Economy & Ecology
The hills of Ranikhet situated in the state of Utranchal a part of Kumaun hills, have a scenic beauty and support many of the species of flora and fauna, the small rivulets and springs create a splendid environment. The forests also have some of the exotic species of flowers and a range of medicinal plants. The local community lives a simple life dependent on the tourism and the forests for the medicinal plants and other minor forest products. The biodiversity of Ranikhet is well protected from the external influences and the anthropocentric activities.
The new government plans to encourage tourism sector and related infrastructure growth aimed at economic and industrial development of the area through promoting Ranikhet as tourist destination and licensing industrial establishments in Ranikhet. Government is proposing to set up star hotels and travel agencies and granting licenses to manufacturing companies to establish their plants in Ranikhet with the special tax subsidies for period of 5 years. According to the preliminary estimates it is hoped to achieve approximately 27% increase in the earning through creating employment opportunities and improving the local economic standards. Government has invited various large organizations to participate in the projects, and everyone is looking with great expectations.
Q.1 What are the implications of such projects on the ecosystem of the Ranikhet?
Traditional cultures have always lived in harmony with their natural environments. Nature and humankind (prakriti and purusha) form inseparable parts of the life support system. This system has five elements: air, water, land, flora and fauna, which are interconnected, interrelated and interdependent. Deterioration in one element affects the others..
The developmental activities of man such as the construction of high dams, roads, exploration for minerals and mining activity and the quest for arable land have to face the challenge of intensified dynamic process, commonly referred to as geographical hazards. Natural resources are being exploited in the name of economic development. Indira Gandhi’s interpretation is that the real conflict is not between environment and development but between the environment and reckless exploitation by man in the name of efficiency. We have to live a life according to the rhythm of nature. Human inference in natural environmental conditions often gives these dynamic processes catastrophic proportions, leading to disasters and irreparable damage to the natural balance of the ecosystem.
It is not just concern about the extinction of the big cats, but concern for all inhabitants and non-living resources. We have to stop this undeclared war against nature. Human beings are at the crossroads. Careless application of technology is leading to eco-degradation and pollutionSustainable development is, therefore, a concept of good and sound economic growth that can be maintained indefinitely with damage to the environment. Good environment generally begets good economics.
The words ‘economics’ and ‘ecology’ have the same root, oikos, which refers to a house. While economics deals with financial housekeeping, ecology deals with environmental housekeeping.
Studies have shown that the perspectives of ecology are different from those of economics in that the former stresses limits rather than continuous growth, stability rather than continuous ‘development’. The ecosystem is the basic unit which has biotic and abiotic components that form an interrelated, interconnected and interdependent system. The most important characteristic of an ecosystem is that it is dynamic, evolving and auto-sustainable as long as it remains reasonably undisturbed and there is incoming sunlight. The equilibrium of an ecosystem is disturbed by external stimuli such as natural cataclysmic changes and ever-increasing human activities dictated by socio-economic growth. The basic difference is that the socio-economic system, in contrast, is hitched only to one species, human beings. In an ecosystem, different species of plants and animals including human beings and micro-organisms form an interacting system. Thus, the economic process is unidirectional and human beings can only progress forwards. Conflict between the ecosystem and the socio-economic system arises from unidirectional and unlimited human wants to meet genuine needs as also greed. This has caused ecological crisis, which in other words means human exploitation of resources at a greater rate than can be normally regenerated under natural conditions.
Forest: a Womb.
Massive deforestation in the Himalayan region is the important factor in ecological degradation. Non-availability of certain species, decline of fodder and wood resources, loss of the habitat of wildlife, soil erosion, recurrent floods and drying-up springs and seasonal streams and climatic changes are the consequences of man’s activity. It is obvious that there is something wrong with the management of these vital resources.
The deforestation which has taken place due to commercial exploitation of trees for timber, resin, medicinal herbs, etc., the developing of new agricultural fields, over-grazing by animals, the coming up of new habitation all have had an adverse affect on the environment and have brought about ecological imbalance.
The forest has gone away from the villages. It is reported that there is a scarcity of fuel, fodder and fruit. Medicinal herbs are going to be extinct. The adverse affects noticed by us were that due to deforestation in the villages there is watershed failure, which has resulted in both drought and flood conditions, soil erosion, landslides, changes in the microclimate, increase in the silting rate which has caused a rise of the river beds, loss of wildlife, drying up of natural springs on which the villagers depend for drinking water.
Forest fires are another cause of the destruction of trees, vegetation, thick layer of humus and animals. The two major causes of forest fire are:
a. Intentional fire: The forest is often set on fire by the villagers during the summer season to get a good growth of grass following the rains. The fire burns the debris that is lying on the forest floor and hence the grass is able to grow well in the rainy season. Sometimes it spreads and destroys vast tracts of valuable trees. The forest is also set a fire by the forest department to clear it of dry vegetation in order to avoid the risk of a huge fire. Firing is done from top to bottom by cutting fire-lines at regular intervals to control the fire. Villagers also set fire to pine leaves falling on the surface as they inhibit the undergrowth.
b. Accidental fire: Fire is also caused by man’s carelessness. Unextinguished campfires of trekkers and picnickers, forest labourers throwing away burning cigarettes, bidis and matchsticks, villagers burning the unwanted material on their fields during summer, throwing away of torches used by travellers to see their way in the forest at night, and acid applied to increase the yield of resin. This acid may be spilled on the dry needles of a pine forest, thereby leading to forest fires.
The flow of air in the hills is upwards, which is responsible for huge fires, and a fire may go beyond control if it spreads from the bottom of a hill. It is easily controlled if it is from top to bottom. Too much dryness also helps in spreading fires.
Soil: an Anchorage for All!
Soil is our most valuable material heritage, the basis of all terrestrial life. As an ecological factor, soil is of great significance, for it affords a medium for the anchorage of plants and a depot for minerals and water.
Normally, soil is constantly generated and enriched when an ecosystem is left undisturbed or minimally disturbed. However, due to loss of vegetal cover, there is a progressive loss of soil due to erosion, together with attendant consequences like landslides and siltation.
Water: Flow of Life
Water is yet another important element of the life support system. Water is also the home of aquatic life. The presence of aquatic life is an indication of the well-being of water. The region receives plenty of rain, but due to deforestation there is a failure of watershed which results in the unchecked flow of water during the monsoon to cause a sudden swelling of streams in rivers so that there are floods in the foothills and even in the plains, and droughts in the villages located on the slope of the mountain. A watershed is a natural drainage area draining off water to a common point which ultimately meets with a river. Integrated development of watersheds thus takes care of water, crops, fuel, fodder and livestock with a view to develop the overall economy.
Impact of Development
Development in the region is the other major feature of the ecological crisis, which takes different forms such as the coming up of dams, building of roads, tourism development, etc. Quarrying, mining and blasting operations also give rise to landslides, which not only block traffic on the roads but sometimes form lakes by the temporary blockade of rivers. When the water exerts pressure these burst, causing devastating floods, sweeping away roads, bridges, agricultural land.
The traffic of vehicles alters the composition of vegetation. Building of roadways in the mountain system creates disturbances. This does not mean that roads in the hills are not important, but they need to be constructed in consonance with the nature of geological formation. The construction of a hill road involves felling of existing protective vegetation, cutting and blasting otherwise stable hill slopes, and the rolling down of the resultant debris which in turn destroys vegetation and causes severe erosion resulting in extensive slope failures. These are often termed as landslides. The phenomenon of landslides is not linked with road making alone but also with land use in general.
The region is considered to be abundantly suited for tourism since it offers all kinds of attractions to tourists. A paradise for anglers and a challenge to hikers. The lush green valleys, emerald meadows, vast icefields have now started showing abrasion due to increasing human activity. Tourism brings a large number of people together, which leads to marked changes that are detrimental to the ecosystem as a whole. Tourism is found in the form of pilgrim tourism and for pleasure and adventure. To accommodate the large tourist influx, hundreds of new buildings are being constructed every year. The tourist activity has to be in consonance with the principles of conservation of nature and with the protection of associated resources. Unplanned development is causing irreparable damage. The problems of litter, noise, erosion, destruction of fauna and flora have become acute.
Suggestions which may help in maintaining the ecological balance are: afforestation should be encouraged by planting mixed trees, both conifers and broad-leaved. Monoculture of trees should be avoided; on the higher slopes cultivation of agricultural crops should be stopped. Instead of agriculture, crop trees should be planted. To stop the over-exploitation of the forest by government contractors for resin, medicinal herbs, timber, etc., there should be a total ban on cutting of trees on mountain slopes and in catchment areas. Instead of big dams, small dams and hydro-electric power stations can be constructed. For a very small village a hydro-electric generator can be installed in the water mill. There should be a check on quarrying, mining and blasting operations. Efforts should be made to develop more hill stations as tourist centres in the region to avoid the overcrowding of tourists in the well-known hill stations. Kilns with filter devices and higher chimneys should be constructed to minimise the effect on the environment. Any sort of development should be in harmony with the environment, and renewable resources like ground water and forests should be used at a rate at which they are being replenished by nature
Q.2 Do you think EIA is necessary? If yes how will you conduct the EIA for the above projects c) How can you use tourism to uplift the local community without disturbing the ecology of the place.
EIA is necessary because Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is an analytical process that systematically examines the Possible environmental consequences of the implementation of projects, programmes and policies.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process of assessing the likely environmental Impacts of a proposal and identifying options to minimize environmental damage. The main Purpose of EIA is to inform decision makers of the likely impacts of aproposal before a Decision is made.EIA provides an opportunity to identify key issues and stakeholders early In the life of a proposal so that potentially adverse impacts can be addressed before approval decisions are made.”EIA is not a way of allowing an environmental ‘veto’ on development proposals .Environmental considerations may be set aside in favors of other considerations including economic and other benefits of going ahead.
Conduct EIA For Above Projects
1. To establish that before decisions are taken by the competent authority or
authorities to undertake or to authorize activities that are likely to significantly affect the
environment, the environmental effects of those activities should be taken into account.
2. To promote the implementation of appropriate procedures in all countries
consistent with national laws and decision-making processes, through which the
foregoing goal may be realized.
3. To encourage the development of reciprocal procedures for information
exchange, notification and consultation between States when proposed activities are
likely to have significant trans-boundary effects on the environment of those States.
States (including their competent authorities) should not undertake or
authorize activities without prior consideration, at an early stage, or their
environmental effects. Where the extent, nature or location of a proposed
activity is such that it is likely to significantly affect the environment, a
comprehensive environmental impact assessment should be undertaken
in accordance with the following principles.
The criteria and procedures for determining whether an activity is likely to
significantly affect the environment and is therefore subject to an EIA,
should be defined clearly by legislation, regulation, or other means, so
that subject activities can be quickly and surely identified, and EIA can be
applied as the activity is being planned.
In the EIA process the relevant significant environmental issues should be
identified and studied. Where appropriate, all efforts should be made to
identify these issues at an early stage in the process.
An EIA should include, at a minimum:
(a) A description of the proposed activity;
(b) A description of the potentially affected environment, including
specific information necessary for identifying and assessing the
environmental effects of the proposed activity;
(c) A description of practical alternatives, as appropriate;
(d) An assessment of the likely or potential environmental impacts of
the proposed activity and alternatives; including the direct, indirect,
cumulative, short-term and long-term effects;
(e) An identification and description of measures available to mitigate
adverse environmental impacts of the proposed activity and alternatives,
and an assessment of those measures;
(f) An indication of gaps in knowledge and uncertainties which may
be encountered in compiling the required information;
(g) An indication of whether the environment of any other State or
areas beyond national jurisdiction is likely to be affected by the proposed
activity or alternatives.
Ranikhet has a rare diversity of flora and fauna. This makes it an ideal area for
developing eco-tourism, projects and activities like jungle safaris, trekking on mountain
and forest trails, nature walks, catch and release angling for Mahaseer and other fish
species. All these activities have to be conducted in a manner that promotes awareness
of environment and helps maintain the fragile ecological balance.
Environmental Impacts of Tourism
Tourism in Ranikhet, while vital for both state finances and people’s livelihood, is
fraught with many implications for both the environment as well as for community
For instance, the urban pockets particularly along the major pilgrim routes are in utter
decay. Mass tourism contributes to increased pollution load, most of which reaches the
Impact on natural resources
The increasing in the number of tourists visiting to a particular location increases the
pressure on land and water. Land degradation is the most common effect of tourism,
particularly in hill resorts
Construction activities are mushrooming in pilmgrim centres at higher altitudes. Often such construction does not take into consideration the minimum precautions needed when building in such environments,and thus becomes vulnerable to disasters.
Tourism intensifies the water crisis. Most Tourist centres draw huge crowds and the
limited or poor infrastructural facilities collapse under such an onslaught.
In addition, as most of the tourist centres evolved in places with good natural
vegetation, the expansion of areas has meant the degradation of adjoining green belts.
The demand for fuel wood – the primary fuel for restaurants and dhabas – is much
higher during the tourist season, especially in the higher parts of the Ranikhet, leading to
further pressures on the forests.
Solid waste management and wastewater handling
Increased flow of tourists has direct impacts in terms of increase of waste and
wastewater generation. Wastes in tourist centres come from various sources such as
hotels, restaurants, temples, etc. Since most of the tourist centres are small in size, there
is a limited capacity to collect and dispose off wastes in these areas. Especially in
valleys, wastes is usually dumped into the rivers for convenience.
. The waste is either strewn all over the place or thrown in rivers, which are now getting polluted at
Dry waste poses more threats to environment. For instance, the polythene bags thrown
down the hill cover the roots of trees lining the mountain slope and thereby
preventing water from reaching the roots. The roots gradually die and the trees get
uprooted. Part of the waste that is thrown down the slopes gets carried away with water
and pollutes the streams.
Impact on local community development
The tourism activities in Ranikhet have affected the lives of the local communities.
Some features of tourism in the state are:
Lack of linkage of tourism with local or regional production systems: Tourism has
failed to develop adequate linkages with local production systems, and continues to
remain a peripheral seasonal appendage to the local economic systems. There are a
number of products and services that can be exchanged by the local communities with
the tourists, such as fruits and nuts, handicrafts, herbal medicines, arts and crafts, music
and theatre, which need to be linked to tourism so that local communities can also
benefit from it.
Lack of retention of benefits from tourism: When linkages with local communities are
not built, there is an increased flow of goods and services away from the state.
High level of seasonality: This is an intrinsic character of tourism in the region and
though there is a scope of expansion of the traveling season, the mechanisms for coping
and the limits to dependence on tourism as a contributor to the local economy must
reflect these constraints. Seasonality is also seen as a favourable factor as systems
recoup, particularly in areas where the carrying capacities are exceeded during the
The Way Forward: Strategy for Sustainable Tourism
Tourism is one of the most vital sectors of industry in Uttaranchal, for both the state as
well as the people, and hence it needs to be developed. However, it is essential that
such development be based on sustainability of the environment and of communities.
Any strategy for developing tourism needs to change the current situation of highvolume
low-value tourism and to identify the high-value low-volume opportunities.
• broad-basing of the tourist profile, both economic and geographic;
• proportional decline in environmental threats with increase in number of
• enlargement of the tourism `cake’ bringing in its wake the potential for greater
quality based services that the local people can be trained to offer.
The tourism activities associated with the tourists on the basis of which the specific
policies and programmes could be drawn are identified as:
Class Tourism: The Class Tourist is better oriented to the range of destinations and is
more often traveling on a purpose. The Class Tourists range from the culturally
educated Mass Tourists who have not ventured beyond the identified destination for
lack of sufficient information, to tourists exploring the art and culture of the region.
Value Tourism: At the apex of our classification is the Value Tourist, who is a veteran
climber or trekker, researcher, high-altitude flora and fauna enthusiast who has
traversed his way through the world and is almost romantic about the Himalayas. The
Value Tourist needs no persuasion from image-makers and advertisers and is willing to
replace anything that is needed in his travel with local material provided they meet the
high quality standards of the tourist. Value Tourists are travelers who completely
merge with the Himalayan identity and are extremely conscious of the risks to the local
ecology and culture.
Tourism, with careful forethought and planning, can thus fulfill its potential of being a
high value revenue earner for both the state and the people of Uttaranchal, without
causing environmental destruction.
Q.3 Setting up of manufacturing plants to bring development is right strategy? Comment.
Setting up manufacturing plant to bring development provide all the essential as well as luxurious modern amenities. Their role inimproving life styles and standards of human societies cannot be denied. Manufacturing facilities have become indispensable component of the modern age. However, it have adversely affected and changed the environment e.g.
1.Land for setting up manufacturing plants is acquired either by deforestation or by converting agricultural
2.manufacturing plants consume huge quantities of raw materials and energy. This results in over exploitation of natural resources and disturbs natural cycles and balance of nature.
3.The various poisonous gases, smoke, etc. released from plants pollute soil and water. Thus growth of industries is the main cause of unplanned urbanization leading to unequal distribution of human population. In addition, greater the population, greater is the pollution of the given environment.Thus, while setting up manufacturing plant have become an essential component of modern life, they are also the main factor of degradation of environment and ecosystems. Hence, setting up manufacturing units may be describedas the”necessary evils”of the modern age.
The region has plenty of water, which can promote the growth of fisheries. Promote horticulture and small-scale industry in the region, which will provide job opportunities to the local people. Promote sulabh sauchalaya and bio-gas plants for recycling biodegradable material. To reduce the pressure of the growing population on natural resources, they should be provided LPG gas, kerosene oil, solar cookers