Research & Development Activities : In-house Projects
(Approved by Scientific Advisory Committee)
G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development
Kosi-Katarmal, Almora - 263643, Uttarakhand, India
(A) Identified Thematic Categories
Group -1 : 1: Socio-economic Development
2: Environmental Assessment & management
Group -2 : 3: Watershed Processes and Management
4: Knowledge Products and Capacity Building
Group -3 : 5: Biodiversity Conservation
6: Biotechnological Applications
(B) In-house R & D Projects (2012-2017):
Group-1 (SED & EAM) Projects
Project-1: Ecotourism as a potential tool for biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihood in the Indian Himalayan Region.
Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) is biologically and culturally one of the richest regions in the country. IHR offers immense opportunity for the development of various types of tourism, such as, Nature based (Alpine Flowers, Bird watching, Trout fishing), Adventure (Trekking, Rafting, Gliding Mountaineering), Cultural tourism (Festivals, Food Festivals), Pilgrimage (Temples, Monasteries), Leisure (Sightseeing, Ropeway), Agro-Tourism (e.g., Passage through famous Apatani Rice-Cum-Fish fields in Arunachal Pradesh, Fish Catching in Rice-Cum-Fish fields), and Special Events (Celebration of Dushera in Himachal and Uttarakhand), etc. The tourism, in turn, has potential for economic development of the ethnic communities and conservation of the rich biodiversity of the region. The project envisages to develop an ecotourism model, incorporating tourism with economy, culture and community conserved areas (CCAs)/community forests, and developing ecotourism as a potential mechanism to develop livelihoods on one side, and provide impetus to conserve the forests and associated biodiversity of the region on other. Status of selected ecotourism sites in Himalayan States, analyses of economic relevance of ecotourism, and impact of tourism on people and environment will be studied during the tenure of the project.
To study the status of ecotourism in terms of goals and impacts in select pockets of the IHR.
To institutionalize community conserved areas (CCAs) as potential gene bank for conservation of biodiversity and to generate sustainable livelihood option through functional participation of local communities in conservation and resource management.
To enhance community knowledge on conservation using concepts like people’s biodiversity register (PBR), village botanists and help the community capitalize on its indigenous knowledge to encourage conservation of natural resources.
To inventorize biodiversity of the region including agro-diversity and CCA and highlight information gaps for improving policies.
To assess and map potential ecotourism site in IHR and generate various map using GIS & RS data and techniques.
To develop an ecotourism model integrating tourism with economy, culture and community conserved areas (CCAs)/community forests/village forests as a potential mechanism to promote sustainable livelihood and conservation of biodiversity.
Project-2: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Hydropower Projects in the Indian Himalayan
The present proposal mainly aims to identify different categories of projects for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which are at the stages of implementation, under construction and proposed. Such projects have got clearance through practicing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). However, in principle, these projects got clearances individually after practicing EIA as a major tool that allows one project one after another without considering their individual ecological boundaries with one another within a catchment. This practice results in overlapping individual projects’ ecological boundaries with one another. This further leads to a variety of environmental problems not only within their immediate surroundings but also in their upslope and downslope regions. With the help of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (RS & GIS), identification about the location of these projects within a catchment will be done which will be followed by SEA to assess cumulative, upslope and downslope impacts of these projects so as to determine their reasonable numbers within a catchment. The climate change phenomena in the form of faster rate of glacier melting has again been multiplying such threats to these projects in terms of erratic and sometimes scarce water availability behaviour of glacier fed streams. Assessment of annual water flow from the selected hydropower projects due to glacier melting would enable a comprehensive assessment to strengthen these projects with the policy implications.
Keeping in view the above discussed issues and scope of the work, the present study has been conceptualized with the following objectives.
To know the status of selected hydroelectric projects (HEPs) in relation to SEA
to assess impacts in upslope and downslope regions of HEPs in addition to its immediate environment
To assess the future of HEPs in relation to climate change
To suggest measures to promote sustainable HEPs, and
To put forward adaptation strategies to combat climate change impacts.
Project-3: Climate change impacts on ecosystem services in the Indian Himalayan region.
Mountain regions have emerged among the most sensitive ecosystems under the global climate change (CC) scenario. Among global mountains, the Himalayan region is most prominent on account of its unique topography, micro-climatic conditions and strategic location, and represents one of the ‘Global Biodiversity Hotspots’. The richness of endemic flora and fauna with restricted distribution and life support values (ecosystem goods and services) of this region are highly valuable to the global community in general, and to the regional (both highland-lowland) inhabitants in particular. However, in the recent decades under the changing climate scenarios the ecosystem goods and services such as provisioning of NTFPs to support the local livelihoods, habitat provisioning for rich biodiversity, storage of rainwater in vegetation-soil pool and hydrological flow regulation in the rivers arising from the region, C-sequestration potential and cultural values, etc. have deteriorated at an alarming rate. Realizing the above needs, the present proposal has been framed with the objective to undertake systematic study across an altitudinal gradient (a proxy of temperature variations) on major forest ecosystems of western Himalayan region to monitor occurrence of life cycle phases (phenophases), such as growth initiation, regeneration of plant taxa, flowering, fruiting to relate the timing of these events with weather patterns and CC. Also certain functional aspects (e.g., biomass productivity and litter decomposition, etc.) will be studied in identified forest ecosystems. Data thus collected will be related to CC impacts on forest ecosystem services and expected decline in the magnitude of the ES.
In the Indian Himalayan region, due to continued biotic pressure on the forests, several areas have been converted into waste/degraded lands that hold hardly any useful vegetation for the local people. Rehabilitation of such waste/degraded lands on a few pilot sites by GBPIHED in the past was demonstrated among the rural communities of the region. In the present project, such old sites, which need long-term monitoring of changes in planted trees and shrubs, etc. in view of changing climatic conditions, will be strengthened and examined particularly for their potential of providing certain ES (such as provisioning of fuelwood and fodder, soil and water conservation, etc.). Also adaptation measures to combat ill-effects of CC employed by the inhabitants of the region will be documented. Studies on impact of CC on aesthetic and cultural aspects of the forested landscapes will also be looked into to supplement and improve understanding for long-term planning of conservation of ecosystems in the region to maximize the ES.
Mankind depends upon a variety of ecosystem goods and services for his survival on the ecosystems, particularly forests, agriculture and aquatic ecosystems. Ecosystem services are generated as a consequence of interaction and exchange between biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem through the universal driving forces of matter and energy. The ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and biomass productivity generate ES but it is not always necessary that they show a one-to-one correspondence. Such ES are worth many trillion dollars annually.
Study early indicators of CC on forest vegetation through phenological studies in the region.
Assessment of changes in structure and functioning of forest ecosystems vis-à-vis impact on ES (quantification and valuation) accrued.
CC impacts on recreational/aesthetic services of the landscape and appraisal of management options like institutional arrangements and policy measures.
Develop, refine and demonstrate models for rehabilitation of community waste/degraded lands as an adaptation to CC and to improve ES.
Regional planning for suitable forest types to encounter CC impacts and enhance ES.
Group-2 (WPM & KCB) Projects
Project-4: Ecological, Social and Policy Implications of Changing Water Resource Scenario in Indian
Water being a fundamental constituent of environment and vital for all life forms on the planet earth, sensitivity of water recourses has long-term consequences for health of mountain ecosystem and of human societies. Water stress and sustainability are functions of the available water resources and their withdrawal and consumption. Both resources and consumption are variables that depend on many factors such as ecosystem, agriculture, infrastructure, technology, demographics and economy. Additionally, the uncertainties posed by the climate change are likely to produce a drastic decline in the water supply within a few decades. The decline in dry weather flow in non-glacial catchments is a major challenge caused by poor management practices and precipitation variability. Subsequently, the changes in mountains would influence many sectors downstream. In particular, considering the current emphasis on river basin studies to solve water crises in the draft National Water Policy 2012, the study of implications of changing water resource scenario on ecosystem components and society in Himalayan mountain is vital. Populations are growing in the region and the subsequent demands for water are increasing; a situation further complicated by the migration of people from rural to urban settings. In addition, economic development and current standards of living are increasing the demand for water. All of these issues pose challenges for water managers. The study conducted in Upper Kosi basin indicated rise in water demand from 45 to 85% in the next 18 years under different socioeconomic scenarios. In most regions, supply is being outstripped by demand. It is noticed that changes in demand are often more significant than changes in supply; thus, care must be taken to consider both sides of the supply/demand equation in assessing water resources.
Promoting household water security, recognizing the need to adapt to climate change threats are proposed priorities for water management on a regional scale. Unfortunately, attempts to understand these changes in water regimes and its consequences on ecosystem properties and human societies are fragmentary due to data constraints and lack a holistic approach, particularly in the Himalayan context. Further, not much is known on the appropriateness and adequacy of S&T inputs, policies and institutional structures operational in the IHR for augmenting and managing the water resources. In emerging economies and with limited resource availability, the need to reduce risk of water scarcity cannot be addressed by only ‘hard’ engineering solutions. Without adequate levels of financial resources and considering the ecological fragility of region, a sensible option is to employ ecosystem-based solutions, wherever possible. This would also reduce the medium-term risks. Considering the above, it is proposed to undertake this project through multidisciplinary approach focusing on hydrological and water management models like SWAT and WEAP. An attempt will be made to integrate demand and supply side management along with provisioning for ecosystem components in the water management plan. Main objectives are; To identify, analyze and assess potential indicators depicting changes in water resource scenario under changing climate regime and its interaction at with consumptive and non-consumptive uses at watershed scale, To investigate the implications of changing surface water regime and delineate the critical ecosystem components susceptible to change, Analyses of the consequences of the changing water resources on society and adaptation measures employed at local and policy level, and To develop policy options and adaptive water management action plans for addressing the challenges identified above in the context of Himalayan mountains.
The project has four specific objectives:
To identify, analyze and assess potential indicators depicting changes in water resource scenario under changing climate regime and its interaction at with consumptive and non-consumptive uses at watershed scale.
To investigate the implications of changing surface water regime and delineate the critical ecosystem components susceptible to change.
Analyses of the consequences of the changing water resources on society and adaptation measures employed at local and policy level, and
To develop policy options and adaptive water management action plans for addressing the challenges identified above in the context of Himalayan Mountains.
Project-5: Capacity Building of Indigenous Mountain Communities for Use and Management of Natural
Resources through Rural Technology Complex (RTC).
The Indian Himalayan Mountains are among the most fragile and complex ecosystem and in the world. In these mountain ranges majority of population is engaged in agricultural and allied activities, from which they are neither able to generate economic surplus nor to find off-farm employment opportunities. About 70% of the total workers and more than 85% of women workers are heavily involved in land based or agriculture activities. The mountain people face a range of socio-economic and environmental problems. They live in geographical isolation under ecologically sensitive and economically constrained conditions. Therefore, attaining livelihood security and sustainable food production through efficient management of locally available natural resources and environmental protection haves always been challenging in the mountains context. All these conditions force the mountain people, particularly rural youth, to migrate and explore other options for livelihood in other parts of the country.
The sustainability of the Himalayan region is threatened by destruction of forests to meet the growing demand of its inhabitants. Land degradation, deforestation, deterioration of natural resources and increasing poverty are the main issues for these areas and has threaten the livelihoods of not only mountain people but also the much larger inhabiting the adjoining India-Gangetic plains. To improve the existing situation, there is an urgent need for large scale demonstration of suitable technologies and practices, on site trainings, awareness and capacity building of the target groups. There are broad areas needing technology improvement/interventions of life support system, improvement in productivity, reduction in drudgery for women and men, bioprospecting of local bioresources and the provision of livelihood options. The goal of the proposed study is to achieve sustainable development and livelihood security through management of natural resources, coupled with environmental protection.
The proposed activities are expected to develop a resource conservation and sustainable utilization model of natural resource management. In addition, capacity building and generation of year round employment opportunities should positively impact the stakeholders. Attainment of livelihood security coupled with food, nutrition, energy and environmental security will ensure better quality of life on a sustained basis. This will be achieved by scientific interventions, skill development of the human resource and strengthening of local institutions, etc. Main objectives of the project will be; To provide various hill specific, low cost technological interventions based on locally available resources; Capacity building (through trainings / live demonstrations / field exercises) of stakeholders and training of trainers (TOTs) on a regular basis, Guidance and support for field implementation of technology packages to the stakeholders, and subsequent monitoring, evaluation, follow up and adoption, To establish financial viability through long term interventions/ support, to develop multiple livelihood options, and to achieve livelihood security and overall improvement in the quality of life of rural folk and To act as “conduits” between technology developers and actual users.
To provide various hill specific, low cost technological interventions based on locally available resources alone with capacity building (through trainings/live demonstration/field exercises) of stakeholders and training of trainers (TOTs) on a regular basis.
Guidance and support for field implementation of technology packages to the stakeholders, and subsequent monitoring, evaluation, follow up and adoption, so as to establish financial viability through interventions/support.
To develop multiple livelihood options including training on specialized skills on relatively long term basis, and to achieve livelihood security so as to achieved overall improvement in the quality of life of rural folk.
Project-6: Farming Systems and Changing Climate Regime: Strengthening Food and Nutritional Security
in the Himalaya.
The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) is a distinct and eco-sensitive geographical region where about 70% of the population is rural and dependent mainly on rainfed agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry. Here farming systems are complex; crop husbandry, animal husbandry and forest constitute interlinked production systems. Environmental, biological, socio-cultural and economic variations in the Himalaya have led to the evolution of diverse and unique farming systems, crop species and livestock, which help communities to sustain. Farming systems of the region are increasingly influenced by technological innovations, the market economy and off-farm economic avenues. Climate change and agriculture are interlinked and climate change is only one of several factors affecting food production systems. Pheno-phases of the food crops are affected by climate change. Variations in crop phases affect agriculture by influencing the timing of planting, maturity, harvest as also the pest activity.
In IHR farmers have developed locally suitable practices to cope with the harsh environment of the hills. These practices are continuously upgraded to meet new demands changing local environment. New crop varieties are being introduced to the system. Literature is available on the global climate change but published information on adaptive measures/practices in farming system under climate change regime from Kumaun or Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand is largely lacking.
To identify changes in the mountain farming systems due to infrastructure development, and social, economical and ecological factors including climate change,
To identify (and validate) indigenous and introduced practices (and technological interventions) that would help to cope with changing scenario,
To develop appropriate strategies and action plans for sustainability of mountain farming system, and
To provide inputs to development planners and practitioners.
Group-3 (BCM & BTA) Projects
Project-7: Understanding biodiversity patterns and processes under changing resource use and climate
scenario in Indian Himalaya – ecological and social implications.
The Himalayan region is recognized amongst the 34 global biodiversity hotspots. The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) with its unique topography, climatic conditions, diverse habitats and a large altitudinal ranges constitutes an important part of this hotspot. While biodiversity of this region is depleting fast due to habitat degradation caused by various anthropogenic activities coupled with the changing environmental conditions, the diverse ecosystems prevailing in the region are increasingly been recognized for their provisioning, cultural, regulating, and supporting services to both upland and lowland inhabitants. The Climate Change (CC) has been recognized one amongst the most confounding factor in shaping the future of mountain ecosystems and local people. With the predictions future changes, the need to understand the intensity and direction of consequences of on-going and potential impacts of changes on the composition, structure and functioning of biodiversity in the region is urgently felt. In addition, the biodiversity components of the temperate, sub-alpine and alpine regions are severely affected by anthropogenic activities. All these factors make the biodiversity of IHR vulnerable that calls for immediate actions towards assessing status, changing patterns and processes of biodiversity components of diverse ecosystems, landscapes and providing inputs for conservation and harnessing socio-economic values; evaluating and comparing ecological integrity, stability and resilience of representative ecosystems and their components; analyzing impacts of climate and resource use changes on the biodiversity components, and assessing its socio-economic consequences so as to draw realistic and widely accepted action agenda for the conservation and sustainable use of its biological diversity under changing climate and land use. Considering above and keeping in view the importance of biodiversity and its vulnerability to diverse changes, this study has been proposed to cover representative temperate, subalpine and alpine landscapes of Indian Himalayan Region in different biogeographic provenances. Standard methodology has been proposed to address each objective so as to make the study and its outcome widely acceptable and globally relevant. Establishment of long-term monitoring sites to ensure uninterrupted flow of information, identification of most resilient habitats and formulation of Himalayan Biodiversity and Climate Change Knowledge Network (HBCC-KN) are among major outcome of the study.
1. To generate robust datasets on status, changing patterns and processes of biodiversity components, as well as their conservation and socio-economic values, including nutritional (traditional crops and wild edibles) and therapeutic potential (medicinal plants) of selected landscapes.
2. To evaluate and compare ecological integrity, stability and resilience of representative ecosystems and their components in the target landscapes.
3. To analyze impacts of climate and resource use changes on the biodiversity components, and assess its socio-economic consequences.
4. To establish Himalayan Biodiversity and Climate Change Knowledge Network (HBCC-KN) to build on existing knowledge and enhance information generation through robust globally accepted protocols, and develop management and sustainable use plans with policy briefs.
Project-8: Promoting conservation and sustainable utilization of Himalayan biodiversity elements using
biotechnological and physiological approaches.
The ecological and economical importance of biodiversity for maintaining the environmental balance and socio-economic development of the inhabitants have been realized throughout the globe. At least 40% of the world economy and 80% of the need of poor people are derived from the biological resources. Among the world mountain ecosystems, the Himalayan ecosystems have special significance as they support representative, natural, unique and economically important biodiversity. Representation of tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, sub-alpine, alpine and tundra biomes/ecosystems across the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) itself shows its high conservation and socio-economic values. The inhabitants of the IHR largely depend on biological resources for their sustenance. But, high anthropogenic pressures coupled with changing environmental conditions has resulted rapid depletion of the ecologically and economically important elements of biodiversity. Listing of species of vascular plants in the Red Data Book of Indian Plants and placement of medicinal plants under different threat categories of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) itself proves the rapid depletion of biodiversity. Realizing the importance of biodiversity for the sustenance of inhabitants and overall environmental conservation, the attempts at local, regional, national and global levels have increased considerably and concerns of both ecologists and economist are being considered together to evolve workable strategies at different levels for the sustainable development.
Therefore, as a consequence biodiversity conservation and harnessing its potential for overall development of the region have emerged as national and global priorities. While studies carried out so far have been focused on flora, ecology, ethnobotany, nativity, endemism and rarity a limited number of few studies have been focused on simultaneous population assessment and subsequently developing propagation (conventional & biotechnological) and cultivation packages, including agrotechniques of ecologically and economically important plants, ex situ and in situ conservation. Moreover, studies on physiological and biochemical basis of plant adaptation to stress under varied environmental conditions would be necessary not only to understand the basic mechanism but also to supplement the above studies. Investigations on phytochemical and genetic diversity of various populations have been considered for screening elite populations/clones. The combined outputs of the abovementioned studies would be helpful in promotion of awareness among the inhabitants. Therefore, the present study has been proposed to address the above issues across the Himalayan region, contribute for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity elements and linking database with national, regional and international levels.
Understand the patterns of physiological, biochemical and genetic responses of sensitive and high value biodiversity elements in different altitudinal as well as longitudinal regimes in the Himalayan region.
Evaluate the responses in different propagation systems of sensitive and high value biodiversity elements, use of biological material for hardening and genetic fidelity analysis of propagated plants in order to optimize the suitable methods for large scale production of quality plant material production.
Establishment of demonstration models, development of dissemination packages on cultivation and establish ex situ gene banks of elite planting materials.
Inculcate awareness among the diverse stakeholders about the potential benefits (including value added products) and benefit sharing mechanisms.
Project-9: Extremophiles from Himalaya: Ecological resilience and biotechnological applications.
The Microbiology Laboratory of the Institute has taken initiatives on various microbiological research aspects of Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), covering a wide altitudinal range in last two decades. The focus of these studies has been on the isolation, characterization and the associated applications. A high altitude microbial culture collection, including extremophiles, has been developed in the laboratory over the years. One important issue, complementary to these studies, that requires attention is ‘ecological resilience’ possessed by these microorganisms. Besides, microbial activities performed under extreme climates are likely to have applications of ‘environmental’ as well as ‘biotechnological’ importance. The present proposal is, thus, formulated to address these issues considering the characterization of extremophiles with particular reference to their biotechnological applications and ecological resilience.
Selected cultures, that have been established as suitable bioinoculants, will be used for conducting nethouse / greenhouse / field assays with particular reference to (1) improved plant health, and (2) reducing the heavy metal load at contaminated sites (in collaboration with Kullu and Sikkim unit).
Phenotypic and genotypic characterization of extremophiles, inhabiting the extreme climatic regions in IHR (HQs), heavy metal contaminated sites (Kullu unit) and rhizosphere microorganisms (Sikkim).
Determination of microbial activities, with special reference to production of secondary metabolites, such as enzymes, pigments, antimicrobials, with reference to role of suboptimal conditions on microbial growth and related activities, in view of their survival under extreme temperature conditions (HQs).
Applications of promising microbial cultures in environmentally important aspects, such as, improved plant growth through inoculation, biological hardening of in vitro raised and conventionally developed plants (HQs & Sikkim unit), and phytoremediation with particular reference to heavy metal contaminated sites (Kullu unit) under mountain ecosystem.
Preservation and Accessioning of microbial cultures and gene sequences in Microbiology (GBPIHED) Laboratory / National / International Culture Collections and Gene Banks (through HQs for the entire project).