Himalayan VOICES High Himalaya FORUM Himalayan Heritage  
 > Natural Resources

The Himalayas are a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot and a repository of the most amazing biodiversity and a wealth of other resources that provide succor to humans that live in the region as well as at the base of the high mountains. They harbor valuable medicinal and food plants and rare and beautiful animal species, and are important biological corridors and sanctuaries for plants and animals long since eliminated from the more transformed lowlands. Science has identified and documented some of these natural resources of the Himalayas, and scientists continue to be surprised by new discoveries of the flora, fauna and mineral wealth of the region.


The Himalayas are a storehouse of several species of the most rare & valuable species of medicinal & aromatic plants. A bio-geographically unique region, it has the maximum degree of endemism in the Asian region, and its range of altitudes provides it with diverse agro-climatic conditions that support about 18,440 species of plants, of which 25.3% is endemic to the region, and several among these possess medicinal and aromatic properties. Some of these are: Aconitum heterophyllum, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Picrorhiza kurroa, Carum carvi, Angelica glauca, Nardostachys jatamansi.

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Deforestation and climatic changes in the Himalayan region, compounded by overuse of the medicinal and aromatic plants that grow in the region, and the destructive harvesting practices used, and the absence of positive interventions of soil & water conservation measures, have led to the valuable medicinal & aromatic plants of the Himalayan region getting depleted at an alarming rate. Cultivation of high-value herbal species as alternative cash crops by local communities, has potential however as an alternative channel of supply.

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The medicinal & aromatic plants found in the Himalayas are an integral part of the culture of the local communities of the Himalayas, woven into their lives in innumerable ways. They are a major input for the healthcare of the rural poor and the basic ingredients for traditional medicines with extensive use in Ayurvedic, Siddha, Unani, Tibetan, as well as Allopathic systems of medicine. Even today, 80% of those living in rural and remote areas, rely on traditional medicines made from these medicinal plants, for their primary healthcare needs.

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The Himalayas comprise several habitats and concurrently multiple zoo-geographic regions. These habitats are home to a wide variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. Some are endemic to particular zoo-geographic zones, while others are found across the entire range. The Tibetan wild ass is thus limited to the upper reaches of the western Himalayas, while the one-horned rhino is found only in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. The snow leopard is a resident of the very high altitudes in the western and eastern Himalayas; the leopard though is found all through the range. Some of the species are also migratory...

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