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Priority Environmental Problems of Himalaya



Geo-dynamically active and ecologically sensitive Himalaya, apart from having the inherent environmental problems of natural occurrence such as, earthquakes, landslides, soil erosion and flash floods is confronted with a range of other problems of anthropogenic origin. They include accelerated soil erosion, rain water runoff, increasing incidence of landslides, siltation and pollution of water bodies, drying up of springs, deforestation and degradation of forests, scarcity of fodder and fuel wood, overgrazing , forest fires, alterations in wildlife habitats and wildlife attacks, low crop yield, increasing wastelands and invasion of alien weeds, eroding biodiversity, shifting cultivation, etc. Most of these problems are interconnected and one problem gives rise to another in a positive feedback manner.

The increasing shortage of basic resources such as, viable cropland size, forests to sustain livestock, water for irrigation and drinking, marginal and rain fed holdings on difficult terrain, low soil fertility and low crop production, vagaries of climate and lack of infrastructure and market for processing and sale of on-farm and off-farm produce make it difficult to sustain the livelihood of the rural people. These factors, coupled with other human needs and aspirations such as, better education and health facilities, job opportunities, etc., compel people to migrate and find out other mode of livelihood in the urban areas of the country.

The aforementioned vicious cycle of degradation of natural resources, poverty and out migration add to the fragility to the Himalayan ecosystem. The once rich heritage of management common property recourses (e.g., forests and water) has crumbled and the invaluable indigenous knowledge on livelihood sustenance is dwindling. The expansion of regional townships, turning the prime land for construction is another major concern that has intensified the struggle for land, water and other civic amenities. Establishment of industries and seasonal tourism has added to the new dimensions of air, water and noise pollution in some of areas. 

In this region of high ecological and social heterogeneity the task is challenging and demands high interdisciplinary skills and vision to integrate different scientific disciplines that safeguards the environmental concerns and at the same time addresses the socio-economic development of the inhabitants. Therefore, development actions distinct from other regions of the country are the need of the hour.

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