Himalayan Day celebrated in Dehradun and Shimla | WWF India

Himalayan Day celebrated in Dehradun and Shimla

Posted on
10 September 2013
An initiative that was started in 2010 by a group of noted environmentalists and activists including Sunder Lal Bahuguna, Anil Joshi and Radha Behan, Himalayan Day is celebrated to spread the message that solutions for sustainable development and ecological stability for the Himalayas must be as unique as the Himalayan ecosystem itself.

Himalayan Day or Himalaya Divas was celebrated for the fourth year in a row on September 9th this year in Dehradun and Shimla.

Himalayan Day in Dehradun
In Dehradun, activist groups, institutions, voluntary associations such as the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO), WWF-India, Mahila Samakhya, Agaas Foundation, HARC and Natya Manch under the banner of the “Himalaya Unity Movement” or ‘HUM’ came together to underline the urgent need to conserve the Himalayan ecosystem, especially in the light of the recent disaster that rocked Uttarakhand.

The Himalayas are currently undergoing rapid change, in terms of ecology as well as the human settlements they support. According to Dr. B. P. Maithani, President of the RTI Club, Uttarakhand, the overall population density of the state has steadily risen to overtake that of Himachal Pradesh, despite a high out-migration rate. The seminar served as a platform for discussion on the major challenges facing the Himalayas – increasing population, rampant urbanisation, unchecked deforestation, melting of glaciers and other such ecological disruptions are rapidly triggering disasters of the kind that occurred in Kedarnath. The question of whether the Kedarnath catastrophe was a result of divine fury or a man-made disaster was one of the key deliberations at the seminar. Dr. Gita Gairola of Mahila Samakhya emphasized that the Uttarakhand disaster took place because such issues are disregarded, and that any such tragedy in the Himalayas was not just local, but had an impact on the entire nation.

Former Chief Minister of Uttarkhand, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank spoke about the disaster as well, and the need to design development for the mountain state in a planned and judicious manner. According to him, though a lot of admirable developments had taken place since the state’s formation in 2000, the Himalayan people needed to be protected through proper policy and planning. What emerged from the discussion was that a strategy for the sustainable development of human settlements needs to be designed and adopted. Conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem protection measures need to take into account disaster risk and population growth.

The participating organizations also organized a peace march, from Rangers College till the Hindi Bhawan, where the seminar was held. The Natya Manch group celebrated Himalayan Day for the first time by presenting a stage show titled “Kab tak”. Following these events, WWF-India team members were invited by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to celebrate Himalaya Divas, where a number of senior scientists, researchers and students had gathered to debate strategies and ideas for protecting the Himalayan ecosystem. Notable speakers at the event included Dr. S. Sathyakumar, Dr. Dhananjai Mohan, Dr. Malavika Chauhan, Dr. Kishor Nautiyal, Dr. J. P. Maithani and Dr. Jatinder Kaur.

Coordinated by Dr. V.K. Uniyal and Dr. Bitapi Sinha, Senior Scientist at WII, the sessions were interesting and interactive and paved the way for new horizons and opportunities to be explored in order to reach the goal of conservation of the Himalayas.

Himalayan Day in Shimla
In Shimla, Himalayan Forest Research Institute, Shimla (HFRI) along with WWF-India organized Himalayan Day at Conifer Campus, Panthaghati, on 9th September, 2013. The event was initiated by HESCO, Dehradun and funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

Dr. Vandana Thaplyal addressed the gathering about the need for and importance of Himalayan Day, given that the region is an eco-sensitive zone and that the resident communities are almost entirely dependent on natural resources such as energy, soil, water and air. She pointed out the urgent need to conserve Himalayan ecology using the platform of Himalayan Day, to sensitize people in general and environmental activists in particular.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Sanjeeva Pandey, IFS, Additional Principal Chief Conservation of Forests (Wildlife), Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, Shimla spoke about how most developmental activities, such as the construction of roads, establishment of hydroelectric projects are being planned and implemented without giving cognizance to the fact that Himachal is an eco-sensitive zone. It possesses unique flora and fauna which must be treated differently. He stressed the need to strike a balance between conservation and development, and understand and respect the fragility of the mountains in every action or inaction we take.

A number of other eminent speakers were also invited for sharing their experience and views on the occasion. Dr. Hemant Gupta from the Himachal Pradesh State Council for Science and Technology spoke about how the Biological Diversity Act 2002 for Conserving Himalayan Culture Landscape is playing an important role in conserving Himalayan Biodiversity.

Dr. Savita, IFS, APPCF introduced the gathering to the concept of ‘Payments for Environmental Services’ or PES, which is a new direct paradigm for incentive-driven conservation. Scientist Dr. K.S. Kapoor spoke about ‘Integrated Approaches for Sustainable Himalayas’ while food security in the region was dealt with by Dr. Y.P. Sharma, Scientist from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). The sessions were interactive, and participants shared their views during the panel discussions and suggested their own strategies for conservation of Himalayan ecology.

To celebrate the day, a number of awareness programmes were organized in government senior secondary schools in Dhalli and Boileauganj, a government post graduate college in Solan, a school for visually and hearing impaired students in Dhalli and Bahra University at Waknaghat in Solan. Students took part in painting, poster, debate, essay writing and paper presentation competitions as well as a peace march.

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