Monthly Archives: March 2014

Natural Resources of the North western Himalayas Threats, Evaluation & Conservation


(1)                           Introduction:

About 40 million years ago Indian plate crashed into Eurasian plate at the geographically breakneck speed of 4 inches per year to form the Himalayas-

The collision created Himalayan Mountains welded together by warped and shattered rock interlocking to form the highest chain on earth.

(2)                          Area covered :

North Western  Himalayas  comprise of three states viz. J&K, Himachal Pradesh (HP) & Uttrakhund (UK), covering an area of about 33 million hectares, forming about 10 % of the total geographical area of the country.

(3)                           Location & Cover :

The region occupies the strategic position in the northern boundary of the nation and touches international boundaries of Nepal , China & Pakistan.

Most of the area is covered by snow-clad peaks, glaciers of higher Himalayas & dense forest covers of mid Himalayas.

(4)                           Population

The region comparatively shows a thin and dispersed human population due to its physiographic conditions and poor infrastructure development.

The rural population in HP, J&K and UK constitutes 90.20, 75.20 and 74.30 % respectively as compared to the national average of 72,20 %.

The livestock population in the region has increased substantially during last three decades and is 21.33 million against human population of 29.53 million  (1: 1.38)

(5)                            The Dominant Sector:

The agriculture including livestock continues to be the dominant sector despite the fact that the area is exposed to adverse and harsh geographical and agri-silviculture conditions.

(6)                          The Climate :

The Himalayas exhibit great diversity in climate, physiography, soil & vegetation between the outer and inner Himalayas, ethnicity, resource availability and agricultural practices controlled by altitude.

The region experiences coldest temperatures in the world during winter. Mostly the hill stations of the Western Himalayas like Srinagar, Pahalgam, Shimla, Manali (Kallu valley), Kangra, Dharamsala, Maclodganj, Chambra & some regions in UK like Kamaon, Garhwal experience monsoon showers.


(7)                             Major Natural Resources:

The major natural resources of Western Himalayas are water, forests, floral and faunal biodiversity.

Forests constitute the major share in the land use of Northwestern Himalayan region covering an area of about 1101, 2023, and 3486 thousand ha in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand, respectively (Ministry of Agriculture 2009). Forests are the second largest natural renewable resources after water. The forest cover and canopy densities has a major role to maintain the hydrological regime in the region as well as to feed the adjoining plain areas for agricultural production. The very dense forests having canopy density more than 70 %.

(8)                          Mountain Ranges :

The mountain ranges in this region are usally 50-100 Km wide and 1000-5000m high. Dhandhar range in HP, Pir Panjal in J&K and Mussorie in UK are some of the important hill ranges.

(9)                          Soil loss :

The estimated annual soil loss from north western Himalayas is approximately 35 million tons, which is estimated to cost around US $ 32.20 million.

(10)                      Fodder need :

Strategies by planting fodder trees or grass in the waste/degraded lands (representing 7.9, 9.8 & 11.5 % of the geographical area  in HP, J&K & UK respectively) is  needed for enhancing the fodder production

(11)                        Growing Plants:

Climate of the region is conducive for growth of a large variety of plants ranging from tropical to temperate due to different altitudinal ranges varying from 100m above msl to more than 4000 m amsl i.e. sub tropical to cold temperate alpine zone.

(12)                      Medicinal & Aromatic plants :

The region is the natural abode of large number of medicinal and aromatic plants and the value of medicinal herbs from forests is enormous.

(13)                      Hydrological Potential :

The hydrological potential of these states consists of vast & rich water resources as glaciers, rivers & lakes. The high altitude areas of lesser and greater Himalayas are covered with glaciers and snow fields & are the origin of a number of perennial  rivers, which heavily drain into Indus and Gangetic basins & form a most fertile Indo-gangetic region of the country, known as “food bowl of India”.

(14)                        Hydropower Potential in HP:

Catchment area & hydro power potential of different rivers in Himachal Pradesh

Major Basin Tributary-   Area (sq,kms)      -Hydropower pot.(MW)

(a)  Indus

Chenab                        – 7,500            – 3,032

Ravi                            – 5,451               – 2,159

Beas                            – 20,402            – 4,604

Sutlaj                          – 20,000           – 10,355

Total                          – 53,353           – 20,150

(b) Ganga

Yamuna                     – 2,320               – 592


Total (a+b)                    – 55,673           – 20,742


© Mini-Projects                                         –     750


GT                                      – 55,673            – 21,492

(15)                       Hydro Power in J&K State:


Potential assessed by Dr. Ramshoo : 25,000 MW

Potential assessed by J&K PDC         : 20,000 MW

Chenab                  – 10,654 MW

Jhelum                    – 3,141 MW

Indus                       – 1599 MW

Ravi                         –    417 MW


Total                           – 15,811 MW


Exploited                    -2327 MW

(16)                        Lakes in J&K State:

A unique culture emerged on the banks of lakes surrounded and protected by Himalayan mountains on all sides. In Srinagar in Dal Lake entire community living in boats depends on lake for subsistence. These hospitable clain their decent from prophet Noah. In Ladakh a small community of nomads still herds yalks along the shores of giant Pangong lake. In the northern part of the state in Baltistan, a series of high altitude lakes exists in the high mountain valleys above Skardu. J&K abounds with such natural treasures.

Various lakes  of the State include : Dal  (8 x 6.4 km),Nigeen , Anchar (8×3 km), Manasbal (5x1km), Wullar (16×9.6km), Hokersar(5×1.5km), Konsarnag (5x3km), Gangabal,Sheshnag, Neelnag, Tarsar Marsar, Sherasar, Sukh & Dukh- the two frozen lakes at Harmukh.

(17)                      Threats to Water Bodies:

With deforestation, increasing tourism & steady urban growth along the shores of some lakes and rivers, the centuries old balance between man and nature has been disrupted and desperately needs to be restricted.

Deforestation and the consequent erosion of the top-soil is having a devastating effect on the rivers & lakes. The silt & the soil being washed off of the barren mountain sides is rapidly transferring the Himalayan water ecosystem while hastening the shrinkage of large lakes.

(18)                      Dal Lake endangered:

Dal lake has shrunk in size as compared to 1907 records by 50 % in volume, from 22 to 11 sq. kms. the lake has also changed in other ways as well and presents an example of environmental degradation in a Himalayan lake eco-system. The process of eutrophication has begun to set in which results when lake waters become artificially enriched with nutrients, causing abnormal plant growth. Runoff of chemical fertilizers from the vast drainage basins around the lake, sewage and other oxygen demanding wastes, which bring in 15 tons of phosphorous & 300 tons of nitrogen every year combine to place the lake’s internal life process under severe stress. Oxygen levels fall, the fish die out & the lake loses its aesthetic appeal Decaying organic matter produces disagreeable odours & unsightly green scum of algae and weed infested waterways.

(19)                       The KEWA Report:

Although Dal has not reached such an advanced level of eutrophication, the process has begun to set in. Tourism has added increased pressure on the delicate environment of the Dal, for instance the number of house boats around the Dal lake has grown to 1400 from 400 in 1975. If current trends continue, the experts opin that the Dal lake will be destroyed within 80 years-Brar- Numbal mini lake in the heart of the city is a living example of this.

The KEWA report concludes with a series of suggested solutions for safeguarding of J&K lakes & waterways including the possibility of eco-tourism & environmentally sound urban planning. It is hoped that this report will bring about awareness in the administration and among inhabitants of J&K with the hope that the threat to J&K lakes can be averted.

(20)                      Lakes in HP :

Water from Beas & Sutlej rivers has been stored in Poong Dam & Bhakra Govind Sagar reservoirs having capacity  of 7290 & 9621 million cubic meters resp. for irrigation & power generation. It is major source of irrigation to Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan. The catchment area of Ganges in India is approx. 8,63,000 sq. kms., which covers 26,20 % of total geographical area of the country, particulaly of northern states of India & is considered most fertile region of the world.

(21)                      Hydro power & Lakes in UK:


—  Projects under operation: 3,165 MWs

—  Projects under development stage : 14,388 MWs

—  LAKES in UK : 31 natural lakes cover 300 ha and 8 large sized man-made reservoirs in Tehri & Udhan Singh Nagar.covering an area of 20,075 ha.  Tehri dam is largest in UK followed by Sharda reservoir  with 6880 ha water area and Nanak Sagar reservoir with 4084 ha water area –the third largest.. These are used for irrigation purposes.

(22)                       Soil Conservation & Ecosystem Strategy:

The growing stock of trees outside the forest land (ToF) under agro forestry or social forestry has played a significant role to enhance the GDP of the country from 1 to 1.70 %. The tree cover increased significantly during last 3 decades when ICAR initiated.  All India Research Project on Agroforestry (AKRP-AF) during 1982-83 & farmers were encouraged to grow fodder trees & enhance their income & to meet their domestic demand.

(23)                       Other Renewable resources:

Amongst other renewable resources are deposits of Boron, lead, lithium, coal, chromium, ores of iron, copper, tungsten, zinc and deposits of building materials like limestone, dolomite & marble. These deposits occur across length and breadth of Himalayas cutting across international boundaries. Due to mineral deposits many cement industries have come up during last 3 decades.

(24)                       Biodiversity:

The Himalayas present a store house of biodiversity, where flora and fauna vary extensively with climate diversity from one region to the other and this biodiversity is used for developing new varieties / hybrids in agriculture and horticulture crops to enhance the productivity.

(25)                      Intensive Agriculture:

Intensive agriculture is practiced in Kangra, Kullu in HP & Kashmir valley in J&K and Doon valley in Babhar and Tarai region in UK. In these low hills, agriculture fields are terraced in some parts except plain areas and fruit plantations are raised along with several arable crops such as paddy, maize, pulses, wheat, oil seeds, potatoes and vegetables etc. Cultivation is practiced upto 2500 m elevation.

(26)                      Floriculture:

Floriculture is also fast emerging as an important cash generating activity of the production systems in certain areas. Fruit orchards of several species are found in the hills of HP, J&K and UK. Plantation on agriculture lands was not common in the past as enough forests were available in the vicinity, however after claring the forests for plantation of fruit trees as orchards in the hills during last 4-5 decades has created acute shortage of firewood and fodder and has compelled the farmers  to grow trees on their farmlands as a part of their farming systems to meet their daily needs of fuel, fodder and timber.


(27)                        Indigenous Agro Forestry Systems:

Various indegenous agro forestry systems occur in different agro climatic zones of the region.

A homestead (Kyaroo) is operational  farm unit in which a number of tree species for fodder, timber and fuel wood are raised along with livestock, poultry and/or fish to satisfy the farmer’s  needs.

In Kyaroo multiple crops  are present in a multitier canopy configuration. The fodder trees & bamboo for both timber & fodder are managed in upper storey, whereas middle storey is constituted of bushes of bushes like medicinal plants etc.


(28)                      Plantation:

The fruit trees like plum, pear, lemon & citrus etc. are grown for domestic use. Wide variation in the intensity of tree cropping is noticeable in different places.

Plantation crop combination play a major role in national economics. The important plantation crop of the Himalayan region is tea. Besides  bamboo groves are grown in most of the areas.

(29)                      Vision of a Saint:

Over about 700 years back Shaik-ul-Alam said: “Food is Subservient to Forests.” ان پوشہ تیلہ یلہ ون پوشہ

The Birth of Himalayas


                                              THE BIRTH OF HIMALAYAS

He set on earth  mountains standing firm lest it should shake with you…… (Holy Quran Verse 10 Ayat 31)

—  Compared to older mountain ranges like the Aravallis in India and Applachian in USA, the Himalayas are known as Youngfold mountain, being the youngest range, with world’s tallest peak of 8,848m. These extend for 2,500 km in length & 50-100 km in width in a series of parallel ridges of folds.

—  About 250 million years ago, the earth’s land was a single super continent called Pangea, which was surrounded by a large ocean.Around 200 million years ago (known as the middle permean period) an extensive sea stretched along the longitudinal area presently occupied by the Himalayas. The sea was named The Tethys. Around this period the super continent began to  gradually split into different land masses & move apart in different directions.

—  Rivers from both the northern Eurasian land mass (Angara) & southern Indian land mass (Gondwana) deposited large amounts of sediments into the shallow sea that was the Tethys.

—  There were marine animals called ammonites living in the sea of the time. The present fossil finds on peaks, point to their coast dwellings.

—  The two land masses, the Eurasia and the Indian subcontinent moved closer and closer.

—  Indian plate-one of the fastest moving tectonic plate in the world- was moving north at the rate of about 16 cms/6.3 inches per year.

—  About 70 million years ago (upper cretaceous period) the initial mountain building process started, when the two land masses (or plates) began to collide with each other.

—   As a result the already shallow seabed rapidly folded & was raised into longitudinal ridges & valleys.

—  After about 65 million years ago (upper Eocene period) came the 2nd phase of mountain building.

—  The bed of Tethys started rising again.

—  The sea retreated and the sea bed was elevated into high mountain ranges.

—  Later about 25 million years (middle Miocene period) came another mountain building which led to the formation of low Shivalik ranges.

—  Next; the mountain building phases occurred as the Indian plate pushed against the Eurasian plate which led to the Himalayan ranges rising further.

—  The last major phase occurred 600,000 years ago.

—  Although the phase of major upheaval has passed, the Himalayas are still rising albeit at a much slower rate.

—  The Indian plate is continuously moving north at the rate of about 2 cms. every year, which raise Himalayas by 5mm per year=5km per million years (being world’s highest rate of uplift )

—  This means that  Himalayas are still  geographically active & structurally unstable.

—  Some of the greatest earthquakes have occurred in history due to tectonic forces released by the interaction of the two plates.

—  For this reason, earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in the entire Himalayan region.

—  There is a recent prediction of an imminent major earthquake in Hidukush mountains.

—  For this reason, earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in the entire Himalayan region.

—  There is a recent prediction of an imminent major earthquake in Hidukush mountains.

—  Area covered in North Western Himalayas: snow clad peaks, glaciers & dense forest cover  = 33 million ha=10% of the total geographical area of the country

—  Rural Population:  J&K 75.20 %, HP 90.20%, UK 74.30 %    against the national average of 72.20%

—  It is impossible to detect the movement of the plates and uplifting of the Himalayas by casual observation.

—  However Global Positioning System (GPS) has made it possible to measure even such a slow movement of plates.

—  The Alps in Europe is another example of a mountain chain that formed due to the collision of tectonic plates.

—     Praise be to Him who left His signs for us all around ………