Greater Kashmir: Mountains are essential energy sources for our state
The Himalaya is vast mountain system extending in to eight developing countries in south Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. The fact that India is recognized as a mega diversity country and as one of the 10 most extensively forested areas in the world is due mainly to the Himalayas. Although it covers only 18% of the India’s geographical area and accounts for more than 50% of the country’s forest cover and 40% of the species endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Losses of forest cover, biodiversity, agricultural productivity and ecosystem services are interlinked problems in the region that threaten the sustainable livelihoods of not only millions of mountain people but also much larger population inhibiting the adjoining Indo-gangetic plains.
Issues and Challenges
Owing to its relatively recent geological origin, the Himalayan ecosystem once rich in biodiversity of elusive plant and animal species is under threat of destruction, expanding agricultural land and rural population resulted in diminishing forest area. Expanding economic activity and population growth are the two basic factors behind increases in energy consumption. In a state like J&K, where economic growth is necessary and population growth is increasing, energy demand will continue to rise in the years to come. Energy consumption patterns and the rise in demand, their sources, and ways in which they are harnessed and utilized have implications for the environment and natural resources, which ultimately affect overall development. Progress in environmental management has been slow and natural resource degradation remains at the core of many problems. Climate change will add a new stress to ecosystems and socioeconomic systems already affected by poverty and natural resources depletion and unsustainable management practices needs an immediate attention of the scientific community.
Mountains are essential energy sources for our state, but their role in national energy resources could well be significantly altered from anticipated human interference and climate change. How well do we understand these changes today, and what are implications for Himalayan resources management and for policy? With these questions in mind, a more than hundred researchers – most of them with experience in physical and regional geography acquainted with Remote Sensing techniques collaborated with resource managers – from all over India assembled for a National Seminar at the University of Kashmir 11–12 October 2011 by invitation of the Department of Geography and Regional Development. Their goal was to develop an up-to-date overview of Himalayan resources and to ponder over pressing Himalayan issues and challenges like climate change, natural hazards etc. The case studies presented, further reflect the state of knowledge of mountain water resources, biodiversity, glacier dynamics and eco-tourism and their management with relevance for science and society as corollaries. Below are some of the reflections describes the use of such modern scientific tools
Management aspect: Information and communication
There are no blueprints for success. Now more than ever, there is a need for interdisciplinary research, inter-sectoral cooperation, and forums for open exchanges of ideas. Perhaps the greater challenge will be in developing the creative potential of individuals and grassroots organizations; utilize human capital and technologies creatively, and to build on the strengths of existing institutions while addressing inequities and uncertainties in innovative ways. Monitoring and assessing the conditions of particular environmental resources over vast geographic areas might be facilitated by the use of sophisticated technology and scientific expertise. While there is a danger in overemphasizing technological solutions, scientific research efforts and state-of-the-art technologies can be important tools for the management of extensive resources. For example, GIS systems can provide detailed information on environmental conditions on a vast scale. The timely exchange of environmental data among stakeholder groups – both vertically and horizontally – will be key to institutional success.
Environmental Information Database Framework
Access to multi-sectoral environmental databases at multiple levels is the key to environmental assessment and monitoring. An environmental information database should integrate information from socioeconomic and biophysical sources, natural disasters, and polices and institutions. Our institutions are far better platform for advocating a framework on environmental database for state of the environment reporting at the State level. Embracing such a framework at local level will help this part of the Himalaya deal with environmental information
Integration and Analysis of Environmental Information
The information required for environmental assessment and monitoring covers a wide spectrum. There is an increasing need for better integration of environmental concerns into decisions that can affect the environment in major economic and human activities such as energy, industry, transport, agriculture, and tourism. Information on the natural resources base and environment is essential. Information on human activities impacting the environment, emission of pollutants, natural events, and human responses to environmental changes is equally important for assessing the ecosystem as a whole. Careful integration of environmental data into social and economic dimensions is increasingly recognized as vital for scientific understanding and societal decision making. This has a number of implications for the collection, management, and use of information, including the necessity of synthesizing and presenting scientific and technical information in readable, usable form, and of displaying the links between environmental and socioeconomic issues. Such integration can be fostered by proper institutional mechanisms as well as by using modern analytical tools and decision support systems, which will support better understanding of environmental trends and conditions and help develop and implement policies, plans, and actions. The proper and scientific management of Himalayan resources will certainly reduce the miseries of the communities living in this region.
One of the most challenging issues of the Himalayan environment is its susceptibility to environmental degradation leading to natural hazards: Linkages between environment, natural disaster and developmental works needs to be clearly established to mitigate environment hazard and disasters. Developmental projects having potential to aggravate or cause hazards should be studied very carefully and so formulated as to minimize their adverse effects in this regard. The economic impact should receive adequate attention and cost benefit analysis should incorporate probable disaster events and the mitigation programmes to be taken in the affected areas. Amid of the disaster growing concerns, the scientists in presence of Vice Chancellor, University of Kashmir, presented the major recommendations including the establishment of Disaster Management Centre to cater the educational and technological needs of the society. Vice Chancellor, in turn expressed an urgent need of efficient Disaster Management System in the region and showed a keen interest of introducing advanced “P.G Diploma in Disaster Management” course in the Department of Geography and Regional Development, with full support and cooperation from national and international institutes. The Kashmir University has successfully launched the P.G. Diploma in Disaster management which will not only cater the scientific and social needs of the state but will also create the human resource to tackle with the post disaster situation. However, for that the newly approved centre would not only bring forth the importance of the hazard management strategies of the region and sharing the significance of these with the masses so that they are deterred from even unintentionally violating the spirit of these plans.
By: Bashir Ahmad Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>