One of India’s most important ecoregions are the forest ecosystems of the Western Himalayas. They act as life support systems for millions of people residing in the uplands and lowlands of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They provide various ecosystem services that enhance the supply of water that flows into streams and larger rivers. These services are essential for the economy because living conditions are severely endangered, particularly when it comes to water. Furthermore, ecosystem services such as soil and slope stabilisation, protection against extreme weather events and the supply of forest products are also at risk of deterioration.
At the same time, India is one of the countries most affected by climate change. The documented warming trend in the Himalayas is higher than the global average. According to a report by the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), a policy think tank of the Government of India, the water supply from almost 50% of the sources in the Indian Himalayas is decreasing; partly as a result of climate change. Those immediately affected include the marginalised, forest resource-dependent communities and the residents of the Himalayan cities. Women in rural areas with prominent responsibility for the wellbeing of their families are particularly affected.
Forest management in the western Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is increasingly oriented towards forest ecosystem services with a focus on water availability.
The orientation towards sustainability in the FES concept serves both directly to the sustainable availability and protection of natural resources, in particular water. It will ensure the flow of other provisioning services and ecologically sensitive tourism services focusing on water.
It strengthens the resilience of forests against the impacts of climate change by providing the sustainable flow of ecosystem services.
Institutionalisation and up-scaling of the FES approach through coordinated action by actors at national, state, and local level
Implementation support through demonstration of the feasibility of cross-sectoral FES approaches
Knowledge management for sustainable management of forest ecosystems.
Sustainably secured FES is a central prerequisite for the economic development of rural and mountainous areas in India and decisive for small-scale farming, the production of forest products and the tourism sector. Sustainable forest management for water has a positive impact on the availability and quality of water, on slope and soil stability, and biodiversity. It also has a positive impact on air quality, temperature stability and cultural assets i.e. cultural and religious values of nature.