Poverty, development, and Himalayan ecosystems
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The Himalayas are rich in biodiversity but vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures. They are also host to growing number of rural poor who are dependent on forest and ecosystem services for their livelihood. Local and global efforts to integrate poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation in the Himalayas remain elusive so far. In this work, we highlight two key impediments in achieving sustainable development in the Himalayas. On the positive side, we also highlight the work of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a research organization based in India that seeks to integrate biodiversity concerns with livelihood security. For impediments, we draw on two examples from the Darjeeling district, India, in Eastern Himalayan region to illustrate how development organizations are failing to simultaneously address poverty and environmental issues. Based on the success of ATREE, we then propose a conceptual framework to integrate livelihood generating activities with sustainable and equitable development agenda. We recommend developing a Hindu-Kush Himalayan Ecosystem Services Network in the region to formulate a strategy for further action. We conclude by offering measures to address the challenge of integrating livelihood and environment issues through this network.
KeywordsDevelopment Ecosystem services Himalayas Poverty Protected areas
The authors acknowledge the discussions with the ATREE, India staff especially Dr Pashupati Chaudhary, Sam Thomas, and Anand Gazmer during the field observations and the work of ATREE in the Darjeeling region that shaped their perspective to develop this paper. Authors also acknowledge the interactions and conversations with the local villagers in the area that helped to understand the critical issues in the region. Thanks also to Dr Nakul Chettri and Dr Golam Rasul at the ICIMOD, Nepal for the productive discussions that contributed to the development of the framework to understand poverty alleviation, livelihood security, and sustainable development in the broader HKH region. Authors also thank Prof. Kamal Bawa and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on the manuscript.
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