Environmental degradation in the Western Himalayas: Need for stakeholder participation

The Himalaya provides ecosystem services that are crucial for the well being of mountain communities, as well as the people living in other parts of South Asia. But rapid transformations in land use in the Himalayas have made them susceptible to the impacts of global warming and climate change, and reduced their ability to provide life and livelihood security to the local communities. Local communities have traditionally been effective in adapting to changing environments and conditions, but the projected magnitude of climate change from rising temperatures and glacial melting could stretch this adaptive ability to its outer limits, with serious consequences for local development. The need is to develop an integrated plan to reduce vulnerability of local communities to environmental degradation in the Himalayas and empower them with information, technological skills, education and employment to address vulnerability. There is also an urgent need to articulate to policy makers, politicians and other stakeholders, the impacts of irrational landuse planning on the landscape and the region. The present paper attempts to enumerate the key ecosystem functions of the Western Himalayan forested ecosystems. It traces the patterns of interaction between the local livelihoods and natural ecosystems and identifies the key drivers of land and resource use changes that have taken place in the region and their implications for ecosystem integrity and vulnerability of the people. It identifies the key stakeholders and the ways to inform and integrate them to address the issues of sustainable development in the Western Himalayan landscape.