A mountain reeling under human aggression

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“A mountain reeling under human aggression” published in The Hindu on 10th January 2023.

“Broken-Back Mountains: Joshimath, Darjeeling, Sikkim” published in The Times of India on 10th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster and disaster management.

Relevance: About protecting Hilly areas.

News: The Himalayan town Joshimath is under tremendous stress, and a portion of it may sink.

About Joshimath
Read here: Who Tunnels Through A Sinking Town?

Joshimath, or Jyotirmath, is a temple town and a municipality in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.

What are the challenges faced by Hilly areas?

Increase in rail and road network: The construction of highways and railway tracks has now become a prime cause for landslides and its occurrences have doubled over the years.

Increase in construction activities: For instance, in the next decade, the Government proposes to build 66 tunnels in the Uttarakhand Himalaya and 18 tunnels are already in operation.

Growth of the tourism sector: For instance, in Joshimath, in 2022, close to 5 crore tourists, 4 crore kanwar yatris and 45 lakh Char Dham pilgrims went to Uttarakhand. That’s about 10 crore.

Increased waste generation: For instance, the solid waste generation at Kedarnath was around 10,000 kg daily.

Depleting groundwater: Descending water levels have been observed in the hilly areas of tunnel construction. Further, erratic rainfall and ecological degradation associated with land use change are impacting mountain aquifer systems. For instance, the severity of the drinking water crisis in Darjeeling.

Low investment opportunity: People in tourist areas tend to invest in taxis and hotels. This again compounds the issue of urbanisation.

Increase in fallow land: Further, most of the farmers have now abandoned their traditional practices and only less than 20% of the agricultural land in the Himalayan districts of Uttarakhand is now being farmed and the rest has become fallow land.

Read more: Jolt From Joshimath – Govts have finally woken up to a hill town being on the brink of an ecological disaster. But more needs to be done
What should be done to protect hilly areas?

The steep gradients of the Uttarakhand Himalayas make it dynamically heterogeneous, in terms of climatic variables, and biodiversity. To protect the hilly areas the government should do the following,

-Like cities, hills also need investments and infrastructure. But that should not damage the ecological balance. The development strategy should be based on the region’s natural resources such as forests, water, biodiversity and ecotourism.

-A scientific study of hill towns is needed to clearly define the carrying capacity of each hilly town.

-Proper planning: Sikkim railway project and Sevoke-Rangpo line are facing challenges due to improper planning.

-The Himalayan terrain demands sustainable tourism, not mass tourism.

-National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) report on the Chamoli disaster mentions that in the long term, it will be necessary to focus on finding alternative sources of energy.

In short, an appropriate strategy for human well-being should use traditional knowledge, agricultural practices, construction practices and local cultural aspects.


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