Sisters and brothers,
I am pleased to connect with all of you to celebrate the Himalayan Day.
Himalaya is of great importance to us – ecologically, economically and culturally.
Since time immemorial, it has been India’s natural border.
As the great poet Kalidasa wrote in his epic Kumarsambhava.
अस्त्युत्तरस्यां दिशि देवतात्मा हिमालयो नाम नगाधिराजः।
(On the northern border of this country, there stands Himalaya- the king of mountains and the abode of Gods).
These high mountain ranges save our country from the cold and dry winds coming from Central Asia. They also act as a barrier for the monsoon winds thus bringing most of the rainfall in northern India. But for them, India would have been a dry desert.
Contribution of Himalayan Ecosystems to water, energy, and food security in South Asia is immense.
The region’s more than 54,000 glaciers hold ice reserves of about 6,100 cubic kilometers, representing the largest body of ice in the world outside the two polar caps. These glaciers are the source for 10 major river systems in Asia, a lifeline for almost half of humanity.
With the hydropower potential of more than 500 GW, the Himalayas have the potential to play a vital role in energy security in South Asia. If properly harnessed, this hydropower could provide reliable access to clean energy reducing the use of traditional fuels, thus also reducing the carbon emissions.
The region serves as a rich repository of plant and animal wealth in diverse ecological systems and recognition of the Himalaya as one among 36 global biodiversity hotspots aptly reflects its ecological significance.
The Himalaya with its vast green cover acts as ‘sink’ for carbon dioxide.
However, the fragile Himalayan ecosystem has been facing various pressures and threat of degradation in recent decades.
Research suggests global warming is causing the Himalayan glaciers to melt at a faster pace. Satellite images indicate that before the year 2000, on an average the glacier surfaces sank by 22 cm a year… whereas in the present century, the average melting rate has doubled to almost 43cm a year.
This melting is expected to severely affect the lives of about 1.3 billions of people who depend on it for water – for their drinking, irrigation and energy needs.
Dear sisters and brothers,
We cannot continue with this kind of disregard for nature. If we neglect or over-exploit nature, we are putting our future in danger.
Himalayas for us are an invaluable treasure house. We must protect and preserve them. In fact, that’s what our culture teaches us. We must respect nature, preserve culture for a better future.
We need to rethink our development paradigm in such a way that human beings and nature co-exist and thrive together.
Development should not be at the cost of the environment.
The government has launched a number of programs for the protection and conservation of Himalayan ecology. A ‘National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem’ has been conceived as one of the eight missions under the ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change’ (NAPCC).
‘SECURE Himalayas’ is another initiative of the Government of India and United Nations Development Programme with support from the Global Environment Facility. This aims at the conservation of the biodiversity, land and forest resources in the high Himalayan ecosystem, while enhancing the lives and livelihoods of the local communities.
Sisters and brothers,
Our developmental approach should invariably include the region's ecology, traditional knowledge and culture. This needs the efforts of a number of committed green activists like Shri Anil Prakash Joshiji along with enlightened leaders in government like Rameshji.
Local communities are dependent on forests for their agriculture and basic needs and our endeavour should be to create a development model that maintains balance between economic activity and the pristine environment of the region. This is important not only for Himalayan states, but for the future of all North Indian states dependent on rivers originating from there.
Promotion of organic agriculture can be the best way forward in a fragile ecology. States such as Sikkim, Meghalaya and Uttarakhand have already made strides in this direction but challenges remain. Further efforts should be made to find solutions to these challenges by the governments, scientists, universities and others.
Tourism is another important route to economic development in the Himalaya. Tourists come to these majestic mountains for both its natural beauty as well as for holy pilgrimages.
Most of the beautiful hill stations of northern India are in Himalayan states and it has 9 out of 10 of the world’s highest peaks providing ample opportunities for adventure sports as well.
Our ancient Rishis and Munis made serene and peaceful Himalaya their ‘Tapobhumi’ and as a result it is home to many of our holiest shrines. It is considered the abode of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati whose name itself means ‘Daughter of the Mountain’.
Signifying this spiritual identity of Himalaya, Lord Krishna himself, in the tenth chapter of Geeta, says -
“Among things immovable, I am the Himalayas”
Keeping in mind the ecological and spiritual importance of these great mountain chains, we should strive to build an ecosystem-based approach for tourism which is sustainable in long term.
Awareness should be spread among the tourists as well as locals about the problem of pollution, litter and solid waste affecting most high Himalayan tourist sites. People need to understand that if the environment degrades, tourism will also be impacted.
Dear sisters and brothers,
The Himalayan region represents a mosaic of fascinating pluralistic diversity. We need a pan-Himalayan development strategy which is based on the region's natural resources, culture and traditional knowledge.
हमारे राष्ट्रीय जीवन में हिमालय के महत्व पर शिक्षा मंत्री डॉ रमेश पोखरियाल जी ने "संसद में हिमालय " नाम से एक अच्छा सन्दर्भ ग्रन्थ लिखा है। पोखरियाल जी स्वयं इस क्षेत्र से भली भांति परिचित हैं और अपने सार्वजनिक जीवन में इसका प्रतिनिधित्व करते रहे हैं। उन्होंने इस पुस्तक की एक प्रति मुझे भेंट की है। आपका आभारी हूं।
As we celebrate Himalayan Day today, let us remind ourselves that we have a duty to preserve the natural endowments we already have.
I applaud the untiring efforts of social activists like Shri Joshiji who have taken up this as a life’s mission and are developing appropriate environmentally sustainable technologies for agriculture and livelihood of people in the region.
The Himalayas are intertwined with our country’s past and present.
They are our future.
Let us ensure that this future is protected and these mountains continue to protect and nourish us in the years to come.
Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President at a webinar organized on the occasion of the Himalayan Day, in New Delhi on 09 September 2020.
Sisters and brothers,