Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Development

Ecosystem Services Valuation and Payment for Livelihood Sustainability in the Indian Central Himalayan Region

  • Vishwambhar Prasad SATI , *
  • Department of Geography and Resource Management, Mizoram University, Aizawl, Mizoram 796004, India
*Vishwambhar Prasad SATI, E-mail:

Received date: 2021-04-29

  Accepted date: 2022-03-08

  Online published: 2023-04-21


This article examines the valuation and payment of ecosystem services for livelihood sustainability in the Indian Central Himalayan Region (ICHR). Data were gathered from both primary and secondary sources on biodiversity resources-tangible (goods) and intangible (services) as the Himalaya is a repository of these resources, also called ecosystem services. The ecosystem services are interlinked with the highlands (providers) and the lowlands (beneficiaries) and providing livelihoods to the large populations. Forests cover about 63% of the total geographical area with rich biodiversity. Water resources are abundant as about 42% of the national water need is met by the Ganga River and its tributaries that originate and flow through the region. The hydroelectricity generating capacity is about 30000 MW. The environmental sustainability index is high due to the clean and pollution-free environment. Agro-biodiversity is substantially high and therefore, several crop races/cultivars grow here, although, arable land is only 18%. However, the people of the highlands are unable to use these biodiversity resources optimally because of the rugged terrain, remoteness, and adverse situation. As a result, the people of the highlands are poor, facing acute malnutrition and food scarcity problems. Valuation of both tangible and intangible ecosystem services can be done and payment can be made. Taxes can be levied on the intangible resources mainly used by the downstream people and green bonuses can be paid to the upstream people.

Cite this article

Vishwambhar Prasad SATI . Ecosystem Services Valuation and Payment for Livelihood Sustainability in the Indian Central Himalayan Region[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2023 , 14(3) : 468 -478 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2023.03.004

1 Introduction

Ecosystem services are very comprehensive for sustaining life and livelihoods, can be defined in various ways. Further, its payment is an important tool for the management of natural resources and sharing of its benefits to all the stakeholders (Uniyal et al., 2020). Singh (2002) defined it as the result of interactions between living and non-living components of ecosystems. According to Daily (1998), ecosystem services are the conditions and processes, which sustain and fulfill human life. They are the components of nature enjoyed, consumed/used for sustainable livelihoods. Ecosystems are natural capitals/assets that provide numerous services. These services maintain life and livelihoods, enhance the economy, control floods and diseases, and provide opportunities for recreation (MA, 2005). However, increasing demand for these services during the recent past has put pressure on natural resources and diminishes ecosystem capacity (MA, 2005). Meanwhile, ecosystem productivities are comparatively lower in plains than the mountain regions (Zobel et al., 2001) although there is still limited knowledge on managing ecosystem services (Kremen, 2005).
The ecosystems provide two types of services - tangible and intangible. They are also called goods and services, respectively, which are a total of 17 in number, identified by Costanza et al. (1998). Regulation and supportive services are intangible; they do not have an explicit market value because they do not receive due importance in policy decisions (Costanza et al., 1998; TEEB, 2010). Timber, non-timber forest products including firewood, fodder, and food are tangible services, which are directly extracted from the ecosystems. Clean water is also a tangible ecosystem service, which is obtained due to complex interactions between the ecosystem components - forests, soils, water, and microorganisms. Moreover, the benefits from the ecosystem services that people obtain are not fully understood. Therefore, the ecological and economic aspects of ecosystem services are required valuation, which may depend upon the nature of the goods and services and the type of benefits that are being measured. Further, evaluation and assessment of intangible benefits of ecosystem services is a major concern and for that, some methods can be framed and implemented (NEP, 2006). The upstream people are providers of ecosystem services and downstream people are the beneficiaries. The scheme of payment of ecosystem services will provide justice and equity to the poor mountain people. This can be done through optimal investment in conservation and management of ecosystems otherwise it will lead to deterioration of ecosystem services (MA, 2005).
The Himalayan ecosystem is diverse with the highest diversity of flora and fauna and it provides ecosystem services to a quarter of the world’s population (Chaudhary et al., 2017). Similarly, the Indian Central Himalayan Region (ICHR) is endowed with rich ecosystem services of global importance, gene pools, species, and a storehouse of biological diversity, which is a priority region in global conservation agendas. Due to varying temperatures and altitudes, Uttarakhand Himalaya obtains rich biodiversity (Sharma, 2020). Oak forests, largely found in the temperate region, have high ecological and socio-cultural significance; provide substantial ecosystem services (Naudiyal and Schmerbeck, 2021). It has eight out of the 16 forest types existing in India (Champion and Seth, 1968) and it is a part of four global biodiversity hotspots (Chettri et al., 2008). The value of these forests is 500 INR t-1 of fuel/fodder with approximate 300000 million INR per year (INR = Indian Rupees(Indian Rupees (1 USD is equal to 82 INR, Dec., 2022).)) (MoEF, 2005). These forests have also altruistic and ethical values (Agrawal, 1992), which play an important role in protecting the environment and in providing livelihoods to a vast population of its neighbouring countries. Freshwater, which is used by more than 200 million people living in the region and 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins is one of the most ecosystem services (Schild, 2008). Agro-ecosystem services are abundant, used traditionally, and sustaining the livelihoods of a large population. Similarly, livestock is the most productive livelihood option, in which productivity is dependent largely on the availability of fodder—grasses and green leaves (Verma, 2000). The Himalaya has extensive grasslands—subtropical and alpine and therefore, livestock production is substantial.
Recently, the Himalayan ecosystems are being degraded mainly due to anthropogenic factors such as the mounting population, haphazard infrastructure development, unsustainable use and poor management, and low investment in conservation (Maharana et al., 2000; Baral et al., 2007; Baral et al., 2008; GOI, 2009; Sharma et al., 2009; Badola et al., 2010; Chen and Jim, 2010; Tse-ring et al., 2010). On the other hand, many critical conservation areas are inaccessible and dynamic where ecosystem services are unutilized largely and their valuation and assessment is a herculean task. The local communities living in these fragile areas have limited livelihood options; often receive little benefits from the ecosystem services. Further, variation in temperature and moisture is large with a high degree of heterogeneity (Ring et al., 2010; Sati, 2014). The Himalayas are highly vulnerable to natural disasters, mainly landslides, flash floods, and climate change, which have highly influenced the ecosystem services. Therefore, the challenge is to assign a value to multifunctional mountain ecosystems and to determine threshold values (Ring et al., 2010).
Very few empirical studies have been conducted on the economic valuation of ecosystem services in the Himalayan region. However, some studies have been conducted on the recreational and aesthetic value of the protected areas (Maharana et al., 2000; Baral et al., 2008). This paper examines the availability and use pattern of various types of ecosystem services mainly forests, water, farming, climate, and landscape in ICHR. It further assesses and values ecosystem services for their payments to the rural people so that livelihood sustainability can be attained.

2 Study area

The ICHR, also known as the Uttarakhand Himalaya, comprises of the two horizontal divisions—the Garhwal Himalaya and the Kumaon Himalaya and five vertical divisions— Doon, Tarai, and Bhabhar; the Shivalik ranges and the river valleys; the lesser or middle Himalaya; the high Himalaya and the alpine pastureland; and the snow-clad mountain peaks. All these vertical and horizontal divisions have diversity in all the aspects—natural and cultural and they provide plenty of ecosystem services. Having a 53483 km2 geographical area, it stretches between 28°43°N-31°28°N and 77°34°E-81°03°E (Fig. 1). About 63% of its area is forested; obtaining rich biodiversity, and therefore, the region is one of the global biodiversity hotspots. The Ganges system—the Bhagirathi River, the Alaknanda River, the Yamuna River, and the Kali River and their numerous tributaries, which drain through the region, make the biggest river system with huge water. All these rivers are glacial-fed. The landscape is spectacular from the river valleys to the snow-clad mountains, which are the tourism destinations. Ago-climatic conditions are feasible, which vary according to the altitudes and climates and which support agro-ecosystem services substantially.
Fig. 1 Location map of Indian Central Himalayan Region

3 Data collection and survey method

A qualitative approach was employed to conduct this study, in which, data were gathered from secondary and primary sources and through field observation. Data on water ecosystem services such as major rivers, their length, and annual drainage were obtained from the toposheets of the ‘Survey of India’ Dehradun and the ‘Central Water Commission of India’ New Delhi. Data on forest ecosystem services were gathered from the ‘Forest Survey of India’ (2017) Dehradun. Based on the data on crop races/cultivars grow in different altitudinal zones, the author divided the entire Uttarakhand into agro-climatic zones and subsequently the agro-ecosystem services obtained from each zone. Data on tourism ecosystem services were gathered from the tourism department, Dehradun, and from published literature. Furthermore, data on the valuation of ecosystem services in the Indian Central Himalayan Region were also gathered from the published literature which shows the tangible and intangible benefits and their valuation. A list of goods and services by forests was prepared by the author and presented to show the resource base of forests in the region.
Primary data were gathered through a case study of ‘Korba’ village, which lies on the way to Chakrata town in Dehradun District 10 km before it. This survey was conducted in the first week of January 2020. The household-level survey was conducted through a purposive random sampling method. A total of 60 households were surveyed, which is 48% of the total population (125 persons). A structured questionnaire was framed and questions were asked from heads of the households on the major ecosystem services available in the village. These eco-system services are forests, water, agro-ecology, and spectacular landscapes. Data on how the available ecosystem services are used and what are their prospects were also asked from the heads of each household. The questions were also asked on the role of ecosystem services on the livelihood enhancement of the rural people. Besides these methods of data collection, the author visited some other areas such as the Alaknanda River Basin, during the mid of January 2020, to observe the potentials of ecosystem services and their role in livelihood enhancement in the region.
Data were interpreted and described using mainly qualitative methods and observations. A location map of ICHR and a village ecosystem model were digitalized using Geographical Information System (GIS). Further, Geographical Positioning System (GPS) was used to collect information on latitude, longitude, and altitude of the case study villages. An evaluation of per day fuelwood and fodder requirement at the household level of Korba village was carried out by weighing scale. Suggestions for policymaking were given to the sustainable use of ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods.

4 Ecosystem services in ICHR

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) has identified four main categories of ecosystem services as provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services, and supporting services. The provisioning services include food (fruits, vegetables, trees, fish, and livestock), drinking water, timber, and fuelwood. The regulating services make the ecosystem clean, sustainable, functional, and resilient to change, which include pollination, decomposition, water purification, erosion and flood control, carbon storage, and climate regulation. Cultural services are non-material benefits, which contribute to the development and cultural advancement of people. The last ecosystem service is supporting services such as photosynthesis, nutrient cycling, the creation of soils, and the water cycle (Adams et al., 2000). In this paper, provisioning services and cultural services in ICHR are described.

4.1 Provisioning services

The ICHR has rich provisioning services in the forms of water, forests (Fig. 2), and land, which are described in the following paragraphs.
Fig. 2 Ecosystem services (a) the mighty Himalaya and highland forests ecosystem services, Kedarnath Valley; (b) water ecosystem services, the Alaknanda valley, near Srinagar Garhwal

4.1.1 Water ecosystem services

The ICHR is the home of the world’s biggest river system - the Ganges system, which has further three subsystems the Yamuna-Tons, the Bhagirathi-Alaknanda, and the Kali systems (Table 1). The Pawar, Rupin, Supin, and many other perennial streams are the sub-tributaries of the Yamuna-Tons sub-systems. The Bhagirathi-Alaknanda is the biggest subsystem, which has the major sub-tributaries such as Bhillangana and Balganga; Saraswati, Dholi Ganga, Vishnu Ganga, Nandakini, Pindar, and Mandakini rivers along with small to big perennial streams, respectively. In the Kali subsystem, Gomati, Saryu, Koshi, Ramganga (E and W), Dhauli (E), and Gori Ganga, and their numerous tributaries flow. All rivers and most of their tributaries are glacial-fed; provide water to millions of people of upstream and downstream areas. Besides, natural lakes and springs are widely spread all over the region, supply drinking and irrigational water to the inhabitants.
Table 1 Major rivers, their length, and annual drainage
River name Outlet Inlet Length (km) Annual drainage* (Million m3 yr-1)
Yamuna Yamunotri Dhalipur 284 6495
Kali Kalapani (Nepal) Ghagara River (UP) 220 7300
Bhagirathi Gaumukh Devprayag 205 2533
Alaknanda Alkapuri Bank Devprayag 195 5342
Ramganga Dudhatoli Mountain Ganga River (UP) 155 5000

Note: Data was gathered from the ‘Survey of India Toposheeds’; *Report of the Central Water Commission of India, Sati, 2019.

The Yamuna River is the biggest in length (284 km), followed by the Kali River (220 km), the Bhagirathi River (205 km), the Alaknanda River (195 km), and the Ramganga (W) (155 km). In terms of annual drainage, the highest is of the Kali River (7300 million m3 yr-1), followed by the Yamuna River, which is 6495 million m3 yr-1. The Alaknanda River has 5342 million m3 yr-1 annual drainage and the Ramganga (W) has 5000 million m3 yr-1 annual drainage. The lowest annual drainage is of the Bhagirathi River, which is only 2533 million m3 yr-1.

4.1.2 Forest ecosystem services

ICHR has 63% forest cover, of which 14% are under protected areas. There is a total of six national parks and six wildlife sanctuaries with a 6951 km2 area. The upper reaches are snow-clad (16% of the total mountainous region) and the lower areas are fertile plains and the river valleys, which cover a total of 7% of the geographical area. Forests are spread in the plains regions, the Shivaliks and the river valley regions, the middle Himalaya, and the highlands. Rich forest diversity is found in ICHR, which varies from <500 m (sal, shisham, mahogany, and teak) to 500-1000 m(bushes and shrubs and grasslands), 1000-2000 m (pine in the lower elevation and mixed oak forests in the upper elevation), and 2000-3000 m (deodar, spruce, fur, and cedar). Alpine meadows are found between 3000-4000 m. Besides, wild fruit plants are equally distributed along the slope gradients. There are many forest species found, which provide forest ecosystem services.
Forests are distributed from <500 m to >4000 m in ICHR (Table 2). The major portion of forests is extended between 1000 m and 2000 m, which is 41.35%, followed by 2000-3000 m (23.18%), and 500-1000 m (16.57%). Other altitudes have less than 15% forest cover. In terms of the density of forests, the major proportion is found in MDF (56.11%), followed by OF, which is 24.47%. VDF obtains only 19.61% area.
Table 2 Density and distribution of forest cover in Uttarakhand
Altitudinal zones VDF (km2) MDF (km2) OF (km2) Total area (km2) Proportion (%)
<500 m 548 1732 546 2826 11.65
500-1000 m 1035 2189 794 4018 16.57
1000-2000 m 1727 5477 2820 10024 41.35
2000-3000 m 1345 3074 1202 5621 23.18
3000-4000 m 99 1126 506 1731 7.14
>4000 m 0 4 16 20 0.08
Total 4754 13602 5884 24240
Proportion (%) 19.61 56.11 24.47 100

Note: Source: Sati (2018). VDF: Very Dense Forests; MDF: Moderate Dense Forests; OF: Open Forests.

4.1.3 Agro-ecosystem services

Due to unique vertical and horizontal landscapes, agro-ecology is rich and they are quite suitable for growing various crop races/cultivars. Agro-ecology varies according to climate and climate varies according to altitudes. There is an example of more than 12 grains grows in single-crop fields. Agro-ecological zones vary from tropical (<500 m) to subtropical (500-1200 m), temperate (1200-2200 m), alpine (>2200 m), which provide rich agro-ecosystem services (Table 3). Varieties of fruits and vegetables grow in all the altitudinal zones and support livelihood for the rural poor people. Paddy and wheat grow largely in the valleys (Fig. 3). The potential of growing substantial quality and quantity of crops is high whereas due to lack in basic infrastructural facilities, its return could not be achieved.
Table 3 Agro-ecological zones and agro-ecosystem services
Altitude (m) Agro-ecological zone Agro-ecosystem services
<500 Tropical Cereals Paddy, wheat, mustard, and sugarcane (Irrigated)
Fruits Mango, guava, papaya, and litchi
Vegetables Onion, tomato, beans, and green leaves
500-1200 Subtropical Cereals Paddy, wheat, barley, mustard, pulses, oilseed (Rainfed)
Fruits Orange, elephant citrus, lemon, and plum (Citrus)
Vegetables Onion, beans, tomato, and green leafy vegetables
1200-2200 Temperate Cereals Millets (twelve grains) including pulses and oilseeds
Fruits Apple, pear, peach, and apricot
Vegetables Potato, leafy vegetables, chili, eggplants, cucumber, pumpkin, bottle guard, garlic, and turmeric
>2200 Alpine Natural herbs and medicinal plants, alpine pasture lands of summer dwellers
Fig. 3 Agroecosystem services (a) wheat and mustard crops are grown as Rabi crop in the Khanda Garh and (b) paddy is grown as a Kharif crop in the Maletha Village, the Alaknanda Basin

4.2 Cultural services

Cultural services as tourism, which provide livelihoods to the native people, are described as follows.

4.2.1 Tourism ecosystem services

ICHR has spectacular landscapes and plenty of tourism ecosystem services. Tourism types vary from natural to adventurer and pilgrimage tourism, which support the livelihoods of the people. It has several highlands and valley pilgrimages, where exodus pilgrims visit every year and enhance the livelihoods of the local people. The river valleys, mid-altitude landscapes, the highlands, the alpine meadows, and the snow-clad mountain peaks support eco-tourism services to the region. Pilgrimages to the Himalaya are a century-old practice for the Hindus and the people of other religions. It supports about 40% of revenue for the state government. Table 4 shows that tourists/pilgrims’ flow is higher in the easily accessible centers. It further shows a large increase in tourists/pilgrims’ flow in the tourists/pilgrims’ places.
Table 4 Tourists/Pilgrims’ inflow in the major pilgrimages and tourist places
Places Altitude (m) Number of tourists/pilgrims
2000 2010 Increased
Haridwar 314 5324639 8261078 35.50
Nainital 1939 39696 258713 84.70
Mussoorie 2000 850746 980921 13.30
Gangotri 3293 208407 329111 36.70
Badrinath 3415 695332 921950 24.60
Kedarnath 3553 300000 400014 25.00
Yamunotri 4421 88672 287688 30.82

Note: Source: Sati (2013).

4.3 The village ecosystems services: A case study

Korba is a medium size village in area and population, which lies about 80 km from Dehradun City on the way to Chakrata, a famous hill town, and a cantonment area. It has 1500-1700 m altitude (Table 5) and the family size is 8.3 persons. The settlement area is about 300 ha, which includes human settlements and cowsheds (Fig. 4). The village has rich ecosystem services that include forest ecosystem services, water ecosystem services, agroecosystem services, and a healthy climate. Forest species vary from dense pine to mixed oak, cedar, and deodar forests. The economic value of forest ecosystems is substantial. The local people collect firewood and fodder from the forest. Firewood is used for cooking food and warming houses (average 10 kg during summer and 20 kg during winter per day) and fodder (15 kg dry grass and 12 kg green leaves per day) is used for stall feeding mulching animals—cow, buffalo, bullocks, and goats. Timber wood, mainly pine, cedar, and deodar are used for constructing houses and non-timber forest products such as several wild fruits (Kafal, Tejpat, Bedu, and Bhamore) are used as the major livelihood options. A total of 1500 ha grassland is directly under the possession of the village community and large grassland lies under the control of the State Forest Department.
Two types of forests are found in the village—community forests and reserve forests. Community forests (800 ha) are owned and managed by the local people. They have developed a mechanism to use and conserve forest ecosystem services. Every year, they open a forest patch to use for firewood and fodder. Only the stems for firewood and leaves for fodder are cut and used. After using the forest patch substantially, they close the existing one and open another forest patch for the same purpose. Every year, they practice it. During the festivals, mainly during the marriage ceremony, few trees are allotted to the concerned family for meeting firewood demand. Reserve forests (2000 ha) are owned and managed by the State’s Forest Department. The local people can use the ecosystem services of reserved forests and they also help the Forest Department’s personnel to conserve reserved forests.
Two perennial streams and about 10 natural springs enhance the water ecosystem services of the village. The water is crystal clear containing natural minerals. It is healthy and meeting the daily water need of the people. There are two water tanks within the village, filled up through the pipeline, and supply water for both irrigating small kitchen gardens and drinking purposes although a large part of the agricultural land is rain-fed.
The village is rich in agro-ecosystem services with rich agro-biodiversity. Although arable land is only 200 ha, however, it produces plenty and varieties of food grains— paddy, wheat, barley, and millets; pulses (black gram, green gram, gram, peas, Soya-been, Rajma), oilseeds (mustard), and fruits (apple, nuts, apricot, and citrus). The marginal farmers have self-sufficiency in food grain. A hundred percent of organic farming is practiced as the organic manure is easily available made of cow-dung. Grassland ecosystems are rich, having huge green and dry grasses to stall feeding and grazing animals therefore the milk and milk products are enough and the farmers sell milk to run their livelihoods.
The landscape is spectacular and the climate is feasible, provides intangible ecosystem services to tourists both summer and winter. During the summer, when the Ganges plain receives huge sunstroke, the tourists visit here for leisure and during winter the tourist enjoys snowfall as the whole region gets several spells of snow during the three months of winter. The local people have tourists resorts along the roadsides. The livelihood of the people of the village is fully dependent on the available ecosystem services, which are plenty.
Korba Village ecosystem services were analyzed (Table 5). The average altitude of the village and coordinates— Latitude and longitude were obtained using GPS. A participatory approach was used and both self-observation and perceptions of the local people were employed to gather data on ecosystem services. Per-day requirement of fuelwood and fodder (important ecosystem services) at the household level was measured using a weighing scale.
Table 5 General information about the village population, land use, and ecosystem services
Location About 80 km from Dehradun to the northwest direction in Chakrata development block
Altitude (m) 1500-1700
Latitude 30°40°58N
Longitude 77°51°23E
Total households (number) 60
Total population (number) 500
Family size (mean value) 8.3
Settlement area (ha) 50
Area of community forests (ha) 800
Area of reserved forests (ha) 2000
Grassland (ha) 1500
Tree species Pine, mixed oak, cedar, and coniferous
Water availability Perennial natural springs
Agriculture Rain-fed
Arable land (ha) 200
Crop diversity High (principal crop races/cultivars: paddy, wheat, barley, millets, pulses, oilseeds, beans, apple, and citrus fruits)
Animal Each household has a pair of oxen, a buffalo, goat, and a cow (average); mean value: 5
Milk availability High
Manure availability High
Forest dependency High
Wood requirement Each household consume an average of 10 kg of wood during the summer and 20 kg of wood during the winter
Fodder requirement Each household consume about 15 kg of dry grasses and 12 kg of green leaves per day
Out-migration Household-level migration is negligible while about 10% of individuals seasonally out-migrated
Landscape and climate ecosystems Panoramic landscape and climate. Local people have many resorts to facilitate the exodus of tourists
Forest ecosystem conservation Local people along with forest department officials
Figure 4 shows the ecosystem services of the Korba Village. The rural settlements and cowsheds are lying almost in the middle. Mixed oak forests and cedar forests are found in the surrounding of the village, owned and controlled by the local people. Mixed-oak forests are used for both wood and fodder and cedar is mainly used for firewood and furniture. Grazing lands also lie nearby the village. Farmlands are terraced gently and on the edge, agro-forestry is planted at equal distance. The trees mainly Bhimal and Kharik have rich fodder contents, which enhance the quality and quantity of milk. Within the agricultural fields, two water tanks are located, which supply drinking water and water for irrigating the kitchen garden. Organic manure is spread in the agricultural field to increase crop yield. Perennial streams flow on both sides of the village.
Fig. 4 Unique ecosystem services of the Korba Village
Figure 5 shows that the village has mainly two forest types. In the lower and south patches, cedar forests lie that have rich economic value, in terms of wood for constructing houses and making furniture. Mixed-oak forests include Banj, Tilong, Kafal, and wild fruits trees that lie above the cedar forests. Firewood and fodder are the main ecosystem services extracted from these forests for domestic consumption. Local people’s dependency rate on these forests is very high. Firewood is gathered and placed for the emergency period mainly for the winter season when this region receives several heavy snow spells. The other dominant forest is pine, used for firewood, constructing houses, and making furniture.
Fig. 5 (a) Forest ecosystem services and (b) Timber
While interviewing the farmers of the village, it has been noticed that the rate of outmigration is very less. At the household level, outmigration is zero however one or two members of few households have been out-migrated for working in the tertiary sector yearly. They send remittances for helping their family’s livelihood. This has been possible only because of the rich ecosystem services and their optimum use. On the contrary, the ICHR characterizes exodus rural-urban out-migration.

5 Use patterns of ecosystem services

Although the ICHR region has abundant ecosystem services as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the use pattern is poor. On the other hand, most of the ecosystem services are unused. For example, water ecosystem services are plenty however the people who are providers face acute water scarcity mainly during the dry season. In the meantime, the beneficiaries are the people of downstream basins where ample water is used. Forest ecosystem services are also unused because of their inaccessibility in the high mountainous areas. The other reason is the forest act of India 1982, which has restricted the use of accessible forest resources to the native people. The region also provides a high environmental sustainability index and fresh air. Agro-ecology is suitable and a rich agro-biodiversity is found, however, production and yield of crops are less and many people are facing food insecurity. People could not use ample eco-tourism services and therefore their livelihoods are fully dependent on practicing traditional farming. Many hydroelectricity power projects are located in the entire ICHR however about 20% of villages are without electricity and in the other villages electricity supply is not proper. The rivers inundate over danger marks during the monsoon season, as the whole region receives heavy downpours. It leads to the occurrences of debris flows and flash floods. Rainwater directly runs off to the rivers, erodes, and carries huge soils and deposit it in the Ganges plain. This has led to a large population (15.6%) living below the poverty line. In rural areas, people living below the poverty line are 17.9%.

6 Valuation and payment of ecosystem services

Forests provide two types of benefits—tangible (goods) and intangible [(services) (Fig. 6)]. Timber and non-timber forest products are tangible whereas ecological function, eco-tourism, and carbon storage are intangible benefits of forests. The highest economic benefit is drawn from the ecological functions, which have INR 100000 ha-1, followed by carbon store (INR 50000 ha-1), and eco-tourism (INR 10000 ha-1). The lowest economic benefit is drawn from non-timber forest products, which is INR 1747 ha-1. Timber has INR 5985 ha-1 economic value (Manoharan, 2000). SFRI (2005) estimated that IHR (Indian Himalayan Region) provides INR 943 billion per annum from the forest ecosystem services whereas ICHR provides INR 104 billion per annum from the same.
Fig. 6 Goods (tangible) and services (intangible) provided by forests in ICHR (Indian Central Himalayan Region)
Water ecosystem services need to be evaluated. The huge water (2.667×1010 m3 yr-1) runs off through river channels to the plain region, erodes plenty of alluvial soil, and deposit it in the Ganges plain. In the upstream areas, water scarcity prevails. Further, soil fertility is very less. This is also the case with agroecosystem services and eco-tourism services. Valuation of these eco-system services is inevitable that will lead to sustainable livelihoods for the rural people.
Table 6 shows the valuation of ecosystem services in ICHR. Intangible benefits obtain the highest ecosystem valuation among which watershed benefits are the highest (INR 1247610 million), followed by carbon stock and flux (INR 279780 million), and biodiversity (INR 69890 million). Benefits from ecotourism services are the highest among the tangible services (INR 8180 million), followed by grazing (INR 6520 million). Other ecosystem services have comparatively fewer benefits.
Table 6 Valuation of ecosystem services in ICHR
No. Ecosystem service Valuation (INR)*
Tangible benefits
1 Timber logging 550 million
2 Fuelwood 1900 million
3 Fodder (Collection) 1370 million
4 Grazing 6520 million
5 Minor forest produce 490 million
6 Ecotourism 8180 million
Intangible benefits
7 Watershed benefits 1247610 million
8 Microclimatic factors 2440 million
9 Carbon stock and flux 279780 million
10 Biodiversity 69890 million
11 Employment generation 421 million
12 The total economic value of ecosystem services 1619210 million

Note: Source: Framework adapted from Verma, 2000 (as used in IIFM-CSO study, 2006). *Extrapolated value of forest and tree cover area in ICHR.

7 Discussion

The rich faunal and floral diversity, ample water, suitable agro-ecology, and spectacular landscapes are a natural wealth and major ecosystem services of the ICHR, which provide ample livelihoods to the inhabitant of both upstream and downstream areas. Meanwhile, these ecosystem services are underutilized in the remote and inaccessible areas and over-utilized in and surroundings of the rural habitation where they are easily assessable. Further, they are used as raw materials and their valuation and assessment have not been calculated scientifically so far.
The tangible ecosystem services such as timber and non-timber forest products—fodder, firewood, and wild fruits are used by the local people for sustaining their livelihoods. However, their use pattern is dependent on various factors such as accessibility and availability. The forest act of India 1982 was rigorously implemented in the state of Uttarakhand, which has limited the use of these ecosystem services largely. Further, water ecosystem services are abundant however, they are largely unused. The reason is that the settlements are mainly located in the middle altitudes and the highlands and the major river flows along the valleys. The construction of canals is not suitable due to rugged and fragile terrain. The inhabitants are dependent on the natural springs’ water for their daily needs however, during the summer, most of the natural springs dried up and the inhabitants face water scarcity. The intangible ecosystem services such as landscapes, climate, and fresh air are abundant however their benefits do not go to the people who are providing these services. The per capita annual consumption of dry wood in the Himalaya is ranging between 500 kg and 1200 kg. At the household level, Singh et al. (2004) observed that firewood consumption in the Garhwal Himalaya ranges from 20 kg to 25 kg per day.
The downstream inhabitants, on the other hand, are the beneficiary of both tangible and intangible ecosystem services. Water and soils are the most tangible ecosystem services they are being benefitted. The Ganges Valley is the most fertile alluvial plain because of the deposition of sediments brought by the rivers from the ICHR region. In the meantime, the ICHR region has the lowest crop production and yield, although agro-climate is very suitable. Recently, due to large-scale variability and change in precipitation and temperature, ecosystem services have subsequently been influenced. They are critical in the face of natural disturbances, anthropogenic activities, and climate change. Changes in structure, functions, patterns of disturbance, and the increased dominance of invasive species have further influenced ecosystem services.
The Indian Himalayan region has 51 million populations out of which about 70% of populations live in rural areas and mostly dependent on natural resources for sustaining livelihoods (Badola et al., 2010). Agriculture is subsistence in nature, landholdings are less than 1 ha (Singh et al., 1995), practiced in fragile ecosystems although known as the backbone of the economy. Therefore, the dependency on forest ecosystem services for fodder, firewood, and wild fruits is comparably higher. Forests are intricately linked with the livelihoods of the people. Carbon sequestration and hydrologic regulation are considered the most valuable processes of forest ecosystems (Singh, 2002).
The valuation of ecosystem services in the Himalayan region has become a priority to benefit the local inhabitants (GOI, 2009). The Government of India has made special provisions through a National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem. Forest productivity can be increased through proper management and plan interventions of protected areas. Ecological value-added tax should be levied at the state level in the downstream basins and the money should be used for giving subsidies to the marginal farmers and other poor people for enhancing livelihood. Economic valuation of biomass for fuel, fodder, recreation, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and catchment area protection for hydropower projects can be carried out and the benefits may be given to the rural poor people. Raising awareness, creating a market for ecosystems, improving management mechanism, providing a framework for decision making, and extending justice and equity are the major roles of economic valuation of ecosystem services (Daily et al., 2000; Kumar, 2005; Huang and Upadhyaya, 2007; TEEB, 2009; UK National Ecosystem Assessment, 2010).

8 Conclusions

Water, forest, and land are the ecosystem services, and the major source of livelihood of the people in the Himalayan region. However, most of these services, either unused due to their inaccessibility, or the people cannot use them because of restrictions imposed by the forest departments. So, there is always a fight for forest rights (Haq and Hukook) between the government authority and the local people. Natural constraints such as terrain and remoteness further make them unavailable. The location of the settlements and ecosystem services availability are the other issues. For example, water is available along the river valleys meanwhile settlements are concentrated mainly in the middle altitudes, which are dry areas. In the highland areas, the forests’ ecosystem services are unused because of their inaccessibility. Agro-ecosystem services are not utilized fully due to several reasons. And finally, eco-tourism services are not valued properly. Lacking infrastructural facilities is another hindrance to utilizing these services. It is therefore suggested that a proper and suitable methodology should be adapted to the assessment, valuation, and payment of the ecosystem services. Green bonus and share of ecosystem services (intangible) should be given to the native people of the upstream regions. Environmental taxes should be levied on the beneficiaries of the downstream river basin and its share should be given to the rural people of the mountainous region. Eco-tourism services can be used by the local people by providing logistic services. Employment in the infrastructural development projects including hydropower projects should be given adequately to the local people. The benefits of intangible ecosystem services and rights of optimum use of forests should equally be given to the local people. A suitable model for the sustainable distribution of drinking water can be developed through people’s participation. It will enhance the livelihood of the rural mountainous region and will help in controlling out-migration.
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