The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, a rich biodiversity in Himachal Pradesh and home to several rare and threatened species of flora and fauna, was on Monday approved for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The decision comes only a day after 'Rani-ki-Vav', an 11th century stepwell in Gujarat earned the coveted status.
Located in Kullu district, some 250 km from Shimla, the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) embodies the ancient method of environmental conservation in the Kullu Valley.
Spread over 905.40-sq km, the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (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 Culture Ministry said.
"GHNPCA 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 are recorded from the park," it said.
The names of many places in this valley commemorate saints who came here to meditate in the great sanctuary of Himalayas, it said, adding that some of these sanctuaries are still preserved as sacred groves of trees.
The GHNP has more than 35 peaks of greater than 5000m and two greater than 6000m which taken together are arguably more exceptional than a few isolated higher peaks in the region.
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 recognition for the GHNP, believed to be India's richest biodiversity spot in the western Himalayas, came at the World Heritage Committee Session currently on at Doha, Qatar.
The Committee said the state "has to continue to resolve rights-based issues with respect to local communities and indigenous people in the site".
Himachal Pradesh chief conservator of forests, Sanjeeva Pandey, who was in Doha to plead the case of the for the heritage status said this would indeed be a landmark moment in the conservation history of the western Himalayas.
"It was more than nine years ago when the Friends of GHNPCA, an informal group of volunteers, started believing that the area should have global support to protect a part of the unique environment and biological diversity," Pandey wrote on his Facebook page.
Initially constituted in 1984, GHNP was formally declared a National Park in 1999, covering an area of 754.4 sq kms, according to the park's official website.
There are already 30 World Heritage Sites in India – 24 Cultural sites and six Natural properties. After inclusion of 'Rani ki Vav' and the GHNP, the list would now grow to 32.