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India needs to rethink about the Himalayas

  • Published
    11th Jan, 2023

The recent disaster came in the Zone V region of the Joshimath area, the sinking made many people homeless and India needs to rethink the safety and sustainability of local people in the Himalayan region.


  • The Himalayas are ecologically fragile and economically underdeveloped, with geo-environmental constraints imposing severe limitations on the level of resource productivity.
  • Consequently, subsistence agriculture constitutes the main source of livelihood in the region.
  • The rapid growth of tourists in the region has brought about extensive land-use changes in the region, mainly through the extension of cultivation and large-scale deforestation.
  • This irrational land transformation process has not only disrupted the ecological balance of the Himalayan watersheds through reduced groundwater recharge, increased run-off and soil erosion, but has also adversely affected the ecology and economy of the adjoining Indo-Gangetic plains by recurrent floods and decreased irrigation potential.

The Himalayas:

  • The Himalayas span five countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal, China and Pakistan.
  • It covers 2,500 km running west-northwest to east-southeast in an arc.
  • The Himalayan range is bordered
  • on the northwest by the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush ranges
  • on the north by the Tibetan Plateau
  • on the south by the Indo-Gangetic Plain
  • Some of the world’s major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Tsangpo–Brahmaputra, rise in the vicinity of the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 600 million people with 53 million people living in the Himalayan regions.
  • The Himalayan mountain ranges contain 60,000 km² of ice – storing more water than only the Arctic and Antarctic.

Why Himalayan region is susceptible to disasters?

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is prone to numerous types of disasters because of its

  • Steep terrain
  • fragile geology
  • intense and variable precipitation
  • Common incidents of floods and landslides
  • neo-tectonic mountain-building processes, like earthquakes, landslides, floods, etc
  • Other factors:
    • Overexploitation of the ecosystem(tourism, increased consumerism)
    • Exploitative development projects: The indiscriminate exploitation of the fragile Himalayan region in the name of development projects has extracted a heavy price in terms of environmental damage. 
    • Fragmentation of natural resources: A string of hydroelectric and road projects in the Himalayan States have already resulted in the fragmentation of natural systems. 

Sustainable tourism in the Himalayas: Recommendations

  • Regulated tourism practice: There is a need to establish regulated tourism practices with the promotion of sustainable agendas for the Indian Himalayan region (IHR).
  • Also, there is a need for the maintenance of proper tourist capacity in every tourist place.
  • Vigilance and patrolling: Protected areas require vigilance and regular patrolling to reduce unwanted wildlife-tourist interaction as well as habitat destruction due to off-road driving and encroachment.
  • Early Warning System: It is important to have early warning and better weather forecast systems in order to forecast the disaster and alert the local population and tourists.
  • Regional Cooperation: There is a need for a transboundary coalition of Himalayan countries to share and disseminate knowledge about the mountains and the preservation of the ecology there.
  • Area-Specific Sustainable Plan: What is most critical is to review the area’s present status and draw up a sustainable plan that respects the specific requirements of this fragile region and the impact of the climate crisis.
  • Promote Ecotourism: Initiating a dialogue on the adverse impacts of commercial tourism and promoting ecotourism.

Recent disasters in the region:

  • In the last ten years, two major earthquakes have occurred in Uttaranchal namely the Uttarkashi earthquake (1991) and the Chamoli earthquake (1999).
  • 380 people were killed when massive landslides washed away the whole village of Malpa, Uttaranchal (then Uttar Pradesh) in 1998.
  • In 1999, forest fires in the hills of Uttaranchal destroyed more than 3, 75,000 hectares of forest. The same year, more than 450 cases of forest fire were reported in Himachal Pradesh and by May 1999, more than 80,000 hectares of forests were turned to ashes.
  • The Kedarnath floods in 2013, had taken the lives of several innocent people and disaster in the region.
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