Sagarmatha National Park
Sagarmatha is an exceptional area with dramatic mountains, glaciers and deep valleys, dominated by Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world (8,848 m). Several rare species, such as the snow leopard and the lesser panda, are found in the park. The presence of the Sherpas, with their unique culture, adds further interest to this site.
Outstanding Universal Value
Including the highest point on the Earth’s Surface, Mount Sagarmatha (Everest; 8,848 m) and an elevation range of 6,000 m Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) covers an area of 124,400 hectares in the Solu-Khumbu district of Nepal. An exceptional area with dramatic mountains, glaciers, deep valleys and seven peaks other than Mount Sagarmatha over 7,000 m the park is home to several rare species such as the snow leopard and the red panda. A well-known destination for mountain tourism SNP was gazetted in 1976 and with over 2,500 Sherpa people living within the park has combined nature and culture since its inception.
Encompassing the infinitely majestic snow capped peaks of the Great Himalayan Range, the chain of mountains including the world’s highest Mt. Sagarmatha (Everest) and extensive Sherpa settlements that embody the openness of SNP to the rest of the world. The carefully preserved natural heritage and the dramatic beauty of the high, geologically young mountains and glaciers were recognized by UNESCO with the inscription of the park as a world heritage site in 1979. The property hosts over 20 villages with over 6000 Sherpas who have inhabited the region for the last four centuries. Continuing their traditional practice of cultural and religion including the restriction of animal hunting and slaughtering, and reverence of all living beings. These practices combined with indigenous natural resource management practices, have been major contributing factors to the successful conservation of the SNP.
The constantly increasing numbers of tourists visiting the property, 3,600 visitors in 1979 to over 25000 in 2010, has immensely boosted the local economy and standard of living with better health, education, and infrastructure facilities. One initiative of SNP has been to implement a buffer zone (BZ) program to enhance protection and management of the property and was motivated by a desire to enhance conservation in combination with improved socio-economic status of the local communities through a revenue plough back system. The SNP area is also the major source of glaciers, providing freshwater-based benefits for the people downstream. In addition to conservation of the values of the property a priority of the park is to monitor the impacts of global warming and climate change on flora, fauna and Sherpa communities.
Criteria (vii): Sagarmatha National Parks’ superlative and exceptional natural beauty is embedded in the dramatic mountains, glaciers, deep valleys and majestic peaks including the Worlds’ highest, Mount Sagarmatha (Everest) (8,848 m.). The area is home to several rare species such as the snow leopard and the red panda. The area represents a major stage of the Earth’s evolutionary history and is one of the most geologically interesting regions in the world with high, geologically young mountains and glaciers creating awe inspiring landscapes and scenery dominated by the high peaks and corresponding deeply-incised valleys. This park contains the world’s highest ecologically characteristic flora and fauna, intricately blended with the rich Sherpa culture. The intricate linkages of the Sherpa culture with the ecosystem are a major highlight of the park and they form the basis for the sustainable protection and management of the park for the benefit of the local communities.
Encompassing the upper catchment of the Dudh Kosi River system the boundaries of the property ensure the integrity of its values. The property’s Northern boundary is defined by the main divide of the Great Himalayan Range, which follows the International boundary between Nepal and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. The other boundaries are demarked by physical divisions encompassing discrete physical entities in the Khumbu region with the southern boundary extending almost as far as Monjo on the Dudh Kosi River.
The property’s integrity is enhanced by the designation of a buffer zone that is not part of the inscribed property. The buffer zone to the south of the property was designated in 2002 and serves as a protective layer to the park. The involvement of local communities in the buffer zone management practices is an additional asset for the park sustainability.
The protective designation of the park has been further increased with the establishment of the Makalu Barun National Park (1998) in the eastern region of the property and Gauri Shankar Conservation Area (2010) in the west. These additional sites, combined with the attachment of SNP’s northern region with Qomolongma Nature Reserve in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China have added further protection to the values of the property .
The primarily Tibetan Buddhist Sherpas who live within the park carry out primarily agricultural or trade based activities and to ensure limited impact on the values and integrity of the property their properties have been excluded from the park by legal definition. An active protection and management program, focusing on the mountain landscape, called Sacred Himalayan Landscape (SHL), covers the regions from Kanchanjonga Conservation Area in the east to Langtang National Park in the west has been implemented by the government. The SHL incorporates both conservation and management practices with a focus on involvement of local communities.
The conservation oriented Sherpa culture is the backbone for the conservation of biodiversity in the Khumbu region. Despite the comparatively small area of the park, the surrounding landscape is adequate to ensure sustainable management of the SNP. The declaration of the high altitude Gokyo Lake as a RAMSAR site in 2007 is additional recognition of the value addition of the area and re-colonization of snow leopards within the property is an indication of habitat suitability for both prey and predator species.
Protection and management requirements
Sagarmatha National Park was established on July 19, 1976 under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act and is managed by the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Office, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Forests., Government of Nepal. Effective legal protection remains in place under the National Park and Wildlife Protection Act 1973 and the Himalayan National Park Regulations 1978. Most of the park (69%) comprises barren land above 5,000m with 28% being grazing land and nearly 3% forested, this combined with the resident Sherpa population, who are reliant on subsistence agro-pastoralism provides a number of management challenges.
In addition to the staff from the Sagarmatha National Parks Office, a company of soldiers from the Nepalese Army has been deployed for protection and law enforcement purposes. The Government of Nepal provides a regular budget for the management and protection of the property and buffer zone. Furthermore, the Government has been providing 50% of the park’s revenue to the local communities through the buffer zone Integrated Conservation and Development Programme (ICDP) and its related activities based on the approved Management Plan.
The Management Plan (2007 – 2012) for the property and the buffer zone has been approved by the Government of Nepal and is managed and implemented by a team of professional staff under the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. The Government continues to implement the Management Plan, however, additional efforts are needed to minimize the impact of a number of issues prevalent at the property , namely to address tourism management issues affecting the values of the property and the promotion of sustainable use of natural resources within the park and minimizing environmental pollution.
Constant involvement and support of local communities in the field of conservation and management, subsequent to the implementation of buffer zone program, has been a fortifying milestone for the management of SNP. A Park Advisory Committee, consisting of local leaders, village elders, head lamas and park authority representatives has been instrumental in achieving more cooperation and support for the park. In addition, there are many national and international conservation partners that regularly assist in park and buffer zone management activities and conduct research. Buffer Zone Management Committees, User Committees and User Groups work as additional tools for the sustainable management of the park and buffer zone resources.
Dramatic increases in the number of annual visitors has stimulated the local economy but has also brought an increase in the degradation of the region’s fragile ecology and cultural traditions. Construction of illegal trails, resort development, energy demand and supply, assessment of impacts from tourism and tourism carrying capacity are issues that remain important in the management of the property despite recent success working with local communities and stakeholders to halt a number of development projects, including the extension of the Sanboche airport. Proper garbage disposal is one of the principal obstacles faced by the park in spite of the efforts of Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, a community based NGO based in Namche Bazar with active involvement in pollution control. The NGO with support from other line agencies and pooled with the coordination of park authorities and relevant stakeholders continue to attempt to address this issue. Likewise, with growing tourism activities, the demand for new hotels and lodges is inevitable and the property remains vulnerable to encroachment and requires enforcement of park management policies to protect endangered habitats and species within the property boundaries. In order to respond to the increasing pressure from tourism and related activities it has become necessary to upgrade the existing park organizational structure.
Degradation of the fragile mountain forest ecosystem due to a constant and increasing demand for firewood also remains an important issue at the property, despite the mitigating impacts of the few operational micro-hydro projects as an alternative to firewood.
The Sagarmatha National Park includes the highest point of the Earth's surface, Mount Everest (Sagarmatha). The park is also of major religious and cultural significance in Nepal as it abounds in holy places such as the Thyangboche and also is the homeland of the Sherpas whose way of life is unique, compared with other high-altitude dwellers.
The park encompasses the upper catchments of the Dudh Kosi River system, which is fan-shaped and forms a distinct geographical unit enclosed on all sides by high mountain ranges. The northern boundary is defined by the main divide of the Great Himalayan Range, which follows the international border with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. In the south, the boundary extends almost as far as Monjo.
This is a dramatic area of high, geologically young mountains and glaciers. The deeply-incised valleys cut through sedimentary rocks and underlying granites to drain southwards into the Dudh Kosi and its tributaries, which form part of the Ganges River system. The upper catchments of these rivers are fed by glaciers at the head of four main valleys, Chhukhung, Khumbu, Gokyo and Nangpa La. Lakes occur in the upper reaches, notably in the Gokyo Valley, where a number are impounded by the lateral moraine of the Ngozumpa Glacier (at 20 km the longest glacier in the park). There are seven peaks over 7,000 m. The mountains have a granite core flanked by metamorphosed sediments and owe their dominating height to two consecutive phases of upthrust. The main uplift occurred during human history, some 500,000-800,000 years ago. Evidence indicates that the uplift is still continuing at a slower rate, but natural erosion processes counteract this to an unknown degree.
In the region there are six altitudinal vegetation classed, from oak forests at the lowest elevations to lichens and mosses at the highest elevations. The Himalayan zone provides the barrier between the Palaearctic realm and the Indomalayan realm.
Most of the park (69%) comprises barren land above 5,000 m, 28% is grazing land and about 3% is forested. Six of the 11 vegetation zones in the Nepal Himalaya are represented in the park: lower subalpine; upper subalpine; lower alpine; upper alpine; and subnival zone. Oak used to be the dominant species in the upper montane zone but former stands of this species.
In common with the rest of the Nepal Himalaya, the park has a comparatively low number of mammalian species, apparently due to the geologically recent origin of the Himalaya and other evolutionary factors. The low density of mammal populations is almost certainly the result of human activities. Larger mammals include common langur, jackal, a small number of wolf, Himalayan black bear, red panda, yellow-throated marten, Himalayan weasel, masked palm civet, snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer, Indian muntjac, serow, Himalayan tahr and goral. Sambar has also been recorded. Smaller mammals include short-tailed mol, Tibetan water shrew, Himalayan water shrew; marmot, woolly hare, rat and house mouse.
Inskipp lists 152 species of bird, 36 of which are breeding species for which Nepal may hold internationally significant populations. The park is important for a number of species breeding at high altitudes. The park's small lakes, especially those at Gokyo, are used as staging points for migrants. A total of six amphibians and seven reptiles occur or probably occur in the park.
There are approximately 2,500 Sherpa people living within the park. The people are primarily Tibetan Buddhists. Their activities are primarily agricultural or trade based. Their properties have been excluded from the park by legal definition. There is and will continue to be an influence on the people by the park and vice versa. The Sherpas are of great cultural interest, having originated from Salmo Gang in the eastern Tibetan province of Kham, some 2,000 km from their present homeland. They probably left their original home in the late 1400s or early 1500s, to escape political and military pressures, and later crossed the Nangpa La into Nepal in the early 1530s. They separated into two groups, some settling in Khumbu and others proceeding to Solu. The two clans (Minyagpa and Thimmi) remaining in Khumbu are divided into 12 subclans. Both the population and the growth of the monasteries took a dramatic upturn soon after that time. The Sherpas belong to the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which was founded by the revered Guru Rimpoche who was legendarily born of a lotus in the middle of a lake. There are several monasteries in the park, the most important being Tengpoche.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Created a national park on 19 July 1976 and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation