Monday, 18 June 2012

Issues that the physical geograhy of the Himalayas presents to settlement and economic activity......

I bet many of you are getting fed up of saying "the Himalayas are a fragile environment", considering it the key issue underlining the AIB - more interesting than a bridge right!!! It is important to understand why it is fragile and how this has affected people; here are just a few examples but there are many more, let me know which ones you think are most important.....

- Very seasonal, therefore limits agricultural productivity by dictating vegetation. This has limited export potential in a region low on mineral wealth also, and restricted Nepal to low levels in both the Demographic Transition Model and Rostow Model of Development. Could be said that climate consequently restricts carrying capacity of the Himalayas.
- Not correct climate for early industries, like those that developed in the UK, as too hot and lack of water all year round
- Climate controls tourist season, especially that liked to trekking, making reliance on this industry more economically vulnerable
- Climate change in this fragile environment likely to make it more vulnerable
- Climatically controlled hazards such as flooding from glacial outbursts, with risk of flooding and landslides accentuated by deforestation as it reduces interception store and leaves nothing to bind the soil

- High altitudes and difficulties of the environment means only really trekking tourism is attracted, with lower Himalayas not accessible due to topography
- Altitude closely linked to climate
- Steep gradient makes settlements harder and mobability challenging, hence poor trade links, therefore more local industry and subsistence agriculture is depended upon ( = anti-globalisation!?!)
- Terracing of landscapes has been implemented to make agriculture easier

- Avalanches, especially on roads halt economic activity, severing any trade links due to limited infrastructure
- Mass movement destroys trekking paths, perhaps encouraging tourists to veer of set paths thereby increasing soil erosion in the fragile environment
- Flooding, increased by deforestation
- Such hazards in a LDC wipe out any existing development in the region, whilst making it very unattractive to TNCs and potential appending FDI crucial to initiating cumulative causation

Soils and Ecosystems
- Not a lot of soil! With morraines providing a surface for succession to occur upon but this process is slow
- Gradient is too steep to 'fix' soil, thereby limiting agriculture
- Great leaching of nutrients and erosion/washing away of topsoil
- Great variety of ecosystems, all very climate dependent, not that productive so offer limited benefits for local people

Consequential to the hazards and lack of benefits posed by the fragile environment to people and settlements, rapid urbanisation is occuring, again accentuated by population pressures. However, this is placing enormous pressure on limited resources and infrastructure, thereby hampering development. Practical Action's 'Sustainable Urban Environment' programme aims to help solve this by providing safe drinking water and improving waste management. It is based on building effective partnerships between local governments and NGOs. Education of locals is also key in ensuring sustainability so whilst raw materials required are provided, labour is covered by locals so that they understand how to build and repair the biogas plants and bio-toiliets. This scheme was satarted in 2009, helping 30,000 women and children in 8 settlements around Nepal. Approach taken provides oppurtunities for additional income-generation and socio-economic development to take place, through adoption of a community-managed, de-centralised approach. The use of appropriate technology is sustainable as locals can economically maintain it whilst PracticalAction provide education to do so. Therefore knowledge will be passed to the next generation to sustain the scheme which is helping development start from its grassroots level in small communities and helping solve some of the issues associated with rapid urbanisation that act as barriers to development in Nepal.

I have been asked to write a post regarding interpretation of the photos, so I will try and write that this evening but for now, good luck with the rest of your revision!

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