Developments in Non-Alpine Mountainous Areas


Contemporary Approaches and Concepts

The International Year of the Mountains 2002 may be regarded as a climax of mountain research at least from the publicity point of view. But the last decade has seen a growing effort in mountain research and some of the widely attended discussions take place in the internet, e.g. the "mountain-forum" and its derivatives (see FUNNELL & PARISH 2001; KREUTZMANN 2000, MESSERLI & IVES 1997; PARISH 2002; PRICE & BUTT 2000; PRICE, JANSKY & IASTENIA 2004).

Since the proclamation of the "Munich Mountain Environment Manifesto" and the commencement of the Unesco-sponsored "Man and Biosphere" project more than thirty years ago, the prime interest has been directed towards the interrelationship between human beings and their environment (see DSE 1974, UNESCO 1973). The key issues of mountain related development addressed there are still valid. Today, human interference in high mountain regions ranges between two extremes: resource utilization and creation of the cultural landscape on the one hand; and environmental degradation and destruction of natural resources on the other. Immediate remedies are seen in the exclusion of territories from un-controlled human interference as conservation zones and/or protected areas (see DOEMPKE & SUCCOW 1998, FUNNELL & PRICE 2003, IUCN 1996). Contemporary high mountain research addresses in this interface specific fields of interest:
Further Readings & Links

A paper on geographical development research in central Asian high mountains: Survival strategies in times of globalisation.

Linguistic diversity in the Eastern Hindukush and Karakoram. Source: H.KREUTZMANN).Click on the image to enlarge it.

Population Dynamics and Mobility

Demographic growth in high mountain regions cannot be explained by emphasis on fertility and mortality patterns alone. Intra-montane migrations and extra-montane mobility are significant contributors to population processes. The expansion of community territories and the participation in seasonal and/or regular economic activities beyond the settlement region need to be accounted for as well (see for Nepal ORTNER 1989, VAN SPENGEN 2000, for the Karakoram KREUTZMANN 2006b, for an example from the industrialized world the case of Japan's mountain regions illustrates the transregional interrelationships prominently cf. AJIKI 1993, OKAHASHI 1996).

Land Use and Land Cover Change

Link road to a village & Accessibility in High Asia (railway 1961, roads 1991) (Source: H.KREUTZMANN). Click on the image to enlarge it.
The conflict potential generated by competition for limited communal resources is growing, and social conflicts about the accessibility of resources in mountain regions, but elsewhere as well, are frequent. The loss of the commons and territorial disputes about cultivable land and pastures bind substantial resources in less productive activities (see for the Karakoram KREUTZMANN 2005c). The importance of space is addressed in different commissions of the International Geographical Union (IGU), especially in the Land Use/Land Cover Change (LUCC) project (see LAMBIN et al. 2001) which compiled a data base and implemented a research programme for the Hindukush-Himalaya (see as well BLAIKIE & SADEQUE 2000) among other areas (see TEKLEA & HEDLUND 2000).

Land use and Land cover Change in the Karakoram a: landscape, b: cropping pattern 1985, c: cropping pattern 2001) (Source: H.KREUTZMANN 2006b: 336-337). Click on the images to enlarge them.
Marginal resources in the Western Kun Lun Shan: Bulunkul (3600m) (Source: H.KREUTZMANN).

Survival Strategies in the Mountain Periphery

High mountain research in developing countries quite prominently features all kinds of aspects related to survival under peripheral conditions (see BROWER & JOHNSTON 2007, RINZIN 2006, THARGYAl 2007). The utilization of marginal resources, the supply of basic food items for local communities and the exploitation of niche production are represented as well as aspects of market access in the framework of deregulation and globalisation. "Growth, poverty alleviation and sustainable resource management in the mountain areas of South Asia" was the topic of conference held in Kathmandu. A similar event was devoted to "Poverty alleviation in mountain areas of China", a follow-up to regional problems and sustainable development in Tibet (the key papers and results were published by BANSKOTA, PAPOLA & RICHTER 2000, GYAMTSHO et al. 2005; JODHA et al. 2004. Local activists, bureaucrats, development experts and researchers discussed and experienced a dialogue about different perspectives).

Decreasing Entitlements of Marginal Groups

Survival in the periphery Kirghiz nomads in the Afghan Little Pamir (Source: H.:KREUTZMANN.
Competition for limited resources can be enhanced by private and state interference leading to the loss and/or expropriation of community assets. Thus, along the deprivation of property rights, the local population loose the grip on their previous entitlements. This holds especially true for the least privileged and marginal groups. At the same time, development actors arrive on the scene, suggesting projects in regional planning aiming to improve the living conditions of mountain communities according to the development fashion of the day. Property rights in areas without cadastral surveys and/or weak institutions should be secured for the local mountain communities. Aspects of "mountain laws and peoples" were electronically discussed within the "mountain-forum" platform, the results were published in a brochure (LYNCH & MAGGIO 2000).

Tarbela Dam on the Indus River (Source: H.KREUTZMANN).

Resource Management and Energy Provision

Sustainable utilization of available fuel resources needs to be compared with the local energy sector, present consumption of fossil assets and the potential future growth scenario (see RIJAL 1999). In line with a growing populations and changing living conditions, a higher demand for natural resources and energy provision is expected from local consumers. In addition, external players are competing for the natural potential in order to exploit timber resources and to develop energy generation, e.g. by construction of high dams (MCCULLY 1996). Deforestation, transport of logs along modern traffic infrastructure, the utilization of potential hydraulic energy for extra-montane consumption is a field of conflicting interests. An electronic conference addressed these issues which were recently published under the title "mountain people, forest and trees. Strategies for balancing local management and outside interests" (BUTT & PRICE 2000).

The article puts its focus on Water as one of the key resources in the ecological and economic interpendence between mountain regions and lowlands.

From the water towers of mankind to livelihood strategies of mountain dwellers: approaches and perspectives for high mountain research.

Water as the Prime Resource of Competition

Water as the main source for irrigation. (Source: H.KREUTZMANN, based on Atlas of Xinjiang, 1991, pp. 9-20 and Le Monde diplomatique, March 2005, p .5) Click on the image to enlarge it.
The water issue has been highlighted as a resource asset and problem for high mountain regions. Several studies introduced this issue as an example for localized resource potential which is traditionally utilized locally or by transport of rivers in the forelands (see HORTA 1995, KREUTZMANN 1998, 2000, 2006a, NUESSER 2001). Political-economic conflicts appear when external players introduce large scale projects with significant local effects and export of profits. Consequently the integration of marginal regions into the national and global market economy poses the threat of loosing control over resources. The World Commission on High Dams was introduced in 1998 to settle disputes and to enhance communication among different interest groups in the style of "round tables". It aims at optimizing project planning and development. The controversial water issue features quite prominently in the "Cusco declaration on sustainable development of mountain ecosystems" and illustrates competing interests over resources in mountain regions and strategies for their utilization. Key words in the Cusco declaration of 2001 are: integrated watershed development, participation of communities, civil society and governments on all levels, responsibilities for regulation, control and conservation, respect for the organizations, cultural traditions and customary rights, economic compensation policies for mountain populations for the services rendered to develop low lands.

The sublime aims proclaimed here and the envisaged development strategies for mountain regions lead the path towards sustainable development and participation in globalized economies whatever the meaning of this might be. Conflict of interests among different actors, power struggles, economic and political intervention, external and in some cases inappropriate development models fills the spectrum in which mountain development takes place. If mountain regions and their inhabitants are treated as part of world society then an assessment is necessary what we really know about the development deficits and potential of these areas. The hypothesis presented here is that mountain regions are singled out in their specificity as such without appropriately considering their incorporation into nation states, administrative structures and economic networks. There are manifold experiences from the industrialized countries where regional planning and domestic subsidiarity required detailed information and data bases (see for example the Swiss transformation study presented by BRUGGER et al. 1984). In the context of mountain regions in developing countries, where uncountable mountain-related NGOs are based and where numerous development programmes are implemented nowadays, there is a significant lack of basic knowledge for the assessment of perceived deficits. How do development actors know where to alleviate poverty by initiating a programme? On a global scale we are used to different systems of indicators which are structuring the world on a country by country basis. What information do they contain about mountain areas?
Main Menu To top Continue