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MOUNTAINS THAT SUSTAIN MILLIONS

Focus: GS-II Geography, GS-I Indian Society

Introduction

  • The Himalayas region is among the 36 world biodiversity hotspots and encompasses 240 million people.
  • The mountains are the most resilient; yet, ironically, their inhabitants are vulnerable.
  • With few livelihood options, forests form an essential life support system for the locals.
  • However, dwindling natural resources, unsustainable agricultural practices, lack of basic amenities and so on create a challenge for local sustenance.
  • Demographic shifts, weak institutional capacity, poor infrastructure, and a paucity of adequate information on mountain-specific climate change pose challenges to capacity-building in the region.

The Current Situation

  • Studies have revealed low food availability and decreased self-sufficiency owing to the combined pressures of increasing wildlife attacks on crops and livestock and persistent youth out-migration.
  • An increase in male out-migration has put the brunt of household responsibility on the women and the elderly, who tend to focus more labour on livestock production, often to the neglect of crop agriculture, further rendering the land unproductive and prone to wildlife foraging.
  • Lack of irrigation sources and drying up of local gadhera (small river tributaries), dhara (spring), naula (aquifer) etc., amidst uneven precipitation and erratic rainfall have added to the water woes of the hills.
  • With traditional crops being replaced by cash crops, agro-biodiversity of the region has declined and dietary patterns have altered.
  • This has increased nutritional insecurity, and undermined long-term agricultural sustainability in the region.

Way Forward – Role of the Policymakers

  1. Mountain-specific policies to strengthen livelihood opportunities based on both farm and non-farm activities should be developed.
  2. Organic farming methods like use of biopesticides and botanicals and bio-composting should be promoted.
  3. Local food systems need to be revived and niche products of the mountain need to be developed.
  4. Marketing systems and infrastructure need to be strengthened.
  5. Healthy livestock management practices should be explored and the potential of medicinal plants harnessed.
  6. Region-specific water security and cleaner energy solutions should be sought by bringing key stakeholders in a synergistic partnership.
  7. In all this, people’s role, especially that of the women, should not be ignored.
  8. As custodians of important traditional knowledge on preparation of seeds, harvesting, the medicinal use of plant species, etc., their inclusion in policymaking and the decision-making process becomes all the more crucial.

-Source: The Hindu


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October 2022
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