Himalaya: Dilemma of the terrain
The beauty of the Himalaya, the abode of eternal snow, has attracted explorers, adventurers, peace and nature lovers since times immemorial. The scenic beauty of the terrain, its biodiversity, and colorful people with their distinct cultural and ethnic identity has been highlighted both in literature and mythology. Himalaya represents the northern mountainous frontier of our nation and it stands testimony to the creative beauty of Mother Nature that gifted us with this majestic landscape out of the oceanic debris of Tethys Sea, in recent geological past.
Though young, Himalaya provided basic ingredients for the growth of rich and diverse cultures in its lap. Thriving in this terrain for quite long these created a distinct identity for their community that incorporates basic precepts of coexistence with nature with thorough understanding of the principles of ecological conservation. Economy, as also the religio-cultural life of these people traditionally revolved round the surrounding pristine forest and pastoralism; agriculture being confined mainly to the river valleys. The ongoing geo-tectonic movements together with isostatic adjustments along this young mountain chain are a cause of concern as these make this terrain prone to natural disasters and mass wastage. Anthropogenic interventions further aggravate the pace of these degradational processes.
The inhabitants, through experience and experimentation, learnt to overcome the handicap imposed upon them by the terrain and evolved the art of locating and exploiting subsurface waters and the habitations were built around these. The traditional acumen of the people is unparalleled even today. Exploiting the bounty of Mother Nature the people embarked upon an altogether new line of economic activity that was non-land based. Economic strength of these cultures is reflected in majestic structures that were supported by its surplus produce and even the common people owned these.
The culture of the Himalayan terrain set forth foundations of a strong system of resource management and evolved genetic craftsmanship for developing whole range of farm and animal species so well suited to the agro-climatic conditions and physiography of the region.
The self content inhabitants of this land were happily living in their heavens until the gates of their land were flung open and armed with the disparity in purchasing powers the new settlers acquired rights over the resources of this virgin land. A welfare state would have interfered at this stage to conserve the resources and rights of the natives, but the interests of many in power forced the state to stand testimony to this blatant exploitation. The natural resources of this terrain were thus plundered in a never before pace and the repercussions of these are reflected in enhanced frequency of natural disasters and high rates of mass wastage that the terrain experiences at present. Lately the inhabitants of the downstream plains have also started to experience the impact of these unplanned interventions in the mountains. With increasing contacts with the world outside the social fabric of the society loosened and this weakened the traditional and time-tested systems of resource management. With no viable alternatives the economy of the region was transformed into the one dependent upon outside remittances; the stage was thus set for the onset of the Era of Money Order Economy.
Once surplus producing economy of the region was thus transformed into the one dependent largely upon outside remittances. As a reaction to the changes taking place and in a bid to strengthen their economy and also to improve their quality of life the able-bodied personnel of the region resorted to out-migrate in search of jobs, so as to create surplus to be pumped into the cash starved economy of the region. Though well intentioned, this option further destabilized the economy and the region faced shortage of farming hands together with resource mismanagement, depleting fertility, increasing erosion, depleting water availability, increasing drudgery of the females. The reality is that the region faces severe dearth of working hands, brains, money, and youth. Serious and concentrated efforts are needed to reveres this trend that seems to have crept deep into the lives of the masses at grassroots level.