In this camp, FSL-India had 6 international volunteers from different parts of the world, i.e. England, Italy, Belgium, Canada, South Korea and the Russian Federation. The volunteers worked with GHNP officials in Sainj Wildlife Range, at an eco village called Rapa, from 10th August-28th September 2017.
They had a warm welcome from our field staff and along the local community people at the forest guest house, through a traditional Kulvi cultural welcoming ceremony on the first day of the camp.
The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in Banjaar, a sub-division of Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India, in the far Western Himalayas. GHNP is a relatively recent addition to a network of protected areas in northern India and adjacent countries, which increasingly provide protection to the Himalayas.
The Himalayas, as a whole, are listed as one of Conservation International’s 34 major biodiversity hotspots. The Himalayan Hotspot contains not only the world’s highest mountains and associated alpine ecosystems but also large expanses of lower-elevation temperate and subtropical forests and grasslands. It spans 3,000 km, from east to west, and 300 kms to 500 kms from north to south.
GHNP was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2014, in recognition of its outstanding contribution towards biodiversity conservation. The park protects over 1,000 plant species, including many medicinal herbs, 31 species of mammals and 209 species of birds, as well as amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
4 of GHNP’s species of mammals and 3 of its species of birds are globally threatened; including the musk deer and the western Tragopan, locally known as a Jujurana and considered as the state bird of Himachal Pradesh. It is a colorful repository of the endemic flora and fauna of the region, a paradise for bird lovers, populated by engaged communities of the mountain villages.
FSL-India organized the first WHV International work camp ‘Rhythms of the Wild’ after UNESCO recognized as GHNP as a natural heritage site. The month of August and the beginning of September is the best period to visit this western Himalayas landscape, because it is the end of the monsoon, with not much rain, It is full of greenery in the mountains, at the beginning of autumn, so the volunteers had a wonderful time during the project.
The volunteers were involved in various activities like biodiversity conservation and natural resource management with park officials like tree plantation, nursery gardening work, medicinal herbs collection and plantation in mountains range, mural painting work at the village public walls and also at the local school.
At the beginning of the project, they had a presentation about GHNP with the park officials and got to know more about the park and the mountain livelihoods, helping teachers in teaching activities about environmental presentation, waste management, natural heritage importance and forestry ecology systems.
FSL-India’s volunteers, along with 60 students of Govt. Senior Secondary Model School, Sainj and NSS candidates participated in a nature conservation clean-up and a tree plantation campaign in Sainj valley.
During the second week, the volunteers visited different eco villages in the mountains, had meaningful interaction with woman self-help groups on discussions about natural heritage site importance and gave a presentation about an ecological life style conservation along with the woman’s group, at the village.
The volunteers also conducted a drawing competition on the topic of environmental conservation, distributed prizes and thereby, motivated the school children.
As a social concern, the FSL-India team leader and volunteers formed an ‘Eco Club’ at GSS Sainj School and 30 teachers supported the volunteers during the camp activities.
As a part of intercultural learning, our volunteers visited different local temples as Kullu valley is recognized as the ‘land of temples’. It is famous for wooden carved, Nepali style, pagoda structured temples. Shangchul Mahadev Temple is a famous temple in the zone of Sainj valley at the highest range (2300 altitude) at the top of the mountain valley. The temple is situated in the middle of natural grass land, around mountains and valleys.
It is also a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site of the local folk and the volunteers enjoyed visits to the bird sanctuary, cattle farms, waterfall, eco and buffer villages.
The volunteers also spent one day on trekking. Overall, the volunteers had a very good time during this camp.