Deforestation in the Himalayas


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Deforestation can be described as the act of removing a forest or tress stand from a piece of land which is then converted into other use (Naik, 2010). Deforestation has been a major phenomenon in the world since the onset of industrialization in the early 19 century. Statistics shows that since the 19th century the world has lost 80% of its total forest cover and this environmental destructive activity is still on going in various parts of the world (Naik, 2010).

The Himalayas region is one such region that deforestation still remains a rampart activity. Deforestation in the Himalayas involves two categories of stakeholders; the victims of deforestation and the causing stakeholders. While deforestation in the Himalayas has presented opportunity to the causing stakeholders, it has exerted adverse and negative impacts on the victims. This paper will discuss who these stakeholders are and the effects that deforestation of the Himalayas has had on them.

Adverse Effects of Deforestation in the Himalayas

Deforestation has had various effects on the Himalayas physical and social environments. One effect of deforestation is loss of biodiversity (Gurati, 2002). Forests have been playing and still play the role of important habitats to various species of plants and animals and when interfered with the survival of these plants and animals is placed under threat. It has been estimated that 40 percent of plants and animal species in Southeast Asia may become extinct during this century.

This is due to loss of large amount of indigenous forests land which is replaced by plantations. This situation is a clear reflection of what is happening in the Himalayas region. Animal such as tigers, rhinos and leopards were once inhabitants of the sub-Himalayan region but moved away after deforestation of this area (Himalayas, 2001). Loss of this biodiversity has been a great loss not only to the local communities but also to the human race in general. The local communities are still dependent on this rich biodiversity for various purposes such as food and medicine and their extinction has made these communities victims of the adverse effects of deforestation.

Another negative impact of deforestation in the Himalayas is the interference of the hydro-logical system of the region. Trees are very vital part of the water cycle as they extract water from below the ground through the roots and release them into the atmosphere via the leaves. Destruction of forests in the Himalayas has interfered with this cycle leading to much drier climates. This has adversely affected the local Indians, the Tibetans, the Nepalese, the local Chinese and other local communities around the Himalayas who are dependent on subsistence farming which depends on the rain.

The Himalayas is especially a very important water tower giving rise to various rivers and now destruction of forests is threatening water security for residents living in and around the ranges. Deforestation in the Himalayas forest can also be linked to global warming and climate change (Gronewold, 2010). Trees absorb CO2 which is the make up the largest proportion of green house gases. Destruction of forests around the world including in the Himalayas region has been attributed to the reduced capacity of the earth to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Concentration of the CO2 gas in the atmosphere has been of much concern around the world as it has been attributed to global warming and changes in climatic patterns. In the Himalayas impacts of climate change are evidenced by the gradual reduction of the size of the Himalayas glaciers which was once deemed as the largest outside the Polar Regions. The areas around the Himalayas ranges are also experiencing changes in climatic patterns. There are increased dry spells and cases of flooding which destroy infrastructure, houses and sometimes causes loss of human lives.

There are also negative economic impacts linked to deforestation of the Himalayas rages. The local communities living in and around the Himalayas ecosystem depend on this ecosystem for their livelihoods in one ways or the other. There are several local communities that are completely dependent on timber for their construction and wood for fuel and lighting. Such communities have become victims of deforestation as the resources that meet their essential needs are being rapidly depleted.

Due to problems such as flooding and persistent drought that have brought about by drought, many local communities whose main stay was agriculture are being widely affected. Deforestation of the Himalayas has also been a major cause of soil erosion. Roots of trees are usually responsible for holding soil particles together and reducing the speed of run off water and wind thereby minimizing soil erosion. Deforestation leaves a land prone to agents of soil erosion such wind and water and therefore increasing the rate of erosion. This has adversely impacted the local communities by reducing the productivity of their land as the top fertile soil is carried away and also by causing silting of rivers which form their main source of water for domestic usage.

Benefits and Benefiting Stakeholders

Deforestation in the Himalayas region has mainly been driven by short term benefits targeted by various stakeholders. One of the benefiting stakeholders are the large-scale commercial farmers. Commercial farming especially of the tea cash crop has been one of the main factors that led to the clearing forest in the Sub-Himalayan region. Since 1950 nearly 90% of the sub-Himalayan region has been cleared and put under tea and other agricultural production. Assam is tea growing area in the Himalayas region in India which is deemed to be the largest tea growing area in the world (Gschweddner, 2010).

Tea production is also very popular in the Chinese territory of the Himalayas region. Though the actions of these commercial farmers are causing suffering to the local communities these farmers are only interested in the short term gain they are going to get from their destructive commercial activities. When finally these grounds around the Himalayas become unable to sustain agricultural production these commercial farmers are likely to shift to another place. Another group of beneficiaries from the deforestation that is taking place in the Himalayas are the tourism investors.

Since the 1950s tourism has developed into a major economic activity in the Himalayas region (Himalayas, 2001). Approximately 1 million tourists visit the Himalayas region every year, organizing trips to the peaks of the range. This increase in the tourists has cause a strain in the existing tourism facilities and resources calling for more forest land to be cleared to allow room for more tourism development. Deforestation is also carried out in order to clear ways and allow tourists’ access to the most interior parts of the Himalayas.

Tourism establishment are mainly owned by foreign multinational companies and therefore this deforestation for the sake of tourism development grant major benefits to the multinational tourism firms (Spaltenberger, 2007). The local communities suffer all the negative impacts of the deforestation and yet the benefits they receive from tourism are less than significant. The timber industry is also a thriving industry in the Himalayas especially in the western parts of the Nepal and Bhutan (Himalayas, 2001).

According to a report released by World Wide Fund for nature (1997), logging is the major cause of global deforestation. According to these report, 50,000 hectares of land are cleared every week for logging purposes. Logging and timber harvesting is also a thriving trade in the Himalayan region with large timber processing and construction multinational companies dominating the trade to also large government corporation such as Myanmar Timber Enterprise owned by the government of Myanmar.

The logging and timber industry seem to benefits people living outside the Himalayas more than the local communities. This is because most of the investments in the logging and timber industry are owned by large international investors. Locals taking part in the logging industry do not get significant benefits as they can not trade in the open as they will be termed as illegal loggers. The timber products made out of these precious natural resources are rarely sold to the locals but find their ways into large cities or in the export markets.

Underlying Motives, Needs and Habits of the Causing Stakeholders

The destruction of the Himalayas forests especially the sub-Himalayan region date back to the late 19th century and the driving causes can be divided into two.  During the late 19th century and early 20th century deforestation in the Himalayas was mainly attributed to subsistence activities and colonial government projects aimed at civilizing the area. In the rate 19th century the population of the local Himalayan communities had risen that the existing resources could not sustain their upkeep.

These communities were forced to move into the forest and clear more land for cultivation and for grazing their animals and also in order to get timber for construction and fire wood for fuel. The local communities were motivated by their needs for food, space and other resource to engage in the act of deforestation. There are various characteristics and habits of the local communities that made them more destructive to the environment. One of them is having limited alternative source of livelihood apart from those provided by the Himalayas resources. The Himalayas local communities were mainly peasant farmers or herders and therefore they heavily relied on the Himalayas ecosystem.

The Himalayan local communities also practice a destructive form of agriculture. They could clear and cultivate a piece of land until it looses its fertility and then move on to another piece of land. The colonial governments also played a role in deforestation of the Himalayas during the late 19 century and early parts of the 20th century. During the colonization period the colonial governments cleared forest to create access to the interior parts of the ranges. After the 1950 majority of the main cause of deforestation was as a result of industrial factors such as; commercial agriculture, tourism, timber and other extractive industry and cattle ranching.

Stakeholders that spearheaded these activities that contributed massive deforestation of the forest were mainly powerful multinational companies. These stakeholders caused a lot of harm to the Himalayan forests because, unlike the local these entities had the appropriate capital and equipments that enabled them to clear large pieces of forest land with ease and in the shortest time. These stakeholders are mainly motivated by capitalistic gains and hunger for profit.

The large commercial agricultural farms, multinational timber company and large tourism establishment are contributing to deforestation because they have recognized the short term economic benefits that this action presents to them. These stakeholders act to maximize their profitability by expanding their operation with total disregard of their action.

Social Rules

One of the social rules that have encouraged the process of deforestation in the Himalayas is the need to meet basic needs. This is informal rule in the society that members of every society must be able to meet their own basic needs and wants. As the human population in the Himalayas increased the ability of the local communities to meet their basic needs using the existing resources was strained. These communities were forced into searching for more resources.

The only available option was to move into the Himalayas forests and clear land to further their farming, herding and other economic activities. It is also a social rule for the governments and other stakeholders to promote developments in all regions under their jurisdiction. The governments of nations sharing the Himalayas have tried to fulfill this social rule by promoting development into the Himalayas. Most of these governments have built roads into the interiors of Himalayas trying to open up these areas for economic activities such as tourism.

Though the governments are trying to fulfill their social responsibilities they are have caused a lot of destruction which will result in more harm than good in the long term. Another social rule concerns the need to ensure personal progress and success. In ancient and modern societies it has always been the desire of every individual in the society to make achievements and be successful in life. The society has always encouraged this as through appreciation of achievements more people are motivated to work towards meeting their personal and societal goals.

Personal achievement has been overemphasized in the capitalistic societies where people have come to value individual achievement before everything else. In attempt to achieve individual success, both local and foreign stakeholders have contributed to deforestation in order to make more profits which have become the basic measurement of success in capitalistic societies.

Available Resources

The main reasons behind deforestation of the Himalayas so that the responsible stakeholders could gain access to the valuable resources presented by the Himalayas. There are various key resources available in the Himalayas that have made it prone to deforestation. The main resource is land. Land is a scarce resource not only in the Himalayas but everywhere around the world. As population increases, demand for land to live on, grow crops and graze animals and to make other investments become scarce.

Large tracks of forest land in the sub-Himalayas region were cleared in order to provide more land for human settlements, commercial agriculture and other economic activities. The middle Himalayas and the great Himalayas are still undergoing deforestation in order to provide these much needed land resources. Another resource is timber or wood. Timber has various uses from domestic to industrial. The local communities in the Himalayas region are mainly dependent on firewood for fuel and timber for construction, making timber a very coveted resource.

The commercial loggers and timber harvesters have also found new value in the Himalayas timber and are eager to exploit it in order to make profits. This resource has contributed significantly to the deforestation of the Himalayas. Tourism resources such as scenic beauty, terrain, glaciers, flora and fauna have also contributed to the destruction of forests in the Himalayas (Spaltenberger, 2007). Tourism has been a rapidly growing economic activity in the Himalayas with other 1 million tourists visiting the ranges every year.

In order to respond to this demand, forest lands are cleared to pave way for construction of tourism establishments such as lodges and access roads to the mountainous region. In summary, deforestation is a serious problem in the Himalayas region. This problem is caused by a few stakeholders who stand to benefits in the shorts term while exposing other stakeholders to eminent danger and suffering in the long term.

The deforestation causing stakeholders are being motivated by among other reasons the availability of valuable resources in the Himalayas which they would like to exploit and control. If this situation is not managed appropriately, many people stand to loose including all global citizens.


Anonymous (2001), Himalaya, retrieved on February 8, 2011, from

Gurati (2002). Population Pressure and Deforestation in India. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from

Gaschwedner (2010). Tea Growing Regions. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from

Gronewold, (2010), Climate Change, Deforestation and Climate Combine to Drown a Region, retrieved on February 10, 2011, from

Naik (2010). Deforestation Statistics. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from

Spaltenberger (2007), Tourism in the Himalayas, retrieved on February 8, 2011, from

Wild wide Fund for Nature (1997). Logging is the Major Cause of Global Deforestation. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from

Nancy Morgan is the Author of this paper. She is a senior academic writer and an editor and she offers Dissertation Writing Service. Thus, people that doubt their own writing abilities can use the best custom paper writing service and forget about their fears and lack of confidence by visiting EssayWritingBay.Com

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