The Indian Himalaya region (IHR) is vast, diverse and the youngest mountain system on the Earth. It constitutes a unique geographical and geological entity comprising a diverse social, cultural and environmental set-up. Spread over more than 2,500 km in length and 80 to 300 km in width and rising from low-lying plains to over 8,000 masl, the Himalaya produces a distinctive climate of its own and influences the climate of much of Asia. The IHR is spread over the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, and two districts each of Assam and West Bengal. It has a total geographical area of approximately 591 thousand sq. km (18% of India) inhabited by about 3.8% of the country’s population. The literacy rate (7 years and above) of IHR (about 79.4%) is markedly higher than the national average (74%) recorded in
the 2011 census. Over 170 ethnic communities with distinct socio-cultural milieu live in the IHR.
Traditionally, indigenous communities in the region have been dependent on bioresources to meet basic sustenance needs, notably food, fodder, fuel, fertilizer, fibre, shelter, and health care. More than 80% of the population in the region is involved in agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and other biodiversity dependent vocations. Among other bioresources with direct economic value, the IHR is well recognized for
its diversity of medicinal plants, wild edibles and other non-timber forest produce (NTFPs).
The Himalayas constitute the principal basis for the climate system that prevails over India. This region encompasses diverse biomes/ climatic zones (e.g., tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, sub-alpine, and alpine) and is among 34 global biodiversity ‘hotspots’ with 32% endemic flora. This region is a vast reservoir of water and referred to as the “Water Towers of the Asia”. Approximately 10–20% of the area is covered by over 9,000 glaciers storing about 12,000 km3 of freshwater5, feeding the headwaters of
important north Indian rivers and influencing the well-being of millions in the Indo Gangetic plains. The beautiful landscapes, numerous rivers and streams cascading down the mountain slopes, diversity of cultures and religions, and colourful festivals of indigenous/ ethnic communities present strong attractions for people from all over the globe, including nature lovers, pilgrims, tourists, or seekers of peace and truth.