Gangotri Conservation Project

Gangotri Basin comprising of the Gangotri Township with the sacred temple and a large number of Himalayan Peaks - Kedarnath, Shivling, Gangotri etc. - is the most popular area in India attracting the largest number of Mountaineers, Trekkers and Pilgrims.  The Gangotri township is situated at the confluence of River Bhagirathi and Kedarganga with an average altitude of 3740m.  From mid March to mid June, Gangotri Valley enjoys spring and from June to October the climate is salubrious.  November to March the area experiences snowfall.


Of all degraded areas, the Gangotri basin has become the most polluted in the Indian Himalayas. Besides 75 mountaineering expeditions and nearly 25,000 trekkers, this area is also visited by about 2,50,000 pilgrims annually, which adds a new dimension to its environment management. A large forest cover has been destroyed, which has led to soil  erosion, resulting in landslides and devastating floods in the plains. There is enormous quantity of rubbish lying all along the trail and base camps, which finds its way into the source of the Ganges and beyond from around the base camps of several high mountains, which ring the sacred area. The situation is alarming.  For centuries, the Ganges has been a part of India’s culture and civilisation. While a massive project has been launched by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India to clean up the Ganges, it is equally important to ensure the sanctity of the source of the Ganges and its surrounding catchment areas. 

Gangotri Conservation Project was launched by the Himalayan Environment Trust supported by the Government of India, Government of Uttar Pradesh and American Himalayan Foundation after a seminar in New Delhi in June 1994.

Strategy for Programme Implementation

The GCP will act as a catalyst agency and aim to mobilize local people and encourage their participation in the implementation of programmes.  It will also seek assistance and cooperation of NGOs dealing with similar problems in the area, Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Schools and Colleges.  It will highlight the traditional subsistence activities and use of alternative energy projects to minimise the impact of tourists and pilgrims and help to upgrade the local standard of living.  Some of the activities of GCP will include:

1. Forest Conservation

Plantation of fodder and fuelwood.
  Plantation of trees, specially Bhojpatra beyond Gangotri.
2. Alternative Energy to reduce dependence to fuelwood
  Use of  LPG.
  Use of solar energy and improved cooking chulhas.
3. Community Sanitation
  Clean up present rubbish beyond Gangotri.
  Take steps to prevent accumulation of rubbish in future.
  Assist in collection and disposal of rubbish at Gangotri.
4. Awareness Programmes
  Environmental education through schools and colleges, local community organisations and religious bodies.
  Environmental lectures to trainees at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Uttarkashi by guest speakers.
  Distribution of leaflets containing Do’s and Dont’s to tourists, visitors and pilgrims.
  Information Centres.
  Audio-visual programmes
5. Plantation of ‘Bhojpatra’

HET has received funds for planting of 20000 ‘bhojpatra’ trees along the approach track to Gangotri.  It was on the bark of this tree that ancient sages wrote the scriptures, their distilled wisdom for mankind.  It is indeed a tragedy that this tree has virtually disappeared - thanks to excessive human intrusion and mindless exploitation of the tree for fuel and shelter.  UNDP has sanctioned funds to HET for a greening project of Gangotri, the restoration of ‘bhojpatra’ by plantation of about 20000 saplings in a 10 hectare area made available by the State Forest Department to the HET.  A nursery was set up in 1994 and the saplings are almost ready for transplantation.  The trees, of course, will need years to mature.  In the meanwhile provision of LPG as cooking fuel and erection of easy to assemble steel tubular huts as temporary shelters for visitors and pilgrims will greatly minimise the denudation if what little forest is left.  The project is to get a critical mid-term appraisal by the end of the year.


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