Environment

Because Mountains Matter

Mountains, covering approximately 22% of the earth’s land surface, are the source of more than 60% of the world’s fresh water. With over half of the human population depending upon them for water, food and clean energy (hydro-power).

The threat of climate change, climate variations and natural disasters due to global warming can have a profound and devastating effect on each and every living thing on our planet with the people and the biodiversity in these regions experiencing its effects as we speak. Mountains are early indicators of climate change with glaciers – which are a major source of fresh water supply – melting at an unprecedented and alarming rate resulting in the drying up of underground and over the surface water sources which had been used earlier and the creation of new lakes which erstwhile was occupied by heaps of ice and snow that had accumulated since the last ice age.

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The receding Gaumukh Glacier with Bhagirathi peaks in the backdrop; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

As the streams and other water sources dry up, the land which was earlier used for cultivation of crops, have now become barren. Moreover the people in these areas being neglected in economic, social and political terms leading to large scale migrations of the mountain people from their ancestral lands to new settlements and urban centres over the years to coup up with food shortages, poverty and to have a better livelihood. Climate shift and variation in its pattern is also affecting the cultivation of grains and fruits in these regions.

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A small stream formed out of melting snow and ice in the Mountains, becomes a mighty river and then merges into the ocean; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

Mountains such as the mighty Himalayas have influenced global weather resulting in the yearly rains witnessed by the Indian sub-continent to stopping the cold and arid winds blowing down south keeping southern Asia warmer than their corresponding temperate regions in other continents. While this made the land to the south fertile it separates the cold and arid region in the north. They are the sources to some of the most important rivers in the world such as the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus along which many civilizations have thrived and is a haven for many species of birds, animals and plants (such as the south Asian river dolphin) still. In essence these mountains have played a vital role in the development of the biodiversity around them.

Life for the people in the mountains is hard and it is getting even harder. Though the effects of climate change and climate variations are being felt by the mountain people, it won’t be long till this effect trickles down to other parts of the geography as well.

So in an attempt to bring forth some of the issues that have been neglected so far let’s make this International Mountain day count. Cause Mountains matter!

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Leisure and luxury in the Mountains; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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