Himalayan High Altitude Wetlands

HAWs spread across the Himalayan region which WWF-India is working to conserve, through the ‘Saving Wetlands Sky High!’ Project covering five countries – Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and China
© WWF-India
High Altitude Wetlands (HAWs), as the name suggests, are water bodies like lakes, ponds and rivers, found at altitudes higher than 3,000 metres above mean sea level, often fed by glaciers or snow from the surrounding mountains.
The HAWs found in the Indian Himalayas are of great importance to the people living in this region because they provide livelihood and are considered sacred. Pasturelands fringing the wetlands are used for grazing livestock, and have also been identified as the home of several rare endemic species of birds, medicinal plants and mammals.

In addition, these Himalayan wetlands play an important role in the hydrological regime of mighty rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus and act as a buffer between glacial melt waters and outflows to smaller rivers and streams.

Any change to the dynamics of these wetlands, can have a knock-on effect that could reach all the way downstream impacting fish populations, agriculture, river infrastructure, flood cycles and communities in those river basins. It is therefore vital that these HAWs be conserved to secure a steady supply of water to the entire region and to safeguard communities and biodiversity that depend on these freshwater sources.

In addition, WWF’s Regional Initiative, ‘Saving Wetlands Sky-High!’ is working with its country offices in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and China to mobilise governments, communities and local stakeholders towards conservation of the Himalayan High Altitude Wetlands which find themselves beyond national and political boundaries.
© Mahesh Nair
Tsomoriri in Ladakh, a designated Ramsar site
© Mahesh Nair
© Dipankar Ghose/WWF-India
Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim
© Dipankar Ghose/WWF-India
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