After Gujarat's monumental stepwell Rani-ki-Vav, another Indian site - the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA) - has now got the "World Heritage Site" tag of UNESCO.
The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh.
The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has inscribed the GHNPCA in the World Heritage Site list on the basis of criterion X of the UNESCO Guidelines.
Criterion X is to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation, the Union Ministry for Culture explained.
Situated at the confluence of Oriental and Palaearctic realms, GHNP provides a unique opportunity for the species from both biogeographic regions to thrive, disperse and evolve.
The park is home to several rare and threatened species including the Western Tragopan, Chir Pheasant, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Musk Deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Himalayan Tahr, Blue Sheep and Serow. Some 25 threatened IUCN red-listed plant species were also recorded from the park.
The GHNP has more than 35 peaks of greater than 5,000m and two greater than 6,000m, which taken together, are arguably more exceptional than a few isolated higher peaks in the region.
The boundaries of GHNP are also contiguous with the Khirganga National Park (710 sq km) established in 2010, the Pin Valley National Park (675 sq km) in Trans-Himalaya, the Rupi-Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary (503 sq km) in Sutlej watershed and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (61 sq km).
Together these four protected areas add 1,949 sq km to the region around GHNP and its buffer zone, making the total contiguous protected area associated with the nominated property approximately 2,854.4 sq km, not including the Ecozone.
GHNP inscription would serve to expedite integration of other protected areas into a huge GHNP Conservation Area of 2,850 km.
The concept of environmental conservation in Kullu Valley is very ancient. The names of many places in this valley commemorate saints who came there to meditate in the great sanctuary of Himalayas. Some of these sanctuaries are still preserved as sacred groves of trees.
The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area has GHNP (754.4 sq km), Sainj (90 sq km) and Tirthan (61 sq km) wildlife sanctuaries. The 905.40 sq km GHNPCA includes the upper mountain glacial and snow melt water source origins of the westerly flowing JiwaNal, Sainj and Tirthan Rivers and the north-westerly flowing Parvati River, the ministry added.