The Educational Multimedia Research Centre of the University of Kashmir recently organized a film festival in collaboration with CMS Vatavaran, the International Forum on Environment and Wild Life. As part of the program a panel discussion titled, “The Impact of Himalaya on the Climatic Conditions of India”, was held. The focus of the panelists was the disastrous flood of September, 2014 which is considered to be a direct result of the ongoing climate change. No doubt the global phenomenon of undue warming and climate change contributed to the generation of the massive flood yet many panelists felt that the flood had resulted by the deliberate damage caused to the environment by the local people themselves. People due to material greed have squeezed the space of the River by stealing its flood basin and making numerous encroachments on its banks. Unless drastic measures are taken to restore the space for the extra waters during heavy rains, we may continuously face such floodsin future also.
While being on the subject of Himalayas and the climate change it would be useful to recapitulate the role of the mountain chain in shaping not only the weather of the sub-continent but the life in general. One can get a detailed write up on the subject through Google, some parts of which are reproduced.
“Himalaya in Sanskrit means the “Abode of the snow”. The Himalayan Mountain Range forms the northern border of the Indian sub-continent. “The Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan plateau have formed as a result of the collision between the Indian Plate and Eurasian Plate which began 50 million years ago and continues today. 225 million years ago (Ma) India was a large island situated off the Australian coast and separated from Asia by the Tethys Ocean”.The Himalaya has 3 important ranges- Himadri, Himachal and Siwalik, about 2400 km in length & width of 240-320 km. The greater Himalayas or Himadri or northern ranges, average 6000m in height. Mount Everest 8848 m, the highest mountain in the world is in Himalaya.
No other mountain range anywhere in world has affected the life of people and shaped the destiny of a nation as the Himalayas have in respect of India. Himalayas block the summer monsoon winds and cause precipitation in vast parts of India which support agriculture in plains of Ganges and Indus.The height of the Himalayan Mountains concentrates most of the monsoonal rainfall on the Indian Subcontinent. This same mountain range blocks cold winds from Siberia from penetrating the region. This is why most of India has a warm, tropical climate with high precipitation.The Himalayas also prevent the cold Siberian air masses from entering into India. Had there been no Himalayas, the whole of northern India would have been a cold desert.
Almost all the great rivers of India have their sources in the Himalayan ranges. Abundant rainfall and vast snow-fields as well as large glaciers are the feeding grounds of the mighty rivers of India. Snow melt in summer provides water to these rivers even during dry season and these are perennial rivers. The Himalayan Rivers, along with hundreds of their tributaries, form the very basis of life in the whole of north India.The Himalayan region offers several sites which can be used for producing hydroelectricity. There are natural waterfalls at certain places while dams can be constructed across rivers at some other places. The vast power potential of the Himalayan Rivers still awaits proper exploitation and utilisation.
In addition, the Himalayas have abundance of the forest wealth, agricultural possibilities, extensive Tourism potential, unlimited and unexploited mineral wealth and finally scores of pilgrim sites. Most importantly, these act as a Defence Barrier for the entire sub-continent. Unfortunately, in spite of the most important role these play in the life of the sub-continent, we have tried our best to desecrate these in every possible way! The deforestation caused by uncontrolled cutting of the trees. The pollution of the rivers by garbage left by the “pilgrims”, over-exploitation of land by grazing and agriculture and so many other activities are damaging the Himalayas extensively. If we have to adjust to the global climate change, we have to take care to save the Himalayas. These alone could help us to cope up with some of the disastrous effects seen in recent times. The Chinese Philosopher Confucius once said, “The wise men find pleasure in water, the virtuous in mountains”! Unfortunately, the saying does not seem to hold good now!
The author is an I.A.S. (Retired) & Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org