The Himalayas comprise the most dominating geographical feature of India. No other mountain range anywhere in world has affected the life of people and shaped the destiny of a nation as the Himalayas have in respect of India. The following few points will bring out the significance of the Himalayan Mountains to India.
1. Climatic Influence:
The Himalayas play a very significant role in influencing the climate of India. By virtue of their high altitude, length and direction, they effectively intercept the summer monsoons coming from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and cause precipitation in the form of rain or snow. Besides, they prevent the cold continental air masses of central Asia from entering into India.
The Himalayas have been protecting India from outside invaders since the early times thus serving as a defence barrier. But the Chinese aggression on India in October, 1962 has reduced the defence significance of the Himalayas to a considerable extent. In spite of advancement in modem warfare technology, the defence significance of the Himalayas cannot be ignored altogether.
3. Source of Rivers:
Almost all the great rivers of India have their sources in the Himalayan ranges. Abundant rainfall and vast snow-fields as well as large glaciers are the feeding grounds of the mighty rivers of India. Snow melt in summer provides water to these rivers even during dry season and these are perennial rivers. The Himalayan Rivers, along with hundreds of their tributaries, form the very basis of life in the whole of north India.
4. Fertile Soil:
The great rivers and their tributaries carry enormous quantities of alluvium while descending from the Himalayas. This is deposited in the Great Plain of North India in the form of fertile soil, making the plain one of the most fertile lands of the world.
The Himalayan region offers several sites which can be used for producing hydroelectricity. There are natural waterfalls at certain places while dams can be constructed across rivers at some other places. The vast power potential of the Himalayan Rivers still awaits proper utilisation.
6. Forest Wealth:
The Himalayan ranges are very rich in forest resources. In their altitude, the Himalayan ranges show a succession of vegetal cover from the tropical to the Alpine. The Himalayan forests provide fuel wood and a large variety of raw materials for forest based industries. Besides many medicinal plants grow in the Himalayan region. Several patches are covered with grass offering rich pastures for grazing animals.
The Himalayas do not offer extensive flat lands for agriculture but some of the slopes are terraced for cultivation. Rice is the main crop on the terraced slopes. The other crops are wheat, maize, potatoes, tobacco and ginger. Tea is a unique crop which can be grown on the hill slopes only. A wide variety of fruits such as apples, pears, grapes, mulberry, walnut, cherries, peaches, apricot, etc. are also grown in the Himalayan region.
By virtue of their scenic beauty and healthy environment, the Himalayan ranges have developed a large number of tourist spots. The hilly areas in the Himalayas offer cool and comfortable climate when the neighbouring plains are reeling under the scorching heat of the summer season.
Apart from places of tourist’s interest, the Himalayas are proud of being studded with sanctified shrines which are considered to be the abodes of the Gods. Large number of pilgrims trek through difficult terrain to pay their reverence to these sacred shrines. Kailas, Amarnath, Badrinath, Kedamath, Vaishnu Devi, Jwalaji, Uttarkashi, Gangotri, Yamunotri, etc. are important places of pilgrimage.
The Himalayan region contains many valuable minerals. There are vast potentialities of mineral oil in the tertiary rocks. Coal is found in Kashmir. Copper, lead, zinc, nickel, cobalt, antimony, tungsten, gold, silver, limestone, semi-precious and precious stones, gypsum and magnesite are known to occur at more than 100 localities in the Himalayas
Ladakh was relatively inaccessible in the past. Ladakh lakes such as Tsomoriri, Tsokar and Pangong Tso were protected with only the Changpas or the Ladakhian shepherds visiting them. Now it is open for the foreign and Indian tourists. It seems that the habitat of the migratory birds have been disturbed due to this. These wetlands are believed to be the most important breeding site for waterfowl in Ladakh and are the only breeding ground of the bar-headed geese in India. Even the globally threatened black-necked crane finds a home here. In addition, this region also supports some of the most endangered species of mammals such as kiang, snow leopard, lynx, Himalayan blue sheep and more. In view of the extreme fragility of the lake ecosystems and their under representation at the national and international level, conservation of these lakes needs to be addressed. Thus immediate steps need to be taken to conserve the Tsomoriri, Tsokar and Pangong Tso from the uncontrolled onslaught of tourism.
Now the question automatically arises is what can be done to provide sustainable employment to the village folk as well as save the forests from rapidly depleting? Well, foremost, perceiving the complexities of the hill is most essential. Two major aspects must be kept in mind before taking any measure for environmental conservation
Economic utilisation of forest products
Introducing suitable cash crops
Verifying, please be patient.