Sunday, May 28, 2023

Khangchendzonga National Park

Khangchendzonga National Park UPSC

Khangchendzonga National Park, also known as Kanchenjunga National Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Park cum Biosphere Reserve located in the Indian state of Sikkim. 


It is named after Mount Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world and a sacred mountain in local Bhutia and Lepcha communities.


Table of Contents

  • Khangchendzonga National Park Location
  • Khangchendzonga National Park History
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Area
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Hills
    • Khangchendzonga Range
    • Singalila Range
    • Goecha La
    • Tendong Hill
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Glacier
    • Zemu Glacier
    • Talung Glacier
    • Rathong Glacier
  • Khangchendzonga National Park River
    • Teesta River
    • Rathong Chu River
    • Prek Chu River
    • Talung River
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Lake
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Tribe
    • Bhutia
    • Lepcha
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Flora
    • Rhododendrons
    • Coniferous Trees
    • Medicinal Plants
    • Orchids
    • Alpine Meadows
    • Mosses and Lichens
  • Khangchendzonga National Park Fauna
    • Mammals
    • Birds
    • Butterfly
    • Reptiles
  • Top Things to do in Khangchendzonga National Park
  • Tholung Monastery
  • Khangchendzonga National Park UPSC Questions


Khangchendzonga National Park Location

Khangchendzonga National Park is located in the Mangan district and Gyalshing district in the Indian state of Sikkim. It is situated in the eastern Himalayas, bordering Nepal to the west and Tibet to the north.


The park has an elevation of 1,829 m (6,001 ft) to over 8,550 m (28,050 ft). It is one of the few high-altitude National parks of India.


In the north it adjoins the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve in Tibet, and in the west the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area in Nepal.


Khangchendzonga National Park Nearest Airport:

  • Bagdogra Airport, Darjeeling district, West Bengal (222 km)


Khangchendzonga National Park Nearest Railway Station:

  • New Jalpaiguri, Siliguri Junction (221 km)




Khangchendzonga National Park History

Khangchendzonga National Park has a rich history that spans both natural and human aspects. Here are some key points about the history of Khangchendzonga National Park:


Ancient History: The region around Khangchendzonga National Park has a long history of human habitation. Indigenous communities, such as the Bhutia and Lepcha, have lived in the area for centuries and have a deep cultural connection with the mountains and the surrounding landscapes.


Formation of the Park: Khangchendzonga National Park was established as a protected area in 1977, primarily to conserve the unique ecosystems and the rich biodiversity of the region. The park was initially known as Kanchenjunga National Park but was later renamed Khangchendzonga National Park to reflect the local pronunciation and spelling of the mountain's name.


Biosphere Reserve: In 2000, it was declared a biosphere reserve by Indian government.


UNESCO World Heritage Site: In 2016, Khangchendzonga National Park's core zone was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the "mixed" category (first from India in this category), recognizing its outstanding universal value. The park's natural beauty, diverse flora and fauna, and cultural significance contributed to its inclusion on the prestigious list.


Note- Mixed heritage sites contain elements of both natural and cultural significance.


UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: In 2018, the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve was included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserve. Khangchendzonga National Park has become the 11th Biosphere Reserve from India that has been included in the UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves.




Khangchendzonga National Park Area

Khangchendzonga National Park covers an area of approximately 178,400 hectare or 1,784 square kilometers (688 square miles). 


The Khangchendzonga National Park area encompasses 25% of the state of Sikkim and is one of India’s most significant biodiversity hotspots. The park area comprises a unique diversity of lowlands, steep-sided valleys and spectacular snow-clad mountains including the world’s third highest peak, Mt. Khangchendzonga.


The Khangchendzonga National Park forms the core area of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve which was declared as India’s first ‘Mixed World Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 2016.




Khangchendzonga National Park Hills

Khangchendzonga National Park is primarily located in the eastern Himalayas and encompasses various hills and mountainous terrain within its boundaries. 


Here are some notable hills and mountain ranges found within or near Khangchendzonga National Park:


(1) Khangchendzonga Range:

The park is named after the Khangchendzonga Range, which is part of the greater Himalayan mountain system. Mount Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world, with an elevation of 8,586 meters (28,169 feet), is the most prominent feature in the range. The Khangchendzonga Range includes several other peaks, such as Kabru, Simvo, and Pandim.


(2) Singalila Range: 

Located in the southwestern part of the park, the Singalila Range forms a natural border between India and Nepal. It offers stunning views of the Himalayas, including the peaks of Khangchendzonga, Everest, and Makalu. The famous Sandakphu Trek, a popular trekking route, runs along the Singalila Range.


(3) Goecha La: 

Goecha La is a high mountain pass situated within Khangchendzonga National Park. It is located in the southeast part of the park and offers panoramic views of Mount Khangchendzonga and its surrounding peaks. The Goecha La Trek is a challenging and rewarding trekking route that leads to this mountain pass.


(4) Tendong Hill:

Although not directly within the boundaries of Khangchendzonga National Park, Tendong Hill is a significant hill located near the park. It is situated in South Sikkim and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes, including Mount Khangchendzonga and the Teesta River valley.




Khangchendzonga National Park Glacier

Khangchendzonga National Park is home to several glaciers, given its location in the eastern Himalayas. Glaciers are large bodies of ice that form from compacted snow over an extended period. They play a crucial role in maintaining the park's hydrological system and provide a source of freshwater for rivers and streams in the region. 


Here are a few notable glaciers found within or near Khangchendzonga National Park:


(1) Zemu Glacier:

Zemu Glacier is the largest glacier in Sikkim and one of the main attractions within Khangchendzonga National Park. It originates from the eastern slopes of Mount Khangchendzonga and extends for approximately 26 kilometers (16 miles). The glacier is surrounded by spectacular peaks and is the source of the Teesta River, one of the major rivers in the region.


(2) Talung Glacier: 

Talung Glacier is another significant glacier located within the boundaries of Khangchendzonga National Park. It is situated in the southeast part of the park and is a prominent feature along the Goecha La Trek. The glacier adds to the scenic beauty of the trekking route and contributes to the overall glacial landscape of the park.


(3) Rathong Glacier: 

Rathong Glacier is located near the Rathong Valley in the western part of Khangchendzonga National Park. It is a relatively smaller glacier compared to Zemu Glacier and Talung Glacier but still contributes to the park's glacial ecosystem. The Rathong Glacier is a source of the Rathong Chu River, which eventually joins the Teesta River.


These glaciers, along with others in the region, are important indicators of the park's glacial and alpine environments. They provide habitat for specialized flora and fauna, contribute to the local water cycle, and offer breathtaking views to visitors exploring Khangchendzonga National Park.




Khangchendzonga National Park River

Khangchendzonga National Park is blessed with several rivers and streams that flow through its diverse landscapes. These rivers not only contribute to the park's natural beauty but also play a vital role in sustaining the local ecosystem. 


Here are some notable rivers that flow through or near Khangchendzonga National Park:


(1) Teesta River: 

The Teesta River is one of the major rivers in the region and has its origins in the eastern slopes of Mount Khangchendzonga. It flows through the park and forms a significant portion of its eastern boundary. The Teesta River is known for its pristine waters and scenic beauty. It is also an important source of hydroelectric power and provides irrigation for agricultural purposes in the surrounding areas.


  • Teesta River is a 414 km (257 mi) long river.
  • It originate from Teesta Khangtse Glacier, west of Pauhunri Mountain of eastern Himalayas.
  • It flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal and subsequently enters Bangladesh through Rangpur division. 
  • In Bangladesh, it falls into Brahmaputra River.
  • Its drains an area of 12,540 km2 (4,840 sq mi)


(2) Rathong Chu River: 

Rathong Chu is a tributary of the Rangeet River, which, in turn, is a major tributary of the Teesta River. The Rathong Chu River originates from the Rathong Glacier in the western part of Khangchendzonga National Park. It flows through the park, adding to the park's overall hydrological system.


(3) Prek Chu River: 

Prek Chu is another significant river that flows through Khangchendzonga National Park. It originates from the glaciers and snowfields in the northern part of the park and joins the Teesta River near the town of Mangan. The Prek Chu River provides water for agriculture, drinking, and other human activities in the region.


(4) Talung River:

Talung River originate from Talung Glacier and flow through the park.




Khangchendzonga National Park Lake

Khangchendzonga National Park is not known for any prominent lakes within its boundaries. However, the park does have some smaller glacial lakes and high-altitude lakes that contribute to its scenic beauty. These lakes are usually located at higher elevations and are often formed by the melting of glaciers or snowfields. 


There are about 73 glacial lakes in the Khangchendzonga National Park including over 18 crystal clear and placid high altitude lakes.




Khangchendzonga National Park Tribe

Khangchendzonga National Park is home to various indigenous communities and tribes, particularly the Bhutia and Lepcha people. These communities have a long history of inhabiting the region and have deep cultural and historical connections to the park and its surroundings.


(1) Bhutia: 

The Bhutia community is one of the prominent indigenous groups in Sikkim and other parts of the eastern Himalayas. They have a rich cultural heritage and are known for their traditional attire, language, and religious practices. The Bhutia people have a close association with Mount Khangchendzonga, considering it sacred and a symbol of their identity.


(2) Lepcha: 

The Lepcha community is another indigenous group native to the region around Khangchendzonga National Park. The Lepchas have a distinct language, culture, and spiritual beliefs deeply rooted in their natural surroundings. They have a strong reverence for the mountains, rivers, and forests of the area and have a rich knowledge of the local flora and fauna.


The indigenous religious and cultural practices of the Lepcha with regard to the ecology and the specific properties of local plants, stands as an example of traditional knowledge and environmental preservation.



Both the Bhutia and Lepcha communities have traditionally practiced agro-pastoralism, with agriculture, animal husbandry, and traditional trades being integral to their livelihoods. They have a close relationship with the land and have contributed to the conservation and preservation of the natural and cultural heritage of Khangchendzonga National Park.




Khangchendzonga National Park Flora

Khangchendzonga National Park is renowned for its diverse and unique flora, thanks to its varying elevations, climatic conditions, and ecological zones. The park is home to a wide range of plant species, including alpine, sub-alpine, temperate, and subtropical vegetation. 


Here are some notable examples of the flora found within Khangchendzonga National Park:


(1) Rhododendrons: 

The park is famous for its vibrant rhododendron forests, especially during the spring season when these flowers bloom in various colors. Several species of rhododendrons, including Rhododendron niveum, Rhododendron arboreum, and Rhododendron campanulatum, can be found in the park.


(2) Coniferous Trees: 

Khangchendzonga National Park is adorned with beautiful coniferous forests. Species such as the Himalayan pine (Pinus wallichiana), blue pine (Pinus excelsa), spruce (Picea sp.), and fir (Abies sp.) are common in the park's higher regions.


(3) Medicinal Plants: 

The park is home to a variety of medicinal plants that are significant to the local communities. Herbs like Aconitum ferox (Indian aconite), Rheum australe (Himalayan rhubarb), and Swertia chirayita (chirata) are found in the park and have been traditionally used for their medicinal properties.


(4) Orchids: 

Khangchendzonga National Park is known for its rich orchid diversity, with over 450 species of orchids recorded in the region. These delicate and beautiful flowers add to the park's floral diversity and include species like Cymbidium elegans, Coelogyne cristata, and Dendrobium densiflorum.


(5) Alpine Meadows: 

As the elevation increases, the park transforms into alpine meadows, known as "Bugyals" locally. These meadows are characterized by a carpet of grasses, sedges, and various flowering plants. They provide a grazing ground for yaks and support a unique alpine ecosystem.


(6) Mosses and Lichens: 

The park's moist and cool climatic conditions contribute to the growth of abundant mosses and lichens. These organisms can be found on rocks, trees, and forest floors, adding to the overall biodiversity of the park. 114 species of lichen have been found in the National Park.




Khangchendzonga National Park Fauna (Khangchendzonga National Park Animals)

Khangchendzonga National Park is known for its rich and diverse fauna, including a wide range of mammal, bird, reptile, and insect species. The park's varied habitats, from dense forests to high-altitude alpine regions, provide a suitable environment for a diverse array of wildlife. 


Here are some notable examples of the fauna found within Khangchendzonga National Park:


Mammals:

  • Indian Leopard
  • Clouded Leopard
  • Snow Leopard
  • Jungle Cat
  • Golden Cat
  • Leopard Cat
  • Musk Deer 
  • Himalayan Tahr
  • Dhole
  • Sloth Bear
  • Viverrids
  • Himalayan Black Bear
  • Red Panda
  • Tibetan Wild Ass
  • Himalayan Blue Sheep
  • Mainland Serow
  • Goral
  • Jackal
  • Tibetan Wolf
  • Large Indian Civet
  • Parti-coloured Flying Squirrel


Birds:

  • Blood Pheasant
  • Satyr Tragopan
  • Osprey
  • Himalayan Griffon
  • Lammergeier
  • Western Tragopan
  • Green Pigeon
  • Tibetan Snowcock
  • Snow Pigeon
  • Impeyan Pheasant
  • Asian Emerald Cuckoo
  • Sunbird
  • Eagle
  • Himalayan Thrush 


Butterfly:

Approximately 650 species of butterfly can be found in the state and a major part of them have been tracked in Khangchendzonga as well.


Reptiles:

  • Rat Snake
  • Russell's Viper.
  • Himalayan Newt 
  • Himalayan Pit Viper




Top Things to do in Khangchendzonga National Park

Khangchendzonga National Park offers a range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural heritage. 


Here are some of the top things to do in Khangchendzonga National Park:


  • Trekking
  • Wildlife Spotting
  • Cultural Immersion
  • Photography
  • Visit Sacred Sites
  • Enjoy Scenic Drives
  • Camping and Nature Walks
  • Visit Glacial Lakes
  • Visit Tholung Monastery




Tholung Monastery

The Tholung Monastery, one of the most sacred monasteries of Sikkim is situated inside the Khangchendzonga National Park. It is a World Heritage property. It is located in the park's buffer zone. It is considered one of the most sacred monasteries in Sikkim.


Tholung Monastery is a prominent and historic monastery that holds significance for both religious and cultural reasons. The monastery is known for its architectural beauty and intricate Buddhist artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and murals.


Tholung Monastery is associated with the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is believed to have been founded in the early 18th century. It serves as a place of worship, learning, and meditation for Buddhist monks and followers. The monastery also hosts religious festivals and ceremonies, attracting visitors and devotees from different parts of Sikkim and beyond.




Khangchendzonga National Park UPSC Questions

Q. Khangchendzonga National Park is famous for which animal?

A. Khangchendzonga National Park is particularly famous for being one of the prime habitats of the elusive and endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia). 


Q. Where is Khangchendzonga National Park?

A. Khangchendzonga National Park is located in the Mangan district and Gyalshing district in the Indian state of Sikkim.


Q. The Khangchendzonga National Park is located in which state of India?

A. Khangchendzonga National Park is located in Indian state of Sikkim.


Q. On which river is Khangchendzonga National Park?

A. Teesta River, Rathong Chu River, Prek Chu River and Talung River.

Khangchendzonga National Park

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