management level. The Forest Minister of Himachal Pradesh is its Chairman. Members include high officials from departments of forest, finance, agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, and horticulture.
The BiodCS is a very effective mechanism for local people to participate in discussions of other Park policies such as encouraging and training local people to become Park staff, advice on priorities for annual budget expenses, park entry fee issues and distribution of such revenues. BiodCS is a formal structure that functions to bring residents’ input to the Park in a way that assures Park management will listen to and address those concerns (Pandey 2008). Moreover, the governing board structure is sufficiently powerful to provide autonomy at the Park management level. The Forest Minister of Himachal Pradesh is its Chairman. Members include prominent residents from the GHNP ecozone, specialists from departments and institutions such as Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, eminent conservationists from India and NGOs. The Park Director is member-secretary of BiodCS.
The BiodCS is a fully autonomous organisation with the main aim of helping manage the Park by involving the neighbouring communities through the strategy of ecodevelopment. This is a package of measures derived from peoples’ participation to address all aspects of land use and other resources, in order to promote sustainable land use practices as well as income generating activities that are not deleterious to the values of the Park. The funds of the Society consist of Grants-in-aid made by the state government. The member-secretary of the BiodCS raises funds for the GHNP at national as well as international levels in two ways: (1) by planning, designing, developing and executing projects for the management of biodiversity of GHNP; (2) developing a corpus fund for biodiversity conservation at the GHNP. In addition, the Society gets receipts from Park entry fees; Van Vihar (forested areas for recreation in the towns) fees; rental of field equipment, camping gear, camping grounds; and all Forest Rest Houses/Inspection huts/Interpretation Center at Sai Ropa/ Information Center at Larjee/stores at Aut and other places. Sale proceeds from GHNP posters, booklets, books, stickers, souvenirs and the like also add to the funds of the Society.
Institutional members of the governing board include the Director of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, three eminent conservationists from India and one NGO from Himachal Pradesh.
Ecozone Women Saving and Credit Groups (WSCG)
The innovative strategy at GHNP aims at bringing about a change in the relationship between the natural resource base including the Park and the immediate and long term livelihood needs of the local communities from the present open access arrangement to an increasingly participatory mode of joint management involving all stakeholders. That is when conservation through sustainable use begins to “pay”. The main vehicle to develop such a strategy at GHNP are the Women Saving and Credit Groups (through a micro-credit scheme) developed among women in such households of GHNP’s Ecozone which, before creation of the Park, remained very much dependent on its natural resources such as medicinal herbs and vegetation for grazing.
The Park management facilitated organisation of more than 90 WSCGs consisting of more than 900 women who saved more than Rs. 700,000 with which they could earn livelihoods worth more than Rs. 2500,000 in a period of four years. The main livelihood options among the WSCGs included vermicomposting, apricot oil production, Medicinal Plant Propagation Areas, handicraft making, and agricultural produce. Most of these alternative income generation sources are being promoted by the Park management for the female members of such households whose members used to go into the Park to collect medicinal plants to earn a livelihood by selling them to the herb dealers. Many herb collectors (male household members) are now on the team of Ecotourism, or act as Wildlife Watchers in the Park, or become part of a Street Theatre. This is a unique model of conserving biodiversity being developed since the year 2000 to ensure protection of the Park, and the economic well being of the villagers in the Ecozone.
Biodiversity Tourism and Community Advancement (BTCA)
The Park management facilitated the WSCGs and their Group Organizers to form the NGO, BTCA. BTCA is a non-governmental society of locally organized Kullu Valley villagers who are registered with the Government of India. BTCA is dedicated to helping the local village people improve the quality of their lives by developing sustainable local economies (such as ecotourism with a Kullu Valley tour company). These are linked to the protection of the local environment and provides continuity and support to biodiversity conservation in the Park. BTCA, in collaboration with the Park administration, organizes the poor and women, empowers them with asset building, rationalizes use of natural resources, helps in socio-economic development, and provides market support and raises funds, all to reduce dependency on the Park’s resources.
Friends of GHNP
Friends of GHNP was formed in 2000 as a volunteer group whose mission is to further awareness and education of the Park’s conversation efforts and to support rural community development. Members come from all walks of life and different countries and believe that GHNP should have international support to protect a unique environment of the Western Himalayas. Dedicated members helped further spread the message of the Park to the world. Since 2000 Friends has worked with local NGOs and initiated the first ecotourism trainings for local men and guided early street theatre development. The current Ecozone NGO, BTCA, hosts visitors sent by Friends and helps create another source of local income.
The greatest volunteer effort of Friends of GHNP is writing a world-class application (250 pages), and subsequent reports (about 150 pages)) to UNESCO which resulted in the inscription of the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area as a World Heritage Site in June 2014 in Doha. It took contributions from about 25 Friends of GHNP over more than five years. All the reports including application to UNESCO can be seen at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1406.
The present Web site www.greathimalayannationalpark.com has been created and developed by the Friends of GHNP (2001, revised 2012, and 2015). Friends produced two video documentaries on the Park: (1), ‘Voices and Choices in the Great Himalayan National Park’ (see MEDIA module), and (2) ‘Impressions of GHNP’ (interviews, 2010). Friends also prepared many of the educational and promotional print work for the Park (brochures, posters, flyers, etc.) and developed the widely recognized graphic identity and logo (2001). Friends media presentations on GHNP have been given in India, the USA and Europe.