Rewilding the western Himalayas

In 2021, the Himalayan Restoration Project  (HRP) was born as a pilot project with the vision of a renewed western Himalayan landscape teeming with life and prosperity.

This ambitious initiative was the direct result of the efforts of the dedicated team of the Himalayan Langur Project (HLP), of which I am happy to be a part of. It seeks to revive the region’s beauty and biodiversity, with the ultimate goals of restoring the degraded landscape, conserving wildlife, and providing the locals and Indigenous communities with ecologically sustainable livelihood opportunities.

We are collaborating closely with women’s self-help groups and youth groups in the landscape, focusing on fostering ecosystem-based adaptation and leadership skills. Our goal is to support them in becoming future landscape leaders.

The Himalayan Restoration Project team interacting with one of their key collaborators: local women. Sanjay Molur

My name is Trisa Bhattacharjee, and I am the 2024 Mountain Restoration Steward, from India.  With a journey in wildlife conservation that began in 2021, I have had the privilege of working across diverse landscapes and with various species and communities.

Through these experiences, one truth has become abundantly clear: it is imperative to embrace a landscape approach to foster harmonious coexistence. This is particularly true for the Himalayas, which are experiencing severe impacts from climate change, including flash floods, landslides and deforestation, which directly affect communities, wildlife and vegetation alike.

One of the terrifying effects of climate change in the Himalayan landscape: increasing forest fires. Sanjay Molur

The reduction in forest cover and expansion of agriculture have pushed animals into farmland, resulting in conflict between humans and wildlife. It has been challenging to witness these transformations in the landscape, especially with the noticeable decrease in snow and the frequent landslides affecting the area’s roads.
Towards the end of 2021, I had the opportunity to meet the HLP team, whose innovative ideas and impactful work deeply impressed me. Collaborating closely with Sanjay and the team, we embarked on an ambitious journey to restore the entire landscape, recognizing it as the only viable solution.
Since then, I’ve been an active member of this inclusive team, working closely with communities and stakeholders to achieve our shared goals.

One of the several instances where I got the opportunity to collaborate with the HLP Project Lead, Sanjay Molur. P. Kritika.

Reawakening the western Himalayas: A restoration journey 

The Himalayan Langur Project launched in 2012 with the aim of studying the less-known Chamba sacred langur, which is endemic to this landscape.

To date, the project has identified the major threats the species is facing and gathered data regarding its feeding behavior. The Himalayan Langur Project and the Himalayan Restoration Project complement each other.

The Chamba Sacred Langur, endemic to our landscape. Emma Steigerwald.

Since 2021, the Himalayan Restoration Project has made remarkable progress, earning ample recognition as a result of the impactful work that has been continuously carried out by the team behind the initiative, which counts with strong technical foundations made possible by the mentorship provided by the HLP. 

From its inception, the project has earned the trust of the local communities living in the landscape. As of 2022, the HRP and its mission have involved over 2,800 people from more than 500 families across 28 villages in Rathiyar, Chamba.

One of the community meetings with the women’s self-help groups in the village of Saun, organized by the HLP and HRP. Sanjay Molur.

Meet the team behind the Himalayan Restoration Project

Guided by Sanjay Molur and Vishal Ahuja, the HRP team is committed to nurturing the land and its people. In addition to mentoring the project, Sanjay, who is the team lead at the HLP, is also assisting us in raising funds, and paving the way forward. 

Vishal Ahuja, coordinator at the HLP, is helping us on the field to carry out our activities, while also sharing his vast expertise to enable the continuous success of the HRP. Our team also counts on the talent of P. Kritika, who is responsible for coordinating with the nursery and the different stakeholders involved.

Amrin Ansari tends to nursery activities and is dedicated to understanding the crop raiding issue in the region, while I am responsible for vital research and outreach, carrying out perception studies, leading engaging communications efforts and fundraising for the project.

The HLP and HRP teams at the nursery. Paridhi Modi.

Embracing challenges, connecting communities and nurturing nature

The past two months have been a roller coaster of discovery and connection. While the beautiful snow surrounds us and keeps us amazed about the breathtaking power of the majestic Himalayas, we have been able to interact with the communities, seeking to understand their needs and aspirations.

The HRP acknowledges the importance of considering human perceptions in any ecosystem restoration effort, valuing the insights and perspectives of local people and involving them as major stakeholders of the project.

Meeting and discussion with the women’s self-help groups at a local civic organization, Arpana Trust. Sanjay Molur

Our efforts have encompassed a range of activities, from assessing crop damage to analyzing the dependence of communities on forest produce to understanding the attitude of people towards wildlife and native species in and around the Kalatop-Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary.

It has been amazing to see that although most local people blame wild animals for crop loss, there is a growing awareness of environmental issues and of how crop loss can be attributed to climate change, deforestation and a changing landscape. 

Throughout our journey, we have also been actively collecting seeds of native plants on our way to the villages or during the trails from near the roadsides, and sowing them in our nursery, heralding a green resurgence.

Our team is also diligently collecting behavioral data on the Chamba sacred langur, in addition to preparing for workshops and meetings with different stakeholders to engage them on our mission. These efforts, both on the ground and behind the scenes, reflect our collective devotion to the project.

The HRP team collecting Quercus leucotrichophora seeds for the nursery. Sanjay Molur.

The Himalayan Restoration Project is not just a dream – it is a commitment to rewild the degraded landscape of the western Himalayas with native species. By providing sustainable livelihood possibilities for local communities rooted in ecology, we aim to bring climate justice to the region, forging a path to a more harmonious future between people and nature.

View of the Pir Panjal range of the Himalaya from the HLP-HRP field station. Arpan Joshi

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Supporting partners 2023

Supporting partners

The Restoration Stewards program provides funding, mentorship and training to deepen the impact of youth-led restoration projects. The year-long program is run by the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) under the banner of Generation Restoration to support and highlight the work of eight young restoration practitioners and their teams in 2023.

During the program, the Restoration Stewards and their teams are  supported to further develop their project and serve as ambassadors at both global and local levels. Globally, the Restoration Stewards share their journeys in a series of vlogs and blogs documenting their stories of inspiration and challenges and participate in different international events to showcase their work. Locally, they are sparking a restoration movement, mobilizing local communities and creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for livelihoods and landscapes.