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Uttarakhand the 27th state of Republic of India lies between 28o 44' & 31o 28' N Latitude and 77o 35' & 81o 01' East longitude. It was carved out of UP on 9th November 2000 with 13 Districts. The geographical area of the state is 53483 sq. km and the terrain and topography of the state is largely hilly with large areas under snow cover and steep slopes. Uttarakhand is geopolitically also very sensitive state due to its international boundaries in North (Nepal & Tibet). It forms North-Western boundary with Himachal Pradesh, North and North-Eastern boundary with Tibet, Eastern with Nepal and Southern with plains of UP. Whereas, the Southern boundary is artificial, remaining namely Northern, Western and the Eastern boundaries are natural with Tons and Yamuna rivers in West, Kali in the East and the Indo-Tibetan watershed in the North. Thus the state is of immense importance not only for the states, down stream due to soil and moisture conservation but strategically also due to its international border with Nepal & Tibet (China).
Major portion of the state is mountainous and these mountains (Himalayas) are one of the youngest mountain systems of the world (40 million years in age compared to peninsular mountains of 1500-2500 million years old) and hence ecologically very fragile and relatively much more susceptible to earthquakes and landslides. There are four major river systems viz. Ganga, Yamuna, Ramganga & Sharda originating from the state along with their tributaries are major source of water for drinking, irrigation and hydropower. The major wealth of the state is its forests with very rich biodiversity. Therefore, any let up in land management, of which forest management is the core, will have a telling effect on state’s downstream with regard to water supply, soil erosion and consequent floods and impoverishment of agricultural land.
The state has 13 districts as administrative units with 78 Tehsils and 95 community development blocks .The human population of the State is 84.79 lacs (2001) compared to 25.18 lacs in 1951 and that of livestock is 49.4 lacs in 2003 as compared to 41.68 lacs (1993) and 38.692 in 1972. The human and livestock population is largely dependent on forests due to Agrarian economy and age old pastoralism leading to heavy pressure on forests and consequent degradation of ecology and environment of the area.
Although the State of Uttarakhand is well endowed with biological resources, the past decades have seen an increase in pressure on the state’s natural ecosystems. The entire Siwalik ecosystem of Uttarakhand has been virtually degraded of its forest cover, and forested landscape has been pushed to the Upper reaches of the State.
The state is represented by biographic zone 2B Western Himalaya and 7B Shiwaliks consisting of Kumaon and Garhwal two regions. Total geographical area of the state (53,483 sq.km) is 1.6 % of country’s geographical area, out of which 46,035 sq.km is hilly. The state has thus varied terrain, major portion of which is mountainous with unique ecological diversity consisting of high alpine areas to the Sub-tropical and Tropical regions.
Physiographically, the state can be divided into three zones namely, the Himalaya, The Shiwalik and the Tarai Region. The state has a temperate climate except in plain areas where the climate is tropical. The average annual rainfall is 1550 mm.
There are Four major river systems viz. Ganga, Yamuna, Ramganga & Sharda originating from the state along with their tributaries which are major source of water for drinking, irrigation and hydropower. The major wealth of the state is its forests with very rich biodiversity. The state ranks sixth among the other states in terms of percentage of recorded forest area.
Due to its unique bio diversity, the state is also home to several rare and endangered species of herbal and aromatic plants. Realizing the immense potential of this resource in the state, the state government has declared Uttarakhand as a Herbal State. The state has taken various initiatives to promote the sector towards:
A comprehensive Conservation, Development and Harvesting (CDH) Plan for Medicinal Plants has been launched in the state.