Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
Nanda Devi And Valley Of Flowers National Parks
Natural India Asia And The Pacific State Of Uttaranchal

The Nanda Devi National Park is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. It is dominated by the peak of Nanda Devi, which rises to over 7,800 m. No people live in the park, which has remained more or less intact because of its inaccessibility. It is the habitat of several endangered mammals, especially the snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer and bharal.

The park lies in Chamoli district, within the Garhwal Himalaya. It comprises the catchment area of the Rishi Ganga, an eastern tributary of Dhauli Ganga which flows into the Alaknanda River at Joshimath. The area is a vast glacial basin, divided by a series of parallel, north-south oriented ridges. These rise up to the encircling mountain rim along which are about a dozen peaks, the better known including Dunagiri, Changbang and Nanda Devi East.

Nanda Devi West, India's second-highest mountain, lies on a short ridge projecting into the basin and rises up from Nanda Devi East on the eastern rim. Trisul, in the south-west, also lies inside the basin. The upper Rishi Valley, often referred to as the 'Inner Sanctuary', is fed by Changbang, North Rishi and North Nanda Devi glaciers to the north and by South Nanda Devi and South Rishi glaciers to the south of the Nanda Devi massif. There is an impressive gorge cutting through the Devistan-Rishikot ridge below the confluence of the North and South Rishi rivers. The Trisuli and Ramani glaciers are features of the lower Rishi Valley or 'Outer Sanctuary', below which the Rishi Ganga enters the narrow, steep-sided lower gorge.

Forests are restricted largely to the Rishi Gorge and are dominated by fir, rhododendron and birch up to about 3,350 m. Forming a broad belt between these and the alpine meadows is birch forest, with an understorey of rhododendron. Conditions are drier within the 'Inner Sanctuary', becoming almost xeric up the main Nanda Devi glaciers. Beyond Ramani, the vegetation switches from forest to dry alpine communities, with scrub juniper becoming the dominant cover within the 'Inner Sanctuary'. Juniper gives way altitudinally to grasses, prone mosses and lichens, and on riverine soils to annual herbs and dwarf willow.

Woody vegetation extends along the sides of the main glaciers before changing gradually to squat alpines and lichens. Local populations use a total of 97 species, for medicine, as food plants, fodder, fuel, tools, house building and fibres, as well as for religious purposes.

The basin is renowned for the abundance of its ungulate populations, notably Himalayan musk deer (listed as 'lower risk' threatened species). Mainland serow and Himalayan tahr are also common. The distribution of goral does not appear to extend to within the basin, although the species does occur in the vicinity of the national park. Large carnivores are common leopard, Himalayan black bear and brown bear, the existence of which has yet to be confirmed. The only primate present is common langur, although rhesus macaque has been sighted outside the park boundaries. Some 83 species are reported from the biosphere reserve.

A total of 114 bird species belonging to 30 families was recorded during the 1993 Nanda Devi Scientific and Ecological Expedition, some 67 for the first time. Species abundant during May and June include crested black tit, yellow-bellied fantail flycatcher, orange-flanked bush robin, blue-fronted redstart, Indian tree pipit, vinaceous-breasted pipit, common rosefinch and nutcracker. Species richness was found to be highest in temperate forests, with a significant decline in richness as elevation increased.