Himalaya. The name conjures a vision vaster than the naked eye can ever hope to behold. Of their expansive area that traverses the geography of multiple countries across Asia, 70% is situated in India. The enormous region is hence dubbed the “Indian Himalayan Region" (IHR). The planet’s highest mountain range is home to more than 100 peaks above-7000-m. The Himalaya guide the climate of entire South Asia, steadfastly nurturing a myriad of natural ecosystems.

Himalayan Essence has sown a restorative agriculture growth story across various states and union territories in the IHR – Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya. We undertake nature-based solutions to catalyse climate action within the region. We aim to derive rich yields for small-holding growers of the Himalaya and provide high-nutrition food for people everywhere.

With several topographical divisions within the Himalayan states and UTs, each geography is unique, not only in its geological composition, climatic conditions and ecology but also in its cultures. Our workplace, therefore, is not one monolith, but a kaleidoscopic celebration of people, civilisations, and their unique relationship with nature

Source Frontiers.in

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream

The Himalaya are home to the planet’s most revered snow-clad peaks and more than 15000 glaciers. They are home to rivers such as the Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Indus, to freshwater reserves in wetlands, springs, and lakes. They are the “water towers of Asia” and are as much the life springs of rich biodiversity, as they are the carriers of complex mineral deposits through rocks seasoned and sculpted by the elements through the ages.

The Himalaya are broadly divided into three major longitudinal belts which run parallel across their 2400 km length:

  1. The Outer Himalaya
  2. The Lesser Himalaya
  3. The Greater Himalaya

Outer Himalaya

The Outer Himalaya are also referred to as the Himalayan Foothills and are called Siwalik Hills. They rise to 2000m above sea level and are chiefly composed of sandstone and conglomerate rock formations. They are enriched with vast biodiversity as the major rivers and their tributaries create unique micro-eco zones.

Large areas of the Himalayan foothills are covered with Tropical and Subtropical Broadleaf forests. The rich diversity of soil and varying rainfall across the Siwalik hills, make it possible for evergreen, mixed deciduous, wet and dry tropical forests to flourish in their region. These dense forests are home to tigers, elephants, and more than 300 species of birds amongst a wide variety of species.

Relatively speaking because of their lower altitudes, the Siwaliks are also the most accessible and well-populated part of the Himalaya. They are home to several major towns and boast massive tourist footfalls.

Lesser Himalaya

When we begin our climb upwards from the Siwalik ranges, we encounter the Lesser or Lower Himalaya. They rise from 2200m to 4000m above sea level and are also called the “Himachal” or “Inner Himalaya.” Their southern slopes are sharper than their northern ones which are covered by mixed forests of deciduous and coniferous trees. These high-altitude forests comprise evergreen trees such as Oaks, Birch, Horse Chestnut, Cherry and Rhododendrons. They attract more than 500 species of birds and are home to animals such as Leopard, and the Golden Langur.

A mix of monsoon rains, melting mountain snow and glacier-fed riverbeds create a unique ecology for both forests and agriculture to flourish. Driving by settlements both small and large, one can spot hundreds of terraced fields with paddy, maize or vegetables. Orchards of citrus, plum and apples gently traverse across the slopes.

Many well-known hill stations such as Binsar, Tawang, and Shimla fall under the Lesser Himalayan region.

Greater Himalaya

As the forested slopes of Inner Himalaya give way to the rising altitudes of the Greater Himalaya, the air becomes thinner. Also known as the “Himadri” the Greater Himalaya rise from 4000m to 8000m plus. The backbone of the Himalayan orogen, the Greater Himalaya, also called “Higher Himalaya”, encompasses several of the world’s highest peaks including Nanga Parbat, Nanda Devi, Annapurna, Mount Everest, and Kanchenjunga. But even though forever covered in snow, the Himadri is not at all barren.

As the elevation rises, the treeline in the Himadri transitions from the forested Himalayan ecoregions to the alpine and sub-alpine ecology. The alpine forests higher up open into alpine grasslands and lush alpine meadows culminating in scrublands in the highest peaks, leading to the permanent snowline. A wide variety of flora is found here in the summers along with evergreen conifer forests. The Red Panda, Musk Deer and the elusive Snow Leopard call the Greater Himalaya their hearth.

Due to snow, higher altitudes and lack of all-weather road connectivity many of the Greater Himalaya mountains have sparse and spread-out populations. Agriculture and pastoral livelihoods are the anchors for these remote communities.

In addition to the three main longitudinal belts, the Himalaya are encased from Kashmir in the North-West to Arunachal Pradesh in the North-East by Tethys and Trans-Himalayan regions as an extension of the high-altitude Tibetan plateau. In the North-East the Lesser Himalaya and Siwaliks naturally taper off into the north-eastern Purvanchal mountains.

Tethys and Trans-Himalaya

The extreme climate in Trans-Himalaya is representative of a fragile ecosystem. The long snow-bound winters characterise the cold, desert landscape around the year. Cut off from water-laden monsoon clouds by the Greater Himalayan range, the region receives barely two inches of rainfall in the year and results in the only, brief April-to-September summer growing season.

With little vegetation in the region, the sparse alpine steppe and vast areas covered in bare rock and glaciers are constants wherever the gaze roves. The animal kingdom in this region seems adept at navigating the arduous landscape. The sure-footed Snow Leopard chases the native Asiatic Ibex and Ladakhi Urials like a ghost.

Yet, humans have found a way to co-exist with nature at these high-altitude plains. Apricot and Barley are grown along with Buckwheat and Mustard. Animal husbandry is common, and Yak, Goat and Sheep milk and meat is widely consumed.

Purvanchal Mountains

The monsoon-loving Eastern Highlands, widely referred to as the “Purvanchal”, cover most of India’s North-eastern states. The predominantly wet climate of the Purvanchal encourages diverse vegetation from tropical evergreen to temperate evergreen and coniferous forests. Its impenetrable bamboo thickets are home to the Tiger, Panther, Himalayan Bear. A wide variety of birds, both, native and migratory, are found in vast numbers.

Several tribes and clans with distinct traditions call the Purvanchal mountains their home. India’s Northeast states are rich in cultural diversity and people of the eastern mountains are firm believers in the collective power of community.

The three main belts of Outer, Lesser & Greater Himalaya are spread across the IHR. They constitute many ranges & sub-ranges. In many states & UTs of the IHR one can witness multiple Himalayan ecological regions and, in some places, only one or two. The Himalaya continue to be a mystery to geologists & geographers even today & the debates about their evolving nature, their changing ecology & their various aspects continue. Amidst all this, the Himalayan Way of Life in partnership with & reverence to nature is ubiquitous in every ecological belt & region. Our hope is to empower everyone with knowledge about the Himalaya & the Himalayan Way of Life.