Resources Himalaya FoundationKathmandu, Nepal
Published March 29, 2007
Protecting biodiversity where earth meets sky
Stretching across six nations and possessing the earth’s highest peaks, the Himalayas may be best known in the United States as a magnet for growing numbers of daredevil mountaineers. But the iconic mountain range may soon be seen as a symbol of another kind of phenomenon: how poverty, tourism and population growth can combine to wear away at a region’s biodiversity and challenge the resources and skills of the scientists who seek to protect it.
Those scientists are supported by the Resources Himalaya Foundation, which helps to build the skills and knowledge of scientists at national institutions that manage and implement biodiversity programs in the region. They offer training in geographic information systems, remote sensing analysis, mapping, field survey methods, and conservation management planning—the latest techniques needed to protect and sustain biodiversity.
And needed they are. It’s hard to imagine such an immense mountain range being vulnerable to anything, but scientists are tracking a number of forces threatening the flora and fauna of the Himalayas. One is the enormous amount of unplanned and unmonitored development due to rising tourism. Another factor is population growth, which imperils natural habitats for threatened species such as the tiger. Many conservationists have classified the Himalayas as a “biodiversity hotspot,” one of the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth.
Resources Himalaya Foundation has gained respect across the region and among international conservationists for scientific publications such as Habitat Himalaya and its training programs in geographic information systems, designed to help conservation professionals working at government ministries, universities, and non-governmental organizations. It has also developed management plans for important conservation areas in the Himalaya region and hosted scientific conferences bringing together conservationists, scientists, and students from across Asia.
It is an important moment for both Resources Himalaya Foundation and Nepal’s conservation movement generally. After 22 years of operation, the organization is entering into a new stage of maturity, with a newly appointed board of prominent scientists, academics and conservationists, and plans for physical and financial growth.
Meanwhile, regional events have brought both hope and challenge to their efforts. The recent peace process between the Nepali government and an insurgent group has opened new opportunities for conservation progress, while the ongoing environmental threats of high poverty, increased tourism, and rapid population growth persist. The conversation movement in the region has arrived at a make-or-break moment, one that will call for Resources Himalaya Foundation to train the next generation of conservationists.
Resources Himalaya Foundation will use its $350,000 MacArthur Award for permanent office space and research studying the relationship between conservation and development.
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