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Economics of the Himalayas
|by V. K. Joshi (Bijji)|
At the onset I must confess, that I am not a student of economics and do not know a thing about the subject. But the reader must be wondering, ‘then why write about such a topic!’ Yes, you guessed it right. But I am writing because I have spent a major part of my youth, wandering in the Himalayas. I have seen the luxuriant forests of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. During the same time I also saw the forest being brutally hacked to make space for the power transmission lines or roads or to construct the house of an influential person on a hill slope, where construction is prohibited. There are scores of examples to testify these, but I will prefer to write something else first.
The forces of the nature are active everywhere. Anything exposed to atmosphere is prone to weathering, erosion and denudation. For example a high rise building on a coast is exposed to salt laden high velocity winds that corrode the surfaces of the buildings, requiring them to be painted frequently. The cost of which, goes on escalating every year. Now imagine the Himalayas. Compared to them, a high rise building is puny little thing.
While the nature’s forces merely corrode the buildings, the faces of the Himalayas are prone to weathering of all kinds. For example, winds hit them hard, glaciers freeze and thaw the rocks water erodes them and carries the material in the streams. The eroded material in a glacial country is huge in quantity and of sizes varying from finest mud to giant (giant beyond imagination!) boulders. The fine mud/silt on the floor of the valley is constantly soaked with water, as the glacier melt keeps flowing discreetly under it. The glaciers are above the tree line, hence there are no roots to hold the mountain slopes. If it rains, then water just gushes down, carrying anything that comes on way, whether it is a rock or a house.
With the illegal sand mining in the news these days, I need not Google the economic value of this river sand. The reader is intelligent enough to visualize the cost economics − as it is the sand mafia that controls the politics these days.
During the recent mishap in Uttarakhand the loss in terms of money has been colossal. The loss of human lives is an irreparable, but that apart the parts of forests lost due to landslides is equally high. The landslides cannot be wished away-but at least the government can develop a better drainage in vulnerable areas to circumvent the larger loss due to natural hazards.
Images (c) Gettyimages.com
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Dr. Ajit Nath Jha
01/04/2014 16:04 PM
08/20/2013 23:44 PM
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