Saturday, June 29, 2013

Himalayas: the agenda for development and environment

Himalayas: the agenda for development and environment

Author(s): Sunita Narain @sunitanar
Date:Jun 28, 2013

The recent events in Uttarakhand have shown, more than ever, that we need a development strategy for the Himalayas that takes into account the vulnerability of the region and the need for environment protection. There is no doubt that the region needs economic growth. But this development cannot come at the cost of the environment. It will only make the already risk-prone and ecologically fragile region more vulnerable and development more “deadly”. We also know that climate change will exacerbate the vulnerability of this already fragile ecosystem 


The question is what should be the development strategy for this region? Most importantly, we need to think about a pan-Himalayan strategy so that states can evolve common policies and not follow the race to the bottom. 

It is also clear that these strategies will have to be based on the region’s natural resources—forests, water, biodiversity, organic and speciality foods, nature tourism—but will need to address the specific threats so that growth does not come at the cost of the environment. Let's explore the different sectors and the questions that need to be discussed and resolved.

1. The Himalayan states must build a viable and sustainable forest-based economy. Can they use forests for development? Can they value ecosystem services of forests so that protection is valued?

The Himalayas have seen two distinct phases of its rich forest resources. The first phase was the extraction of forests for “development”, which led to widespread deforestation in the region and increased vulnerability to landslides as well as deprivation among people dependent on forests for their basic survival. These concerns led to the first directive against green felling—the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act in the 1980s and the subsequent directives of the Supreme Court to check forest-based industry in the Himalayan states, particularly the Northeast. But these actions, however important, have not considered how forests can be used to contribute to the economy of the region. State revenue from forests has declined. Local anger against forest departments has increased. Clearly, we need a different development strategy, which is based on the use of the region’s important resource for development and local livelihood security.

Instead, what we are seeing is that large tracts of forests are being diverted for hydropower and road projects, without focus on compensatory afforestation.

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Comment by Anumakonda Jagadeesh

Excellent article Madam on the need for a agenda for development and environment. Himalayan region is our great heritage. We need to protect it for the future generations. In the name of development(shortsighted like SEZ) the environment can't be put to ransom.

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