Revisiting Mountain Perspective: Reasons And Challenges

Jan 19th, 2015 | By | Category: Adaptation, Advocacy, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Climatic Changes in Himalayas, Ecosystem Functions, Environment, Events, Food, Governance, Government Policies, Information and Communication, International Agencies, Land, Lessons, M-20 CAMPAIGN, Opinion, Rio+20, Tourism, Vulnerability, Youth Speak

KNV-Nov 2012K N Vajpai: This article is in the series of responses to an article on ‘Mountain Perspective’ at Link. It looks in to the aspects of mountain perspective and specificities as mentioned by Dr. N. S. Jodha during 1992s, and compares them in present  context. However, there are a number of doubts upon the relevance of these perspective in present context on which, still, ICIMOD, a regional centre work, without yielding any results  to its focus countries.  It is being re-published.

For the reference of readers and forum discussants, I am putting here some of the important aspects of ‘Mountain Perspective’ as written by Dr. N. S. Jodha in 1992. While heading Mountain Farming Division at ICIMOD in Nepal, he wrote a detailed note titledMountain Perspective and Sustainability: A framework for development strategies’ that contains a number of definitions and literature references in support of ‘Mountain Perspective’ (MP).

To make his case of Mountain Perspective he mentioned that “MP implies to explicit and implicit consideration of specific mountain circumstances and their implications while conceiving and implementing private or public activities in mountain areas at different levels of decision making.

Here I would like to highlight his points above ‘Specific mountain circumstances’, ‘private and public actors’ and ‘decision making levels’ in existing circumstances.

It further notes that “the important conditions characterizing mountain areas which, for operational purposes, separate mountain habitats from other areas called-Mountain Specificities”. There are six types of ‘mountain specificities’ described by him in two main categories. The first order specificities include; Inaccessibility, Marginality, Fragility, Diversity or Heterogeneity, and second order specificities as; Natural suitability or ‘niche’ and Human Adaptation mechanism in the mountain habitat.

In present perspective, I would like to highlight that these specificities were meant for ‘operational purpose’ as described by author.

Remoteness: Dr. Jodha emphasized ‘remoteness’ of mountains on socio-cultural and economic dimensions, while other writers defined it based on mountain slopes, altitudes, terrain conditions, seasonal hazards, inaccessibility, isolation, distance, poor communication and limited mobility.

On how many fronts we in mountains are still ‘remote’ on socio-cultural and economic aspects, and what led to such situation?

Fragility: Desfil in 1988 defined ‘fragility’ in mountain areas, due to altitude and deep slopes in association with geologic, edaphic (land/soil) and biotic factors that limit capacity of mountains to withstand with even small degree of disturbances. Further, it incorporated vulnerability due to irreversible damage, over use, change in land vegetation and economic life support system of mountain communities.

The point here is that; do we still have similar physical and biological fragility in existence and what efforts were put in this direction to overcome such situation?

Marginality: The ‘marginality’ was defined as a situation which is not at par with mainstream situation. It applies to physical and biological resources or conditions as well as people and their sustenance system.  Many authors said that the basic factors contributing to such status of any area or community are remoteness and physical isolation, physical and low productivity resources and several man-made handicaps, which prevent participation in the mainstream pattern of activities.

Dr. Jodha wrote that “the mountain regions being ‘marginal’ areas in most cases against prime areas, share above attributes of marginal entities and suffer the consequences of much different status in different ways.”

The point here is that, do we still suffer with such consequences and are marginal to mainstream populace?

To look deeper in to the ‘mountain perspective’ and ‘mountain specificities’, we need to see that the types of gaps perceived by Dr. Jodha 20 years back, based on his assumptions then on preceding 40-50 years (as he says), do we still have similar gaps between developmental ‘efforts’ and corresponding ‘achievements’ in terms of measurable gains on social, economic and environmental front?

In his mountain perspective document (during 1992) he observed ‘negative’ trend related to crop yield, availability of mountain product, economic wellbeing of mountain people and condition of natural resources and environmental conditions. On specific issues he wrote ‘negative’ trend in mountains related to; land slide, water flow in community irrigation system, agriculture yield, agriculture diversity, regenerative processes, food availability, fodder and fuel collection, composition of forest fauna and plant species in pasture. The positive trends were reported in poverty migration, unemployment and out migration.

While writing such a perspective in 1992, Dr. Jodha found that above factors lead to ‘un-sustainability’ in mountain region, and that was a matter of serious concern. In that context he called for a fresh look to the ‘conventional’ approach of mountain development.

The point here is that, does he still think that there is no need of fresh look in the ongoing approach of mountain development based on his Mountain Perspective? The discourse here would be that what went wrong in terms of the said circumstances, actors and decision making? I shall stress that it is 20 years since this perspective has come to exist.

While his main focus was on mountain agriculture, he emphasized upon a new paradigm shift on the conventional developmental strategies in mountain region, and therefore a new ‘operational framework’ to incorporate ‘sustainability’ concerns.  I want to highlight that:

  1. What would be the take of Dr. Jodha now on sustainability concerns?
  2. Where do we stand now? Is there a replicable, scalable and effective developmental model for Pan Himalayan reality?

As suggested by Dr. Jodha then that the central focus of the framework will be based on ‘mountain perspective’, and the understanding and incorporation of which alone can determine the relevance and effectiveness of any development intervention in mountain areas.

I would like to highlight that:

  1. Did our country governments in HKH region understand and incorporate this perspective in their policies and plans, and were there substantial achievements after incorporating them?
  2. Do we still feel that the factors and processes as highlighted in the perspective where disregarded as mountain characteristics to incorporate them in operational interventions by said public and private entities?
  3. Do we have recorded evidences on success and failure on this front?

During this discourse, although I see there are various opinions coming in on Dr. Jodha’s assumption of mountain perspective, but, by going deeper in to the implications and evidences, I strongly feel that there are a number of reasons to challenge and revise this age-old perspective on ‘mountains’!

Do you have something to say about Mountains and the perspective that we had since 1992, you may like to participate in the discourse and let us know your views at :

Original Article>>

Featured Photo courtesy : Samvedi, Dehradun


Author: K N Vajpai is Environment Specialist and Convener at Climate Himalaya.


Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five 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 the 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>>

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2 Comments to “Revisiting Mountain Perspective: Reasons And Challenges”

  1. Prof. Vir Singh says:

    I endorse what Dr. R.S. Tolia, one of the ardent supporters of mountain cultures and specificities, says. Many of mountain-related policies implemented in the state of Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states of India are owing to Dr. Tolia’s intellectual inputs. In the formulation and implementation of mountain-specific policies Dr. Tolia delved to an appreciable extent on Jodha’s Mountain Perspective. It is also true that ICIMOD today owes much to Jodha’s unparallel contributions, including Mountain Perspective, as also claimed by Dr. Tolia.

  2. Anil says:

    good artice

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