Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA)

The Beginning
‘In the 21st century humankind will increasingly depend on mountain resources such as water, bio-diversity, and recreation’ - Arnold Koller, Chairman of the Board of the Forum of Federations
The establishment of Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA) dates back to October, 1981 when it was initiated by a group of persons deeply concerned with a widespread forest degradation  and unsustainable development in Himalayas. The society was founded on October 2, 1981, the day celebrated in India as the birthday of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. It was registered as a not-for-profit autonomous body in May 1982, full ten years before the Rio Earth Summit in which for the first time the importance of the mountain socio- ecological systems was recognized. Several of the founders of CHEA had a strong university background. Most of the fellows of Indian Academy of Science hailing from Himalayas had connections with CHEA.
CHEA is one of the earliest societies founded in Northern India with core concern for the environmentally sustainable development of Himalayas. Since its inception, CHEA has taken up several mountain issues, engaged in action-research and scores of livelihood-related projects, and in so doing, has helped to create conditions that enable local communities to manage natural resources and benefit from them sustainably. While academic content was always strong in CHEA, initiatives for sustainable development and grassroots level activities were always in for front.

The Vision
Prosperous and secure mountain communities ensured of peace, equity, and environmentally sustainable development.

The Problem
There is a lack of appreciation at national and global levels for the contributions of the ecosystem services flowing from Himalayas to the population supporting capacities of connected river basins. Conflicts over resource management combined with poorly thought out developmental policies pose a major threat to biodiversity and environment in the Himalayan region. The lack of environment-oriented regional planning and appropriate developmental instruments can lead to ecologically damaging economic growth. The developmental issues have become far more complex than in the past due to global climate change and high vulnerability of the young and rising Himalayan Mountains to its impact. Scarcity of data on Himalayas particularly limits capacities developmental agencies to take informed decisions.

Our Mission
Our aim is to integrate rural livelihood and sustainable conservation practices to reduce the environmental, economic, and social vulnerability of the mountain people. In cooperation with regional and international partners, we aim to develop and provide integrated and innovative solutions that foster direct action and guide policy change in the direction towards benefiting Mountain People and their environment. Called on the third pole, Himalayas and associated mountain regions have more glaciers and snow than any other region, outside the two poles. We realize that being a principal source of water to over 1 billion people living in connected river basins, Himalayas are very vulnerable to climate change, and that there is a need to incorporate changing climate  factor to ensure climate compatible development.

Our Area of Activities
CHEA operates in the Indian Himalayan Region and the adjacent downstream areas. It focuses particularly on Uttarakhand for conducting detailed environmental and developmental studies and activities. However, its learning processes give importance to experiential learning from other Himalayan regions as well. CHEA is veritably aware of learning by analyzing patterns across various Himalayan regions and countries.  

Key Objectives

  • To create love and respect for the Himalayas and for Nature, and generate Environmental Consciousness among people to motivate them to preserve, protect, improve, and defend their great natural heritage.
  • To propagate environmental and ecological knowledge on Himalayan region and their connection with river basins, where live more than a billion people.
  • To promote practical, useful, innovative, and above all, low cost appropriate technologies.
  • To contribute to the capacity building of youth, both researcher and developmental professionals and those working at community levels.
  • To undertake interventions that reduces women drudgery in rural mountain areas and consequently enables their participation in development.
  • To undertake activities which address the problems of global climate change in the region. The idea is to improve the capacity of local communities and developmental functionaries with regard to mitigation and adaptation strategies.
  • To develop knowledge and its dissemination by strengthening stakeholder networks that contributes to informed policy decision at sub-national and national levels.

Thematic Action Groups
CHEA has concentrated and consolidated its initiatives and interventions under the following four Thematic Action Groups:

  1. Climate change, with specific reference to Mountain and Adaptation and Mitigation Interventions.
  2. Rural livelihood initiatives in Mountain regions for reducing Rural Poverty, specifically with interventions related to livelihood-based management of natural resources.
  3. Art, culture, and handicrafts promotion in the mountains. The focus here is primarily on products made from natural resources, supported by the development of a biomass base.
  4. Research and documentation of the mountains and regional best practices to facilitate the process of informed policy decision making at multiple levels of sub national and national levels.

CHEA's Two- pronged Strategy
CHEA follows a two- pronged strategy in its programmes and activities. The first one focuses on working in partnership with local mountain communities and grassroots environmental governance institutes, such as Van Panchayats, addressing the issues of last of indigenous people, such as 'Van Raji' and the socially-economically deprived groups, such as bamboo artisans by applying  innovative solutions.  While doing so we give importance to the issues of livelihood, energy and water and sustainable resource management. In this regard the management of spring sanctuary, sustainable use of biodiversity and interventions that contribute to fodder development and reduction of women drudgery are some of the principal programmes.
In the second approach, we make efforts to create a common forum for facilitating interactions and experience sharing among the states and communities located in mountains, thus reducing their isolation and promoting informed policy decision making. Towards this some of the important steps are the launching of Indian Mountain Initiative in 2011, establishing a research journal for the mountain region and building research capacities of youth across the Indian Himalayan Region and participating in transboundary research programmes.

CHEA’s university connections
A majority of CHEA’s founders had come from universities, and several key office bearers of CHEA served universities as head of the departments and vice chancellors. Experts with forestry, ecology and agriculture backgrounds particularly contributed to its structure and programmes. ‘The environmental regeneration of Himalayas”, a seminar which CHEA organized way back in 1983, must have been among the first such activities in the region.

A strong university and community connections greatly influenced CHEA’s functioning. That is why CHEA could help village people to measure carbon of their forests, and now CHEA is coordinating a Himalayan timberline project, involving seven important Himalayas-specific institutions.

The Emblem     
Our emblem emphasises that Himalayas have more snow and ice than any other region outside the polar caps and is a major centre of evergreen Oaks, (Quercus spp.). The significant Oak forests in the Himalayas are associated with water and biodiversity related ecosystem services and are the axiom to life supporting systems.

Partners and Supporters
CHEA is indebted to the Ford Foundation for its initial support. It also values the continued support of the Indian Philanthropy Trusts, such as the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Tata Social Welfare Trust; regional intergovernmental organizations, such as the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and National Agriculture Bank for Rural Development (NABARD), the Government of India and state governments of Indian Himalayan Region; International Development Cooperation including the German International Cooperation (GIZ), and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). Voluntary contributions from its life members, interns, and the community have been the key driving force of the organisation.   

MoU, Accreditation and Legal Status

  • CHEA is accredited as Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (SIRO), by Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India.
  • Member of Mountain Partnership, based at Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • Founding Member of Himalayan River Alliance (HRA), a South Asian Alliance dedicated to working towards livelihood and environmental issues of Ganga and Brahamputra River Basin.
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Department of Forest and Environment Science, Kumaon University, Nainital for collaborated action research.
  • MoU with G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, Almora for collaborative action having Lab-to-Land approach.
  • Registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act of 1860.
  • Authorized to receive foreign contributions as per the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 1976, and have tax exemption under Sections 12A and 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961.


Here to find us
Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA)
06 Waldorf Compound, Mallital, Nainital, 263 001, Uttarakhand, India
Telefax: (91) 05942-233099
Email: cheaindia@gmail.com, office@cheaindia.org      
Web: www.cheaindia.org