Eco Fragile Himalayas

Context:

Environmental issues have failed to dominate the campaign in an eco-fragile Uttarakhand

Background:

  • The frequent disasters in Uttarakhand are not only caused by nature but also due to an indiscriminate increase in hydropower projects.
  • Uttarakhand mountain ecosystem faces various threats such as seismicity, dam-induced micro seismicity, landslides. For example, the entire State of Uttarakhand falls under Zone-IV and V of the earthquake risk map of India.
  • Besides being an earthquake-prone zone, it is also prone to Flood disasters. Bursting of glacial lakes can cause flash floods with catastrophic consequences. For instance, moderate earthquakes in the Tehri dam caused the 2013 floods in Kedarnath.
  • Despite all these threats, the Uttarakhand government has indiscriminately pursued a greater number of hydropower projects. For example, the ongoing Tapovan power project.
  • Also, India has heavily invested in dam development and the growth of hydropower in the Himalayas’ region to cut carbon emissions.
Impacts of Global warming on the Himalayan ecology:
  • Impact on agro-ecosystems:
  • The apple farm workers of the Himalayan region have observed that apple cultivation has shifted to higher altitudes and apple yield mainly in lower altitudes has declined due to inadequate chilling as the temperature at lower altitudes is rising due to warming in Himachal Pradesh.
  • Other impacts – Reduced availability of water for irrigation; Extreme drought events and shifts in the rainfall regime resulting into failure of crop germination and fruit set; Invasion of weeds in the croplands and those are regularly weeded out by the farmers; Increased frequency of insect-pest attacks.
  • These factors have led to loss in agri-diversity and change in crops and cropping patterns.
  • Impact on forest ecosystems: In the western Himalayan mountains early flowering of several members of Rosaceae and Rhododendrons has often been linked with global warming. Increased incidences of forest fire are another prominent change that is linked with warming of Himalayan region.
What is the way forward?
  • The government should realize that the fragility of the Himalayan mountain’s ecosystems. Governments need to re-prioritize their projects based on the potential of the mountains, local and traditional knowledge as well as the aspirations of the place.
  • Hydro projects should be confined to the areas with the least impact in the Himalayas. Also, the government needs to build more low-impact run-of-the-river power projects rather than building destructive large dams and reservoirs.
  • Projects that are incompatible with the local environment and ecology should not be promoted just by giving due consideration to development or economic growth.
Source: THE HINDU.

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