Recognizing the uniqueness of the Himalayas and the challenges for sustainable development, NITI Aayog had set up 5 Working Groups (WGs) in June 2017 to prepare a roadmap for actions in 5 thematic areas. The themes include: Inventory and Revival of Springs in Himalayas for Water Security, Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region, Transformative Approach to Shifting Cultivation, Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship Landscape in Himalayas and Data/Information for Informed Decision Making. While these thematic areas are quite significant for the Himalayas. Mountain specificities require specific solutions for resilience building that address socio-economic and environmental challenges in the mountain setting. The reports from the five working groups discuss the significance, the challenges, the ongoing actions and a future roadmap.
The reports lists challenges in all 5 thematic areas. Nearly 30% of springs crucial to water security of people are drying and 50% have reported reduced discharge. Himalayan Tourism growing annually at 6.8% has crated huge challenge related to solid waste, water, traffic, loss of bio-cultural diversity etc.With the projected arrival of tourists in IHR States to more than double by 2025, urgent actions will be needed to address critical issues of waste management and water crisis in addition to other environmental and social issues. In the north eastern States, thousands of the households continue to practice slash and burn (shifting cultivation) that need to be addressed in view of ecological, food and nutritional security. Predominantly unskilled workforce remains a challenge for the mountains as well that need high priority to address migration of youths. Also challenges related to data availability, data authenticity, compatibility, data quality, validation, user charges for Himalayan States need addressal for informed decision making at different levels of governance.
The key messages from reports include: Spring Mapping and Revival, using 8 steps protocol be taken up across Himalayan States in phased manner.Apply carrying capacity concept to all major tourist destinations; implement and monitor tourism sector Standards and apply performance based incentives for States faring well on the standards. Assessment of nature & extent of Shifting Cultivation area, improved policy coherence, strengthened tenurial security & improved access to related programs/schemes are key recommendations to transform shifting cultivation. Strengthening of skill & entrepreneurship will require focus on identified priority sectors where mountains have advantage, investment in trainers, assessors and training centers in industry partnership. Having a Central Data Management Agency for Himalayas to provide data with high fidelity scenario while addressing data sharing, access, authenticity and comparability issues will go a long way in addressing data related issues.
The call for actions include setting up of a Himalayan Authority for coordinated and holistic development of entire Himalayan region and launchingof “Himalaya Calling”: An Awareness to Action Campaign as people’smovement. The call for actions also includes suggestions for setting up of Mission on Spring Water Management in Himalayas, National Mission/Program on Transforming Shifting Cultivation in North Eastern States, demand driven network of skill and entrepreneurship development Centers in Himalayan States, consortium of institutions of high learning for mountain specific research and technology, link with Hindukush Himalaya Monitoring and Assessment program (HIMAP) and Setting up Central Data Management Agency for Himalayan Database at GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development.