Mountains under pressure!!

With the increase of human activities in the mountains the wildlife got badly affected that caused man-wild conflict

Muhammad Yusuf
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 14 2017 10:47PM | Updated Date: Dec 14 2017 10:47PM
Mountains under pressure!!

With an aim to protect mountains, its products, its resources and its people etc. the United Nations General Assembly has designated 11th December as International Mountain Day and is observed world over in letter and spirit by the mountain dwellers and mountain lovers. Different awareness programs and mountain related activities are conducted particularly those which draw attention of masses towards social, cultural and economic issues of the people living in the Alps, Hindukush, Karakoram Rockies and Himalayan states etc. Exclusive sessions are conducted to highlight the problems faced by the mountain men, women, children and ethnic people as well. The goal of the day is to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world. 

Since 2003 this designated day is celebrated every year with great enthusiasm world over but in Kashmir we started observing it just from 2011 when the J&K Ski and Mountaineering Association held a seminar on the theme “Mountains and Forests” and some other mountain related awareness activities were conducted to highlight the importance of the day. The Jammu and Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club is now holding functions regularly since 2012 in association with Tourism Department. Some other organizations too have now started coming forward celebrate the designated day at their own levels at different places in the valley in the state  

Every year the FAO of United Nations gives different theme to the IMD. In 2011 the theme was Mountains and Forests, in 2012 it was Greening the Blue, in 2013 it was Mountains- Key to successful Future, while in 2014 the theme was Agriculture Farming. Similarly in 2015 the theme was “Promoting Mountain Products and last year the theme was "Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity".  The year 2017 was themed as “Mountains Under Pressure-Climate, Hunger and Migration”. IMD-2017 certainly provided an occasion to highlight how climate, hunger and migration are affecting highlands.  

It is admitted fact that our mountains are under severe pressure today due to many reasons. The most important among them is population explosion. Due to uncontrolled population growth in the Himalayan states, the people have started moving towards mountainous areas for their settlement and to achieve better economic benefits there. Many mountainous areas that were fragile till recent years have now turned into colonies. With the increase of human activities in the mountains the wildlife got badly affected that caused man-wild conflict.  

On the other hand climate change is also responsible for putting mountains and its people under heavy pressure. Mountains are in fact early indicators of climate change and as global climate continues to warm, mountain people — some of the world’s hungriest and poorest — face even greater struggles to survive. The acute decrease in rainfall and snow in the mountains are causing drought in the highlands and in low lying areas as well thus bringing miseries to its people. Mountain people are certainly vulnerable to food insecurity now. Mountains provide freshwater, energy and food-resources that will be increasingly scarce in near future if some remedial policies are not adopted by local governments. Mountains have a high incidence of poverty and are extremely vulnerable to climate change, deforestation, land degradation and natural calamities. The hungry mountain people have now started migrating to plains. 

The growing tourism related outdoor pursuits in a Himalayan state like Jammu and Kashmir is also mounting pressure on mountains. Mountain tourism attracts about 15-20% of global tourism but we need to operate it in a proper way. The uncontrolled trekking in Sindh and Lidder valleys could be disastrous to our environment. Increasing number of noisy motorized all-terrain vehicles and skidoos too have started damaging the mountain ecology. The frequent movement of these vehicles in the restricted areas is disturbing the wildlife, particularly in winter, when they wander around in search of food. Presently we have 80 skidoos operating at Gulmarg and 15 at Sonamarg, similarly 30 ATVs at Gulmarg and about 6 at Sonamarg. Operation of these machines in the specified and defined areas is tolerable but its use in vulnerable wildlife sanctuaries need to be restricted forthwith. The Environment Department and the Wildlife Department are sleeping over this issue. The greedy Skidoo operators are now running these machines deep in the wildlife sanctuaries and some other vulnerable areas.  At Thajewas (Sonamarg) we have a place called Hapat Nar, which is a habitat of a good number of bears. Last year a Skidoo was seen operating in this bear valley. Not only disturbing the wildlife but the noise of these machines could sometime trigger avalanches in the Thajewas, also called valley of glaciers. These glaciers are ideal for ski touring but not for skidoo touring. Our mountains are in fact water towers of the world but now its glaciers are receding fast.  Thajewas is almost vanished. In recent past it was abode of six fairly well defined glaciers. It is time we all get thinking about the importance of mountains and forests 

In Srinagar city human settlements have widened and people have constructed houses almost upto the middle of Zabarwan range in Srinagar, particularly in Faqeer Gujri area of Harwan that could be very dangerous for Dachgam National Park in near future. 

In order to create awareness about the protection of mountains the J&K Mountaineering and Hiking Club organized biggest IMD celebration function in Srinagar in collaboration with Tourism Department on 11th December, in which hundreds of citizens from all walks of life including climbers, skiers, nature photographers and mountain lovers took part. On 10th Dec. the Club organized some mountain related activities like mountain biking, hiking and mountain running etc. In the main function the Club screened some films on mountain activities. Besides, films developed by the Club members on different themes, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation films too were screened by Director Film Festivals of Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Shri Maninder Kohli, who was also Chief Guest on the occasion.  A forty page Souvenir “Mountains Under Pressure”, developed by the JKMHC first time and conceived, devised and complied by this writer, was also released on the occasion by Director Tourism Mr. Mahmood Ahmad Shah, Shri Maninder Kohli, Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, former DG Tourism and a famous columnist. The commemorative souvenir contained many write-ups on different mountain sports, awareness messages from renowned people and photographs on nature etc. The meeting focused on the challenges and opportunities in sustainable mountain development. IMD-2017 certainly provided an occasion to highlight how climate, hunger and migration are affecting highlands.  It is true that Himalayas have protected us millions of years and now they need our protection. It is highly appreciable that the FAO of United Nations put the IMD celebrations of JKMHC on their website. The function received international publicity. 

The author is Director (Operations) Adventure Call Tour and Travels and  former adventure Sports Coach, Kashmir University