Land Use Change and Human Health in the Eastern Himalayas: An Adaptive Ecosystem Approach

Human health is essential for poverty reduction and human development. Health and health-related goals are included in six out of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals. Universal enjoyment of good health is acknowledged as a fundamental human right. However, human health is affected by the environment: the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 24 per cent of global human disease burden is caused by environmental factors. The last few centuries have witnessed dramatic environmental changes that include, but are not limited to, climate changes. These changes not only lead to the degradation of ecosystem services, but also pose new threats to human health. Among others things, change in land use is a prominent environmental change occurring in many parts of the world.

Driven by political, socioeconomic, demographic, and technical factors, the Himalayan region has witnessed massive land use changes over the last few decades. This has long-term implications for biodiversity, environmental sustainability, and human health. However, vital linkages between land use change and human health are poorly understood, documented, or studied in this region.


Supported by IDRC, ICIMOD conducted action research using an ecohealth approach to understand the linkages between land use change and human health in the eastern Himalayas. The project had a one-year preparatory phase and is currently being in the second phase. It had the following general objectives

  • To generate knowledge on how land use has changed, such as sedentarization of nomads, agricultural intensification and modernization, effects on ecosystem services and human health, and how to improve health and environmental sustainability in the eastern Himalayas through sound research that employs an ecohealth approach
  • To promote the application of research findings and ecohealth approaches in the eastern Himalayas through policy advocacy, dissemination of research findings, and other activities such as capacity building of project site teams and other related partners


Phase II: February 2008 – February 2011 (Extended till 31 August 2011) 
Prepatory Phase: February 2006 – June 2007

Geographical coverage

China: Nierong County,Tibet Autonomous Region; Yuanmou County, Yunnan Province
Nepal: Gorkha and Tanahun districts

The three sites were carefully selected to represent different ecological, geographic, cultural and socioeconomic locations in the eastern Himalayas. Gorkha and Tanahun districts of Nepal are samples of sub-tropical, mid-hill areas where indigenous people (mainly Chepang) practise shifting cultivation. Nierong County represents the high altitude alpine pasture, where nomads and pastoralist live; and Yuanmou County represents a dry hot valley, where farmers have practised permanent agriculture for centuries.

Core financial partners/development partners/sponsors

IDRC, Canada
Partnership for Community Development (PCD), Hong Kong

ICIMOD is seeking funding to scale up the project to other regional member countries.

Implementing partners

China: Tibetan Academy of Agriculture and Animal Sciences (TAAAS); Tibet University, Tibet Traditional Medicine Institute (TTMI); Kunming Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KIB); Institute for Health and Development Studies and the Faculty of Public Health, Kunming Medical College
Nepal: Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), and the Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University

Contact information

Fang Jing
Integrated Water and Hazard Management (IWHM)

Hari Krishna Nibanupudi
Action Area Team Leader
Disaster Risk Reduction