Uttarakhand, formerly Uttaranchal, became the 27th state of the Republic of India in November 2000. Carved out of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal mainly comprises the hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh. The state borders Himachal Pradesh in the north-west and Uttar Pradesh in the South, and has international borders with Nepal and China.
Literally North Country or Section in Sanskrit, the name of Uttarakhand finds mention in the early Hindu scriptures as the combined region of Kedarkhand (present day Garhwal) and Manaskhand (present day Kumaon). Uttarakhand was also the ancient Puranic term for the central stretch of the Indian Himalayas. It is well-known for the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots. The Pauravas, Kushanas, Kunindas, Guptas, Katyuris, Raikas, Palas, the Chands, and Parmaras or Panwars and the British have ruled Uttarakhand in turns.
Uttarakhand has a total geographic area of 51,125 km, of which 93% is mountainous and 64% is covered by forest. Most of the northern parts of the state are part of Greater Himalaya ranges, covered by the high Himalayan peaks and glaciers, while the lower foothills were densely forested till denuded by the British log merchants and later, after independence, by forest contractors. Recent efforts in reforestation, however, have been successful in restoring the situation to some extent. The unique Himalayan ecosystem plays host to a large number of animals (including bharal, snow leopards, leopards and tigers), plants and rare herbs. Two of India’s mightiest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna take birth in the glaciers of Uttarakhand, and are fed by myriad lakes, glacial melts and streams in the region.
Uttarakhand’s gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $6 billion in current prices. Born out of the division of Uttar Pradesh, the new state of Uttarakhand produces about 8% of the output of the old Uttar Pradesh state. In 2003, a new industrial policy for the state with generous tax benefits for investors was initiated that has led to a massive upsurge of capital investment. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal (sic) has established seven industrial estates in the southern periphery of the state, while dozens of hydroelectric dams are being built in the upper reaches. However, hill development remains an uphill challenge as out migration of local peoples continues from the highland hinterlands.
Flora and fauna
Indian National Parks in Uttarakhand include the Jim Corbett National Park (the oldest national park of India) at Ramnagar in Nainital District, Valley of Flowers National Park and Nanda Devi National Park in Chamoli District, which together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rajaji National Park in Haridwar District, and Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi District.