The entire year is dotted with an array of International days dedicated to valid and important causes. In this list, 11th December is considered the International Mountain by the United Nations General Assembly, since 2003. According to the UN website, International Mountain Day is “observed every year with a different theme relevant to sustainable mountain development. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is the U.N. organisation mandated to lead observance of all related festivities.
The theme for 2017 is Mountain under Pressure: climate, hunger, migration. The present facts presented by the FAO say that ninety percent of the world’s mountain dwellers live in developing countries, where a vast majority lives below the poverty line and one out of three faces the threat of food insecurity.
India’s wide landscape is dotted with mountain ranges that hold breathtaking landscapes, diversity of flora and fauna, and native communities. We also have the youngest and the oldest mountains in the world – the Himalayas and the Aravalli Range. While both Himalayas and the Aravallis are very different, there is one commonality they share: both mighty ranges face acute indifference in terms of state conservation efforts.
Mountains provide about 60 to 80 percent of the world’s freshwater. This freshwater, which is under threat from overpopulation and encroachment, is stored in glaciers and lakes. As water tables in hills are depleting, the migration is increasing. According to Down to Earth, the three districts of Uttrakhand that have registered the highest migration rates are also the districts that have witnessed maximum depletion in water sources.
This year’s theme highlights the issue of migration in the mountains. In India, Uttrakhand is seeing the worse cases of migration from hills to plain. As per Census 2011, of Uttarakhand’s 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants, and another 405 have a population of less than 10. There are many reasons why relocation is on the rise. The reasons range from lack of better opportunities, unemployment, climate change, and government’s apathy towards hill folks.
Old and quaint villages, immortalised by the works of writers like Ruskin Bond, are dying a slow death. The picturesque places are silently fading into an oblivion as their inhabitants move to the cities. However, a few brave individual and organisations like Sushil Ramola, Pratibha Krishnaiah, and Divya Rawat are trying to infuse life back in our ghost villages. As responsible citizens, we must do our best to support their efforts.
Feature Image Credits: Niharika Dabral