Pabitra Mukhopadhyay: For a young man or lady from the hills of Himalaya, it does not matter profoundly how unique their home is. Life draws them into the more immediate concerns of need, and I understand that there are many of those – basic infrastructure, healthcare, education and a much sought after peace from the people of the plains who throng each season the majestic and tranquil hills and mountains as tourists. Not to say about the litter and pollution that they leave as gifts. One of my friends who visited Kedarnath last year told me that he heard an announcement that on his day there were as many as 5,00,000 cars on Kedarnath. Stunning, I would say.
But yes, tourism is life blood for hills and its development. But I shall be honest to a young man or lady of the hills to say that I have grown old enough to take ‘development’ with quite a pinch of salt. Also that life blood sometimes looks like containing the virus of a monoculture of growth which any young man or lady of the hills should be careful about.
It’s for the people of the Himalayan tract to appreciate its history. By history I do not necessarily indicate the human affairs of a paltry 10,000 years but of a geological scale. All the way from Namche Barwa syntaxis in Tibet to Nanga Parbat syntaxis in Pakistan, each of 2400 kilometers of Himalayas are witnesses of a happening geological wonder as each year it rises by about 2 to 12 mm. This is happening as the ancient Indian plate inexorably pushes beneath the Himalayan Mountains. So in Himalayas you are virtually sitting on an ongoing orogeny where life flourishes despite anthropogenic follies and earthquakes, which to my opinion is more striking than the height of Mount Everest Chomolangma.
The young man or lady from these wonderful mountains has as his/her legacy the highest concentration of the glaciers outside of polar regions which are the source of the greatest of river systems with a combined drainage basin that is home to 3 billion people (almost half of world’s population) and account for 12,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater in 18 countries. This mind-blowing fact should induce, apart from pride and love, a deep sense of responsibility on the part of each young man and lady of the hills. A responsibility towards what we should aspire for in the name of development in the Himalayas and what ecological price we would pay for that.
Development is necessary, yes, particularly considering the hill people are impoverished compared to well-off plains people, but I shall bid every young man and lady of Himalayas to ponder if that development should come in the form of atrocities like Lavasa. It is only natural that the sense of economic deprivation creates a demand for self governance by hill people and we witness the signing of a tripartite agreement among GTA, State Government of West Bengal and Union of India. However, the hill need to know itself better to self determine it.
I can honestly say, despite my origin from the river country of South Bengal, I love Himalayas and its people from the depth of my heart and if I am sounding skeptical it’s not out of a resentment but a deep respect and adoration I have for my young man and lady of the Himalayas.
Author: Pabitra Mukhopadhyay has written this article for Climate Himalaya Initiative’s Youth Leaders Speak Column. Pabitra is an environment enthusiast and amateur blogger and keen to network with everyone with active interest on issues related to the Himalayas. He says hello to you all through a short video titled ‘Stuck in Bindu’. For information, Bindu is a small hamlet in a valley bordering Bhutan and India and the last outpost of Indian Territory. More information is here. Video link:
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya Initiative’s team.
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