2021: Differentiate the causes of landslides in the Himalayan region and Western Ghats



How does the Juno Mission of NASA help to understand the origin and evolution of the Earth? 2017

2018:Why is the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) needed? How does it help in navigation?

NOW QUESTIONS AND THEIR COMPLETE COVERED ANSWERS                                                              


      • Desertification is the process by which the biological productivity of drylands (arid and semiarid lands) is reduced due to natural or manmade factors. It does not mean the expansion of existing deserts. As per UNESCO, one-third of the world’s land surface is threatened by desertification.Causes for Desertification?
        • Man-Made Causes:
          • Overgrazing
            • It reduces the usefulness, productivity, and biodiversity of the land.
            • India lost 31% of grasslands between 2005 and 2015.
          • Deforestation
            • A forest acts as a carbon sink.
            • Deforestation releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect.
          • Farming Practices
            • Slash and burn agriculture exposes state to soil erosion hazards
            • Heavy tilling and overirrigation disturbs mineral composition of the soil.
          • Urbanization
            • As urbanization increases, the demand for resources increases drawing more resources and leaving lands that easily succumb to desertification.
          • Climate Change
            • It may exacerbate desertification through alteration of spatial and temporal patterns in temperature, rainfall, solar radiation and winds.
          • Overexploitation of Resources
            • Increasing demand for land resources due to issues like overpopulation leaves land vulnerable to desertification.
          • Natural Causes:
            • Natural Disasters
              • Natural Disasters like Floods, Droughts, landslides results into
                • Water Erosion
                • Displacement of fertile soil.
              • Water erosion
                • It results into Badland Topography which itself is an initial stage of desertification.
              • Wind Erosion
                • Sand encroachment by wind reduces fertility of the soil making the land susceptible to desertification.

        Impacts of Desertification

        • Environmental impacts:
          • Destruction of Vegetation
          • Soil infertility
          • Increased soil erosion
          • Increased vulnerability to natural disasters
          • Land degradation
          • Water pollution
          • Loss of biodiversity & extinction of species
        • Economical impacts:
          • Increased occurrences of natural hazards like,
            • Floods
            • Landslides
            • Draughts
          • Threatens agricultural productivity.
          • Repercussive impacts increase poverty.
          • Overall productivity of the economy decreases
        • Social Impacts:
          • Rise of famine, poverty, social conflicts
          • Forces mass migrations i.e. environmental migration.
          • Food Security Issues
        • Political Impacts:
          • Repercussive impacts also lead to political instability

        Status of Desertification in India

        • 96 million hectares or close to 29% of India’s area is undergoing degradation.
        • The extent of degraded land in India is over 105 million hectares or about 32%of India’s areas.
        • India has witnessed an increase in the level of desertification in 26 of 29 states between 2003-05 and 2011-13.
        • More than 80% of the country’s degraded land lies in just nine states.



        Measures taken by India to Curb Desertification

        • Command Area Development
          • It was launched in 1974 to improve the irrigation potential utilization and to optimize agricultural production through efficient water management.


        • Integrated Watershed Management Programme
          • It was launched in 1989-90.
          • It aims to restore ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources with the creation of Rural Employment.

    • Desert Development Programme
      • It was launched in 1995to minimize the adverse effect of drought and to rejuvenate the natural resource base of the identified desert areas.
      • It was launched for hot desert areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryanaand cold desert areas of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
      • It is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development.
      • Desert Development Programme
        • It was launched in 1995to minimize the adverse effect of drought and to rejuvenate the natural resource base of the identified desert areas.
        • It was launched for hot desert areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryanaand cold desert areas of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
        • It is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development.
      • India became a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)in 1994 and ratified in 1996.



  1. INTRODUCTION : Continental Drift theory was put forth by Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist, polar explorer, astronomer, and geologist. He is in fact known as the father of continental drift.

  2. BODY : According to Wegener, the drift was in two directions:

  3. -equator wards due to the interaction of forces of gravity, pole-fleeing force (due to centrifugal force caused by earth’s rotation) and buoyancy (ship floats in water due to buoyant force offered by water), and

  4. -westwards due to tidal currents because of the earth’s motion (earth rotates from west to east, so tidal currents act from east to west, according to Wegener).

  5. -Wegener suggested that tidal force (gravitational pull of the moon and to a lesser extent, the sun) also played a major role.

  6. -The polar-fleeing force relates to the rotation of the earth. Earth is not a perfect sphere; it has a bulge at the equator. This bulge is due to the rotation of the earth (greater centrifugal force at the equator).

  7. -Centrifugal force increases as we move from poles towards the equator. This increase in centrifugal force has led to pole fleeing, according to Wegener.

  8. -Tidal force is due to the attraction of the moon and the sun that develops tides in oceanic waters (tides explained in detail in oceanography).

  9. According to Wegener, these forces would become effective when applied over many million years, and the drift is continuing.

    Evidence in support of Continental Drift

    Apparent Affinity of Physical Features

    Apparent Affinity of Physical Features

    • The bulge of Brazil (South America) seems to fit into the Gulf of Guinea (Africa).

    • Greenland seems to fit in well with Ellesmere and Baffin islands of Canada.

    • The west coast of India, Madagascar and Africa seem to have been joined.

    • North and South America on one side and Africa and Europe on the other fit along the mid-Atlantic ridge.

    • The Caledonian and Hercynian mountains of Europe and the Appalachians of USA seem to be one continuous series.



    • Coastlines are a temporary feature and are liable to change.

    • Several other combinations of fitting in of unrelated landforms could be attempted.

    • Continental Drift Theory shifts India’s position too much to the south, distorting its relationship with the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps.

    • The mountains do not always exhibit geological affinity.

    Causes of Drift

    • The gravity of the earth, the buoyancy of the seas and the tidal currents were given as the main factors causing the drift, by Wegener.


    • This is illogical because for these factors to be able to cause a drift of such a magnitude, they will have to be millions of times stronger.

    Polar wandering (Shifting of Poles)

    • The position of the poles constantly drifted (due to plate tectonics).


    • Poles may have shifted, not necessarily the continents.

    Botanical Evidence

    • Presence of glossopteris vegetation in Carboniferous rocks of India, Australia, South Africa, Falkland Islands (Overseas territory of UK), Antarctica, etc. (all split from the same landmass called Gondwana) can be explained from the fact that parts were linked in the past.


    • Similar vegetation is found in unrelated parts of the world like Afghanistan, Iran and Siberia.

    Distribution of Fossils

    • The observations that Lemurs occur in India, Madagascar and Africa led some to consider a contiguous landmass “Lemuria” linking these three landmasses.

    • Mesosaurus was a small reptile adapted to shallow brackish water. The skeletons of these are found only in South Africa and Brazil. The two localities presently are 4,800 km apart with an ocean in between them.

    Rocks of Same Age Across the Oceans

    • The belt of ancient rocks of 2,000 million years from Brazil coast matches with those from western Africa.


    • Rocks of the same age and similar characteristics are found in other parts of the world too.

    Tillite deposits

    • Tillite deposits are sedimentary rocks formed out of deposits of glaciers.

    • The Gondwana system of sediments are found in India, Africa, Falkland Island, Madagascar, Antarctica and Australia (all were previously part of Gondwana).

    • Overall resemblance demonstrates that these landmasses had remarkably similar histories.

    Placer Deposits

    • Rich placer deposits of gold are found on the Ghana coast (West Africa) but the source (gold-bearing veins) are in Brazil, and it is obvious that the gold deposits of Ghana are derived from the Brazil plateau when the two continents lay side by side.

    Drawbacks of Continental Drift Theory

    • Wegener failed to explain why the drift began only in Mesozoic era and not before.

    • The theory doesn’t consider oceans.

    • Proofs heavily depend on assumptions that are generalistic.

    • Forces like buoyancy, tidal currents and gravity are too weak to be able to move continents.

    • Modern theories (Plate Tectonics) accept the existence of Pangaea and related landmasses but give a very different explanation to the causes of drift.

  10.  3. MAJOR HOT DESERTS IN NORTHERN HEMISPHERE ARE LOCATED BETWEEN 20-30 DEGREE NORTH LATITUDES AND ON THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE CONTINENTS. WHY?Major hot deserts in northern hemisphere are located between 20-30 degree north and on the western side of the continents. Why? - Quora

    • Lack of Cyclonic Rainfall:  The 20-30 N region comes under Sub Tropical High Pressure(STHP) zone, so they experience anti-cyclonic effects on ground. This deters rising of air, cloud formation and cyclonic rains.

    • Lack of Orographic rainfall: The eastern region of 20-30N receive rain due to moisture laden trade winds, but by the time they reach western side, they become dry. Hence scanty rain in western region.

    • Lack of Convectional rainfall: precondition is moisture laden warm air. But due to Cold currents, the air near coastal areas is cool and dry. This prevents formation of convectional rainfall. And thus lead to desertification effect on western coast of continents. For example: Californian cold current vs. Mohave desert; Canaries cold current vs. Sahara desert and Arabian desert.

    • Low level of Relative humidity: When air becomes saturated with the water vapour at given temperature and pressure, it results into cloud formation. But Relative humidity is very low in the desert, every droplets of moisture is evaporated before the air becomes saturated with water. Hence lack of cloud formation.

    The hot deserts lie along the Horse Latitudes or the Sub-Tropical High Pressure Belts where the air is descending, a condition least favorable for precipitation of any kind to take place.
    • The rain-bearing Trade Winds blow off-shore and the Westerlies that are on-shore blow outside the desert limits.
    • Whatever winds reach the deserts blow from cooler to warmer regions, and their relative humidity is lowered, making condensation almost impossible.
    • There is scarcely any cloud in the continuous blue sky. The relative humidity is extremely low, decreasing from 60 per cent in coastal districts to less than 30 per cent in the desert interiors. Under such conditions, every bit of moisture is evaporated and the deserts are thus regions of permanent drought. Precipitation is both scarce and most unreliable.
    • On the western coasts, the presence of cold currents gives rise to mists and fogs by chilling the on-coming air. This air is later warmed by contact with the hot land, and little rain falls. The desiccating effect of the cold Peruvian Current along the Chilean coast is so pronounced that the mean annual rainfall for the Atacama Desert is not more than 1.3 cm.

    The climate and geography of these hot deserts have a major role to play in deciding their locations


    Landslides are physical mass movement of soil, rocks and debris down the mountain slope because of heavy rainfall, earthquake, gravity and other factors.

    How do they occur:

    The condition for the occurrence of landslides are:

    • steep sloped mountains,

    • the base of the huge mountains eroded by rivers or due to mining activities or erosion agents resulting in steep slopes,

    • loose rocks with the effect of gravity acting on them.

    • It becomes more dangerous when there is heavy rainfall, earthquakes, snowfall, solifluction.

    • Increased industrialisation leading to climate change and weather disturbances

    • Change in river flow due to construction of dams, barriers, etc.

    • Loose soil cover and sloping terrain.

    Landslides are frequent in Himalayas because:

    • Heavy snowfall in winter and melting in summer.

    • This induces debris flow, which is carried in large quantity by numerous streams and rivers.

    • Himalayas are made of sedimentary rocks which can easily be eroded. These aides landslides.

    • Drifting of Indian plate causes frequent earthquakes and resultant instability in the region.

    • Man-made activities like grazing, construction and cultivation abet soil erosion and risks of landslides.

    • Himalayas not yet reached its isostatic equilibrium which destabilizes the slopes. It leads to landslides.

    • Diurnal changes of temperature are much more in northern India than in southern slopes. This weakens the rocks and aids mass wasting.

    Less frequent in W.Ghats because:

    • Western Ghats are eroded, denuded, aged, mature and worn out by exogenic forces. Moreover, they are far less in height. Hence landslide occurrence is rare.

    • Less occurrence of earthquakes because they’re on more stable part of Indian plate.

    • While steep slope on western side with high rainfall creates idea condition for landslide but gentle eastern slope with low rainfall and rivers in senile stage, counters the condition.

    • W Ghats are older-block mountain therefore they are more stable now. Moving of Indian plates doesn’t affect them.

    • Small & swift flowing streams of western side and big matured rivers on eastern side (like Krishna, Godavari, etc) cannot carry large amount of debris.

    • Western Ghats have lesser man made interference as of now than what Himalayas have faced.

    Thus, the pristine and unique nature of Himalayas, steep and high mountain ranges, and infrastructure projects have caused frequent landslides compared to Western Ghats.


    • Delta is a “depositional feature of a river formed at the mouth of the river. These are wetlands that form as rivers empty their water and sediment into another body of water, such as an ocean, lake, or another river.

      • It is a characteristic feature of a river in its senile stage (old).

    • Wetlands: It is defined as a transitional area between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.
    • Mouth of River: It is the part of a river where the river enters into another river, a lake, a reservoir, a sea, or an ocean.

    Formation of Delta

    • A river moves more slowly as it nears its mouth, or end. This causes sediment, solid material carried downstream by currents, to fall to the river bottom.

    • The slowing velocity of the river and the build-up of sediment allows the river to break from its single channel as it nears its mouth. The river forms a Deltaic lobe.

      • A mature Deltaic lobe includes a distributary network. The series of smaller, shallower channels are called distributaries, and are branched off from the mainstream of the river.

      • In a Deltaic lobe, heavier, coarser material settles first. Smaller, finer sediment is carried farther downstream.

        • The finest material is deposited beyond the river’s mouth. This material is called alluvium or silt.

        • Silt is rich in nutrients that help microbes and plants, which leads to the growth of producers in the food web.

      • As silt builds up, new land is formed. This is the Delta. A Delta extends a river’s mouth into the body of water into which it is emptying.

    • The Deltas are typically made up of three parts: the upper Delta plain, the lower Delta plain, and the subaqueous Delta.

      • The subaqueous part of a Delta is underwater. This is the most steeply sloping part of the Delta, and contains the finest silt. The newest part of the subaqueous Delta, furthest from the mouth of the river, is called the proDelta.

      • The subaerial part of a Delta is above water. The subaerial region most influenced by waves and tides is called the lower Delta. The region most influenced by the river’s flow is called the upper Delta.

    Factors Affecting Delta Formation

    • Numerous factors influence the character of a delta, the most important of which are:

      • Climatic conditions

      • Geologic setting

      • Sediment sources in the drainage basin

      • Tectonic stability

      • River slope and flooding characteristics

      • Intensities of depositional and erosional processes

      • Tidal range and offshore energy conditions.

    • Combinations of these factors and time give rise to the wide variety of modern deltas.

    • The presence of a delta represents the continuing ability of rivers to deposit stream-borne sediments more rapidly than they can be removed by waves and ocean currents.

    Types of Deltas

    • On the basis of the shape, following are various types of Deltas:

      • Arcuate Delta: It is fan-shaped Delta. A bowed or curved Delta with the convex margin facing the body of water. Relatively coarse sediments are formed in this type of Delta. The river activity is balanced with the wind.

        • Example, the River Nile Delta in Egypt and the Ganges Delta in India.

      • Bird’s foot Delta: Named because it forms like a bird foot’s claw. This shape is created when the waves are weak and the river flow is stronger. They are formed due to deposition of finer materials by river water.

        • Deposited alluvial material divides the river into smaller distributaries. Thus, this Delta rarely occurs along ocean coasts because the waves are often stronger than the river current.

        • Such Delta is also called finger Delta.

        • Example, Mississippi river Delta, the USA.

      • Cuspate Deltas: It is formed where sediments are deposited onto a straight shoreline with strong waves. The waves push the sediments to spread outwardly creating the tooth-like shape.

        • Example, Tiber River of Italy.

      • Estuarine Delta: It is formed at the mouth of submerged rivers depositing down the sides of the estuary.

        • Example, the Seine River of France, the Deltas of Narmada and Tapi (formerly Tapti) rivers of India.

      • Lacustrine Delta: It is formed when a river flows into a lake. Example, Lough Leanne river Delta, Ireland.

      • Truncated Delta: Sea waves and ocean currents modify and even destroy Deltas deposited by the river through their erosional work. Thus, eroded and dissected Deltas are called truncated Deltas.

      • Abandoned Delta: When the river shifts its mouth, the Delta already made is left abandoned. Such a Delta is called an abandoned Delta.

        • Example, Yellow river Delta, China and the Western part of Ganga Delta made by Hoogly river, India.

    Importance of Deltas

    • Human civilization: River Deltas have been important to humans for thousands of years because of their extremely fertile soils.

      • Major ancient civilizations grew along Deltas such as those of the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates rivers, with the inhabitants of these civilizations learning how to live with their natural flooding cycles.

    • Agricultural activities: Delta land is important in agricultural use. These regions are one of the most agriculturally diverse and productive areas in the world.

      • Example: Cauvery Delta in India and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California.

    • Economic activities: Deltas is a source of sand and gravel, used in highway, building and infrastructure construction.

      • Deltas often host extensive industrial and commercial activities as well as agricultural land which are often in conflict.

      • Some of the world’s largest regional economies are located on Deltas such as the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta in China.

    • Biodiversity hotspot: The river Deltas boast some of the most biodiverse systems on the planet.

      • Example: Sunderbans forests, one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in India.

      • It is essential that this unique ecosystem remains as a healthy habitat for the many species of plants, animals, insects, fish and some rare, threatened or endangered species.

    • Act as a buffer region: The Deltas region provides a buffer for cyclones, as open land often stands to weaken the impact of storms as they travel toward larger, more populated areas.

      • The Mississippi River Delta, for example, buffers the impact of potentially strong hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Threat to Delta

    • Dam construction: Extensive river management through the use of dams threatens Deltas. River management involves monitoring and administering a river’s flow.

      • It increases the amount of land available for agricultural or industrial development, and controls access to water for drinking, industry, and irrigation.

      • The actions reduce the flow of sediment and, thus, the growth of land.

      • The Nile Delta is also shrinking as a result of the Aswan Dam and other river management techniques.

    • Seawater intrusion: In the Krishna Delta widespread seawater intrusion is transforming the fresh groundwater to brackish/saline water.

      • With more dams across the Krishna and the Godavari rivers under construction, together with increasing groundwater and hydrocarbon extraction within the Delta region, the health of the ecosystem and the wellbeing of the millions of people inhabiting these Deltas are at risk.

    • Climate change: Besides subsidence and sea level rise, more extreme weather events on Deltas are resulting in more severe floods, longer duration droughts and higher temperatures.

      • The frequency, duration, and strength of cyclones causing floods seem to be increasing, especially in the Asian Deltas (e.g. Irrawaddy and Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna), and in the Mississippi River Delta.

      • Climate change seems to be causing higher peak flows and lower low flows in the Rhine-Meuse and Danube Deltas. The extreme variability of the climate is impacting its hydrology as is the increasing average and extreme temperatures.

    • Pollution: Inadequately treated sewage and fertilizer and other nutrient runoff from agricultural and urban areas are the causes of eutrophication in the Delta region.

      • The water quality problems in the world are leading to a hypoxic zone in the area adjacent to the major Deltas. Example: Gulf of Mexico.

    Important Facts

    • The Ganges–Brahmaputra Delta, which spans most of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India empties into the Bay of Bengal, is the world’s largest delta.

      • Sundarban, a world heritage site lies in Ganges delta, also contains the world’s largest area of mangrove forests.

    • The Selenga River delta in Russia is the largest delta emptying into a body of fresh water (Lake Baikal).


      Introduction to Landslide & Hazard Zonation

      • (Definition of Landslide) Sudden mass movement of soil is called landslide. Landslides occur in hill areas, due to instability of land mass due to loose soil, excessive water/moisture.
      • Gravity acts on such an unstable landmass and causes the large chunks of surface materials such as soil and rocks slide down rapidly.
      • (Definition of Hazard zonation) refers to “the division of the land in homogeneous areas and their ranking according to the degrees of potential hazard caused by a disaster.”
      • It is always difficult to predict the occurrence and behaviour of a landslide.
      • However, on the basis of past experiences with the factors like geology, slope, land-use, vegetation cover and human activities, we can divide landslide prone areas in the following zones:

      Body1 → Landslide → How to map the zones?

      • Areas that experience frequent ground-shaking due to earthquakes
      • Areas of intense human activities such as construction of roads, dams, etc. are
      • High rainfall regions with steep slopes
      • Himalayas and Andaman and Nicobar, in the Western Ghats and Nilgiris
      • Further, we can prepare Landslide hazard zonation maps for individual districts / roads / routes in these areas using past occurrence data, GIS / remote sensing technology and aerial photographs.
      • ISRO has prepared such maps for pilgrim routes in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya.

      Body2 → Landslide → How to zoning can help?

      Such information helps the decision makers for better planning and precautionary measures in these areas e.g.

      • Diverting the vehicles / pilgrims and putting a halt on Mining activities during the rainy season.
      • They can also keep the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and SDRF personnel on stand by in these areas.
      • They can ban construction of new roads, dams and hotels.
      • Limiting agriculture to valleys and areas with moderate slopes.
      • Encourage terrace farming instead of Jhumming.
      • Large-scale afforestation programmes and construction of bunds to reduce the flow of water.

      Conclusion: Yes hazard zonation can help

      • While landslides cause relatively small and localised damage, but the resultant destruction of road, railway, communication and electricity lines disconnects the area from the rest of the world.
      • Thus it causes long-term negative impact on economic growth and human development.
      • Therefore, landslide preparedness through hazard zonation mapping should be given priority attention in such areas.


Landslides are simply defined as the mass movement of rock, debris or earth down a slope and have come to include a broad range of motions whereby falling, sliding and flowing under the influence of gravity dislodges earth material. They often take place in conjunction with earthquakes, floods and volcanoes. In the hilly terrain of India including the Himalayas, landslides have been a major and widely spread natural disaster that often strike life and property and occupy a position of major concern. Example: the Uttarakhand tragedy.

The reason why Himalayas are particularly vulnerable to landslides is because the mountain belt comprises of tectonically unstable younger geological formations subjected to severe seismic activity. The slides in the Himalayas region are huge and massive and in most cases the overburden along with the underlying lithology is displaced during sliding particularly due to the seismic factor. The landslide-prone Himalayan terrain also belongs to the maximum earthquake-prone zones and thus is also prone to earthquake-triggered landslides. The slopes of the mountains have immature and rugged topography, high seismicity and high rainfall, all contributing to the region’s high vulnerability to landslides.

Like any other natural hazard they can’t be entirely eliminated. The damage however can be reduced by planning and disaster management. This can be done through:

  • Treating vulnerable slopes and existing hazardous landslides.
  • Restricting development in landslide-prone areas.
  • Preparing codes for excavation, construction and grading.
  • Protecting existing developments.
  • Monitoring and warning systems.
  • Putting in place arrangements for landslide insurance and compensation for losses.

Above measures, if integrated in development and planning of Himalayan states will ensure sufficient protection against tragedies like Uttarakhand floods.


Fold mountains are the result of folding of the Earth’s crustal rocks by compressive forces. They are considered as the “true mountains” and the term Orogenesis or mountain building is commonly used for Fold mountains.

Examples – Rockies (North America), Andes (South America), Alps (Europe), Atlas(Africa), Himalayas (Asia) etc.

Fold Mountain

In this article, we will discuss in detail about the various types of fold mountains, their characteristics, location and touch upon the theories of fold mountain formation

A Brief on Mountains in general

Mountains are natural elevated second order relief features (refer to Table 1) on the Earth s surface.

The Penguin Dictionary of Geography defines a mountain as any natural elevation on earth s surface with a summit small in proportion to its base, rising more or less abruptly from the surrounding level.

Based on their mode of formation, mountains can be classified into four main types

  1. Fold Mountain
  2. Block Mountain
  3. Volcanic Mountain
  4. Residual Mountain

Table 1: Classification of features on Earth’s surface

First order relief Oceans and Continents Eg – Asia, Atlantic
Second order relief Features on the oceans and continents due to Endogenous Processes (caused by forces from within the Earth) Eg: Fold mountains, Volcanic mountains, Rift valley, Trenches
Third order relief Features on the ocean and continents due to Exogenous Processes (caused by forces on or above the Earth’s surface like wind erosion). Eg: River valley, waterfalls, Gorges, Canyons etc.

Types of Fold Mountains

On the basis of Nature of Fold

1. Simple folded mountains – folds are arranged in waves like pattern with a well-developed system of anticline and synclines.

2. Complex folded mountains – folds are complex in nature due to extreme compressional forces like overfold, recumbent fold and nappe.

On the basis of the Period of Origin

1. Old fold mountains – Those mountains which originated before the Tertiary period. These mountains have been so greatly denuded (or eroded) that they have become residual fold mountains. For example, Aravalis, Appalachians etc.

Table 2: Major mountain building phases

Era Mountain Building phase Age/Years before present Examples
Pre-Cambrian Archean 2500-3800 Million years Aravali Range in India
Pre-Cambrian Proterozoic 570-2500 Million years Wopmay Orogen in northwest Canada
Paleozoic Caledonian 320 Million years Scandinavian Highlands, Scotland mountains
Paleozoic Hercynian 240 Million years Ural, Pennines, Appalachians
Cenozoic Tertiary 65 Million years Alps, Rockies, Andes, Himalayas

2. Young or New fold mountains – These are the fold mountains of the Tertiary period. They are further subdivided based on their location

(i) Andean type of fold mountains – At the ocean – continental convergent boundaries (C-O). They are prone to both earthquakes and volcanic activities. Example – the Rockies, Andes

(ii) Himalayan type of fold mountains – At the continental – continental convergent boundaries (C-C). There is an absence of active volcanism here. Example – Great Himalayas

Characteristics of Fold Mountains

  • Rock Type – Formed due to the folding of sedimentary rocks by strong compressive forces. Furthermore, these rocks are of marine origin i.e. formed due to deposition and consolidation of sediments in water bodies.
  • Shallow water deposits – The marine fossils found in the sedimentary rocks belong to such organisms which can survive only in shallow waters.
  • Size – They are the loftiest, most extensive and elongated mountain chains on the Earth s surface. Their length is far greater than their width. For example, the Himalayas have an east-west length of 2400 km but their maximum width is only 400 km.
  • Volcanicity – They may or may not have active volcanism but volcanic rocks of ancient times may be found there. For example, Himalayas don t have active volcanism but volcanic rocks are found in Pir Panjal, Dalhauji (Himachal Pradesh) and Bhimtal (Kumaun).
  • Earthquake – Generally the region is prone to earthquakes due to the presence of active plate boundaries.
  • They are one of the youngest mountains of the world.
  • Generally found in an arc shape with one side having a concave slope and the other having convex slope.

    Where are the Fold Mountains Located?

    • They aren t located randomly on the Earth s surface.
    • Young fold mountains are generally located on the margins of the continents.
    • They are present mostly in the northern and western direction of the continents, like the Atlas in Africa, the Rockies and the Andes in North and south America.
    • If we consider the former Tethys sea, then the Himalayas were also once located along the margins of the continent.
    • They mark some of the major plate boundaries.
    • Old fold mountains are present inside the current continents. They represent the ancient plate boundaries and orogenic movements of those times.

    Fold Mountains of India

    1. Himalayan mountains – Young fold mountains, formed during the Tertiary period.
    2. Aravali Range – Oldest fold mountain of India, formed during the Archean period (2500 million years ago). Erosion over time has reduced their size
    3. Vindhyan Range – formed during a Proterozoic period (500 million years ago), erosion over time has left them to
    4. Satpura Mountains – meaning “seven folds”, they are the fold mountains of the Precambrian era and are highly deluded.
    5. Eastern Ghat – they were once fold mountains but have been eroded by the east-flowing peninsular rivers.

    Fold Mountain formation

    Various theories have been proposed to explain the formation of fold mountains. A good theory should be able to explain various unique characteristics of fold mountains and their location.

    Thermal Contraction Model of Harold Jeffrey

    • He proposed mountains as the wrinkles on the Earth surface formed when Earth’s crust cooled and contracted while differentiating from other parts
    • He used an analogy of layer of cream separating from a hot milk vessel cooling slowly. Limitation
    • Cannot explain the variation in age of various mountains on the Earth s surface.
    • It proposes same types of rocks and random distribution of mountains.

      Horizontal Displacement Theory by F.B.Taylor

      • According to him mountains formed due to equator side movement and collision of two ancient continents ( Laurasia and Gondwanaland).
      • Force causing movement – Gravitational and tidal pull of Sun and Moon. Limitation
      • Can best explain only Transeurasian mountains (the Alps + the Himalayas) but not other mountains
      • Incorrect reason for the movement of continents

        Continental Drift Theory by Alfred Wegener

        • It was an extension of Taylor s displacement hypothesis.
        • He proposed mountains as an accumulation of oceanic sediments (SIMA)
        • The subduction causes lateral compressive force which ultimately squeezes and folds the sediments.
        • At Continental-Continental (C-C) convergent plate boundary, the amount of sedimentation is maximum resulting in the formation of the highest mountains of the world.
        • C-C convergence is also associated with the strongest compressive forces, hence the fold mountains here develop complex folds and reverse faults.
        • scrapped by floating continents (SIAL) along the leading edge.
        • This helped explain the marine origin of sediments and their general presence on the western and northern side of the continents. Limitation
        • Wrong concept of SIAL and SIMA.
        • The mechanism suggested for movement (Tidal pull of Sun and Moon and the pole-fleeing force) was wrong

        Modern Theory of Plate Tectonics

        • According to Plate Tectonics mountains were formed due to colliding lithospheric plates along the convergent boundaries.
        • The colliding plates compress, accumulates and uplifts sediments between the two plates.
        • Arthur Holmes’ concept of Mantle Convection Currents explains the driving force behind the lithospheric plate movements.
        • At Oceanic-Continental (O-C) convergent plate boundary, the denser oceanic crust gets subducted under the relatively lighter continental crust.
        • The subduction causes lateral compressive force which ultimately squeezes and folds the sediments.
        • At Continental-Continental (C-C) convergent plate boundary, the amount of sedimentation is maximum resulting in the formation of the highest mountains of the world.
        • C-C convergence is also associated with the strongest compressive forces, hence the fold mountains here develop complex folds and reverse faults.

          Geosynclinal Theory of Mountain Building

          • Geosynclines are the long and relatively narrow depressions on the Earth s surface.
          • They are characterised by the continuous sediment accumulation, which causes gradual subsidence of the floor of Geosyncline.
          • Geosyncline as a concept helps in explaining the origin of an enormous amount of marine sediments that were uplifted into fold mountains.
          • Tethys sea was one of the major Geosyncline, which was uplifted to form the Himalayan system of mountains.

            Fold Mountains and Human Life

            Fold mountains impact the climate, vegetation, lifeforms and human activities in the area. A sudden increase in altitude presents a large variation in the climate of the region. For example, in the Andes mountain, equatorial rainforest exist just miles away from its snow-covered peak Cotopaxi.

            Similarly, the Himalayan fold mountains are responsible for the unique climate of the Indian subcontinent. They block the cold Siberian winds, preventing people from harsh winters. Also, they are responsible for the orographic rainfall from the south-eastern monsoonal winds.

            Fold mountains have significant economic importance as well. These areas house major tourist spots of the world. They are a pleasant holiday destination in summers and provide an opportunity for adventure sports.

            Their steep slope and melting water from glaciers provide huge potential for Hydro Electric Power, which is a cleaner energy source than the coal-based thermal power.

            Apart from this forest produce like timber, fuel-wood etc, agriculture activities (limited to sun-facing slope) and mining materials are some of the major economic benefits from these mountains.

            However, fold mountains are prone to disasters both natural and man-made. Almost all of them are prone to Earthquakes and many are also vulnerable to Volcanic eruptions as well. Soft soil of these mountains makes these areas prone to landslides as well in the event of heavy rainfall or earthquakes. Human activities have further destabilized the balance of nature in the area and increased the vulnerability in the region as seen during the Nepal earthquake, 2015 and Uttrakhand mountain Tsunami of 2013.


        Convergent Boundary

        • Along a convergent boundary two lithospheric plates collide against each other.
        • When one of the plates is an oceanic plate, it gets embedded in the softer asthenosphere of the continental plate, and as a result, trenches are formed at the zone of subduction.

        Convergent Boundary

        In convergence there are subtypes namely:

        1. Collision of oceanic plates or ocean-ocean convergence (formation of volcanic island arcs).
        2. Collision of continental and oceanic plates or ocean-continent convergence (formation of continental arcs and fold mountains).
        3. Collision of continental plates or continent-continent convergence (formation of fold mountains)
        4. Collision of continent and arc, or continent-arc convergence.

        Ocean-Ocean Convergence or The Island-Arc Convergence

        • The concept of Ocean-Ocean Convergence helps us understand the formation of Japanese Island Arc, Indonesian Archipelago, Philippine Island Arc and Caribbean Islands.
        • Archipelago: an extensive group of islands.
        • Island arc: narrow chain of islands which are volcanic in origin. An island arc is usually curved.


        In all types of convergence, the denser plate subducts, and the less dense plate is either up thrust or folded or both (upthrust and folded).

        • In Ocean-Ocean Convergence, a denser oceanic plate subducts below a less dense oceanic plate forming a trench along the boundary.

        Ocean – Ocean Convergence (via Wikimedia Commons)

        • As the ocean floor crust (oceanic plate) loaded with sediments subducts into the softer asthenosphere, the rocks in the subduction zone become metamorphosed (alteration of the composition or structure of a rock) under high pressure and temperature.
        • After reaching a depth of about 100 km, the plates melt. Magma (metamorphosed sediments and the melted part of the subducting plate) has lower density and is at high pressure.
        • It rises upwards due to the buoyant force offered by surrounding denser medium.
        • The magma flows out to the surface. A continuous upward movement of magma creates constant volcanic eruptions at the ocean floor.

        Subduction Zone Illustration (Eround1, via Wikimedia Commons)

        • Constant volcanism above the subduction zone creates layers of rocks. As this process continues for millions of years, a volcanic landform is created which in some cases rises above the ocean waters.
        • Such volcanic landforms all along the boundary form a chain of volcanic islands which are collectively called as Island Arcs (Indonesian Island Arc or Indonesian Archipelago, Philippine Island Arc, Japanese Island Arc etc.).
        • Orogenesis (mountain building) sets in motion the process of building continental crust by replacing the oceanic crust (this happens at a much later stage. For example, new islands are born around Japan in every few years. After some million years, Japan will be a single landmass because continental crust formation is constantly replacing the oceanic crust).

        This explanation is common for all the island arc formations (ocean-ocean convergence). We only need to know the plates involved with respect to each island formation.



        Formation of the Philippine Island Arc System

        • Philippine Island Arc system is formed due to subduction of Philippine Sea plate under the Sunda Plate (major continental shelf of the Eurasian plate). The trench formed here is called Philippine Trench.
        • Sunda Shelf: The extreme south-eastern portion of the Eurasian plate, which is a part of Southeast Asia, is a continental shelf. The region is called the Sunda Shelf. The Sunda Shelf and its islands is known as the Sundaland block of the Eurasian plate.


        Minor plates in the Southeast Asia

        Formation of the Indonesian Archipelago

        • In the case of Indonesian Archipelago, the Indo-Australian plate is subducting below Sunda Plate (part of Eurasian Plate). The trench formed here is called Sunda trench (Java Trench is a major section of Sunda trench).


        • Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatau) volcano lies close to the Java Trench. It is situated in the Sunda Strait between the Indonesians Islands of Java and Sumatra.
        • Underwater land shifting on the Anak Krakatau volcano in December 2018 triggered a Tsunami that killed more than 400 people.


        Anak Krakatau volcano situated between the Indonesians Islands of Java and Sumatra (Google Maps)

        Formation of the Caribbean Islands

        • The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate. The northern boundary with the North American plate is a transform or strike-slip boundary (more about this in the subsequent chapters).
        • The Caribbean Plate is moving to the east while the North American Plate is moving to the west.
        • The Puerto Rico Trench is located at a boundary between the two plates that pass each other along a transform boundary with only a small component of subduction.
        • The boundary between the two plates in the past has been convergent, and most of the Greater Antilles group of islands are formed due to the complex interaction between the two plates.
        • The eastern boundary of the Caribbean Plate is a subduction zone, the Lesser Antilles subduction zone, where oceanic crust of the South American Plate is being subducted under the Caribbean Plate.
        • This subduction zone explains the presence of active volcanoes along the Lesser Antilles.
        • Mount Pelée is an active volcano at the northern end of Martinique Island (French overseas department) in the Lesser Antilles island arc of the Caribbean.
        • The volcano is famous for its eruption in 1902. The eruption killed about 30,000 people. Most deaths were caused by pyroclastic flows which destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre.

        3D view of the Caribbean Islands (Wikipedia Commons)

        The Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles Island Arcs (Map from Google Earth)

        The island groups in the Caribbean Sea

        • The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea: Cuba, Hispaniola (containing Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.
        • Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles (or the Caribbean islands).
        • When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago (Bahama Archipelago), all three are known as the West Indies.
        • Lucayan Archipelago is an island group comprising the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and the British Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

        Islands in the Lesser Antilles Island Arcs (Map from Google Earth)

        Formation of Isthmus of Panama

        • Formation of the Isthmus of Panama involved subduction of the Pacific-Farallon Plate beneath the Caribbean and South American plates, forming a volcanic arc on the edge of the Caribbean Plate.
        • The remains of the ancient Farallon Oceanic Plate are the Juan de Fuca Plate, parts of the North American Plate and the South American Plate, the Cocos Plate and the Nazca Plate.
        • This initial Panama Arc began to form as the Caribbean Plate moved eastward.
        • The North and South American plates continued to move westward past the Caribbean Plate.
        • In addition to their east-west (strike-slip) motion, the plates also acquired a north-south component of convergence, leading to the collision of the Panama Arc with South America.
        • This collision drove uplift in both the Northern Andes and the Panama Arc, forming the Isthmus of Panama.

        Plates in the region of Isthmus of Panama

        Formation of the Japanese Island Arc

        • Japan’s volcanoes are part of three volcanic arcs.


        Triple Junction of the plates

        • The arcs meet at a triple junction on the island of Honshu.
        • Northern arc is formed due to the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Eurasian Plate. The trench formed is Japan Trench.
        • Central arc is formed due to the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Philippine Plate (island formation is not significant along this arc). The trench formed is Izu Trench.
        • Southern Arc is formed due to the subduction of the Philippine Plate under the Eurasian Plate. The trench formed is Ryukyu Trench.
        • Japanese island arc was very close to the mainland.
        • The force exerted by the Pacific plate and the Philippine plate tilted the arc towards its east giving rise to the Sea of Japan.

        The Mariana Trench or Marianas Trench

        • The Mariana Trench or Marianas Trench, the deepest trench, is located in the western Pacific Ocean.
        • The Mariana Trench is formed due to the subduction of the Pacific Plate below the Mariana Plate.
        • The maximum known depth is between 10,994 & 11,034 metres in its floor known as the Challenger Deep.

        The Mariana trench is not the part of the seafloor closest to the centre of the Earth. This is because the Earth is not a perfect sphere (its Geoid); its radius is about 25 kilometres smaller at the poles than at the equator.

        As a result, parts of the Arctic Ocean seabed are at least 13 kilometres closer to the Earth’s centre than the Challenger Deep seafloor.

        • Indonesian archipelago and Philippine archipelago are located along the plate margins. Both the archipelagos were formed due to ocean-ocean convergence.
        • Indonesian archipelago was formed due to convergence between Sunda oceanic plate (part of the Eurasian plate) and Indo-Australian plate whereas Philippine archipelago was formed due to convergence between Sunda oceanic plate and Philippine Sea plate.
        • In ocean-ocean convergence, two oceanic plates converge or collide. The denser plate subducts into the asthenosphere below the convergence zone and forms a trench at the surface. This region below the convergence zone is called the zone of subduction.
        • In the zone of subduction, due to high temperature and pressure, the rocks undergo metamorphosis and the sediments in the oceanic plate melt to form magma.
        • The magma being lighter moves upwards due to the buoyant force offered by the surrounding denser medium. At the surface magma at high pressure escapes in the form of volcanic eruptions.
        • The magma solidifies creating a volcanic layer. Subsequent volcanism builds a layer over layer and a volcanic mountain if formed. Such mountains are formed all along the converging edge above the less dense plate.
        • Over time the mountains merge, and the oceanic crust gets transformed into continental crust.
        • This is how Indonesian archipelago and Philippine archipelago were formed

          In spite of extensive volcanism, there is no island formation along the divergent boundary (mid-ocean ridge)

          • Basaltic magma flows out along the divergent edge (fissure type or shield type volcano).
          • Basaltic magma has less silica, and hence it is less viscous. It flows over a long-distance causing seafloor spreading but not volcanic islands.
          • On the other hand, along the convergent boundary, andesitic or acidic magma flows out.
          • Andesitic or acidic magma has more silica content, and hence it has higher viscosity. It doesn’t move quickly and also solidifies faster. This helps in building a layer over layer on a confined region giving rise to a volcanic mountain.


        Mantle plume is an upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the earth’s mantle which carries heat upward in narrow, rising columns, driven by heat exchange across the core-mantle boundary. Eventually, the rising column of hot rock reaches the base of the lithosphere, where it spreads out, forming a mushroom-shaped cap to the plume. Heat transferred from the plume raises the temperature in the lower lithosphere to above melting point, and forms magma chambers that feed volcanoes at the surface. It is a secondary way through which earth loses heat. In 1971, geophysicist W. Jason Morgan developed the hypothesis of mantle plumes.

        Role of Mantle Plumes in Plate Tectonics

        • Mantle plumes transport primordial mantle material from below the zone of active convection; produce time-progressive volcanic chains; break up continents; and act as a driving force for plate tectonics.
        • The narrow conduits of deep-mantle material rise through the solid mantle before spreading out laterally in the upper asthenosphere. From there, they cause the lithosphere to swell and shear as the heat from the plume increases the temperature of lower lithosphere.
        • Mantle plumes are also thought to be the cause of volcanic centers known as hotspots and probably have also caused flood basalts.
        • As the plume remains anchored at the core-mantle boundary and it does not shift position over time, a string of volcanoes is created when the lithospheric plate moves above it. The formation of the Hawaiian Island and Emperor Seamount chain in the middle of the Pacific Plate are caused by mantle plume.


Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region (IHR)

  • In the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) tourism has experienced continued growth and increasing diversification over the last few decades. It is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 7.9% from 2013 to 2023.
  • For local mountain people, tourism means valuable economic and business opportunities and jobs, and for state governments and private entrepreneurs it brings revenues and profits.
  • In the 11th Five-Year Plan of India’s Planning Commission: “Tourism is the largest service industry in the country”. Its importance lies in being an instrument for economic development and employment generation, particularly in remote and backward areas (e.g. in IHR).
  • Moreover, the 12th Five-Year Plan clearly recognizes pro-poor tourism for inclusive growth.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mountain specific tourism is directly included as a target in Goals 8 and 12:
    • Goal 8 on the promotion of “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth”, Target 8.9(By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products)
    • Goal 12 aimed to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”, Target 12.b(Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products)
  • In 2017, NITI Aayog, in association with some key national institutions and ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), set up an Action Agenda for “Sustainable Development of Mountains of Indian Himalayan Region (IHR)”, in which “Sustainable Tourism in IHR” was selected as one of the key themes.

Tourism Sector Trends and Development Paradigms

Tourism in the IHR has shown a persistent upward trend over many decades despite several natural disasters and political unrest.

Various initiatives taken by the Government to promote tourism

  • e-Visa facility under three categories – Tourist, Medical and Business – for the citizens of 163 countries
  • Global Media Campaign for 2017-18 on various international TV channels
  • ‘The Heritage Trail’ to promote the World Heritage Sites in India
  • Celebration of ‘Paryatan Parv’ with three components, namely ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ to encourage Indians to visit their own country, ‘Tourism for All’ with tourism events at sites across all states in the country, and ‘Tourism and Governance’ with interactive sessions and workshops with stakeholders on varied themes.
  • Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, among 15 thematic circuits, a few are closely related to IHR such as the North-East (NE) India Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, and Spiritual Circuit.
  • ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD) launched by the MoT with the objective of holistic development of identified pilgrimage destinations in 2017. Only three mountain states figured in planned budget (i.e. J&K, WB and Uttarakhand).

Contribution of tourism to the state economy

Trade, hotels, and restaurants are considered as contributing factors Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). As per data from RBI tourism has been contributing more than 10% to the GDP in states such as Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya. The lowest contributions are in states like Arunachal Pradesh (3-4%), Sikkim (2-3%) and Nagaland (3-4%).

Potential repercussion

Barring Sikkim, all mountain states show slightly decreasing contribution of tourism to GSDP of the state. To some extent this may be related to fresh impetus given by central government to multi-sectoral investments in the NER (North Eastern Regions). It is also evident that contribution to GSDP does not necessarily become the basis for priority investments in this sector. With this it can also be also assumed that tourism promotion is largely in the hands of private sector as tourists still come and are served.

Building the waste argument

With upward trends in tourist numbers to the IHR, have direct or indirect causes and effects such as pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, food insecurity, ill planned urbanization, traffic congestion, loss of indigenous culture, natural disasters, and so on.

As per the available data (2009-2012) IHR states are accumulating 22,372 metric tonnes (MT) of municipal solid waste per day. It is logical that these figures for 2017 have increased substantially given that the number of tourists to the IHR has gone up by a huge margin and waste collection, segregation, disposal and recycling are not organized.

Good practices and examples:

  • “Waste Warriors” in Dharamsala Town, which need to be backed up with a meticulous plan to up-scale and out-scale.
  • Sikkim is a model state for promoting ecotourism products and infrastructure, solid waste management concepts and capacity building efforts but is hugely challenged by the emerging and threatening aspects of mass tourism, human-wildlife conflict, landslides, and climate change induced fires.

Condition of forests as key elements of landscape aesthetics

  • Forest area loss in IHR states is a matter of concern as most tourist/pilgrim sites are located within or near to forest lands.
  • Inappropriate forms of tourism development may add to deforestation. For instance, tourism in Uttarakhand has the highest contribution to its state GDP but conversely, the state lost 268 of forest in a span of two years.
  • Forest cover shrinkage in Northeast India is common and, to a great extent, related to the practice of shifting cultivation.
  • While positive changes have been reported from J&K (450, West Bengal (23 and Manipur (4 is mostly due to afforestation efforts, often monocultures, while natural forest cover and dense canopy forest (with higher value) is decreasing.
  • National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the matter of Sher Singh Vs State of HP (2014) regarded tourism impacts on major tourist destinations in north-western Himalaya such as loss of good forest cover, mounting solid waste, forest fires.
  • The recent ISFR (INDIA STATE OF FOREST REPORT) 2017 not only repeats the scenario of forest cover loss in most of the NER states but also shows that forest cover loss is more severe (e.g. Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya). The loss of forest cover is related to shifting cultivation practices and now also increasingly to development investments in the NE region.

Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP, 2018, forthcoming), coordinated by ICIMOD

  • Evidence-based actions to reduce disaster risk, to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to adopt good governance, are central to ensuring prosperity in the HKH (Hindu Kush Himalaya).
  • The participatory visioning process identified collaboration among state and non-state actors as crucial for prosperity in the HKH in 2080.

Analysis of Supporting Policies and Plans

Brundtland Commission report (1987)

In sustainable development discourse, Sustainable tourism has been widely debated as a panacea to mass tourism and environmental degradation

The Rio Earth Summit (1992) added another chapter to sustainability by binding agreements on biological diversity, climate change, and combating desertification.

To understand the extent to which these 12 Himalayan states are able to address sustainable tourism practices, twelve core areas (from a draft UNESCO Checklist for Sustainable Tourism Strategy) were assessed:

(1) Disaster Management (2) Pollution Control (3) Visitor Control (4) Tourist Traffic Management (5) Crisis Management (6) Waste Management (7) Natural Resource and Ecology Management (8) Quality Standard/Control Mechanism (9) Tourism Enterprise Development Governance (10) Energy (11) Gender, and (12) Marketing and Branding.

Assessment of tourism in IHR based on above 12 parameters:

  • In most of IHR states, these parameters are marginally addressed (or not at all) in policy/plan documents.
  • Barring Sikkim in NER, only western Himalayan states have elaborate and inclusive policy and plan documents.
  • Similarly, the tourism policies of Nagaland and West Bengal have very marginal reference to the above indicators.
  • It also appears that forest policies of IHR states are sector centric and do not have aspects relating to a crosscutting set of policies and plans.
  • Commonly, industrial policy is lacking content that supports linkages with other sectoral policies and plans in all IHR states.
  • It is encouraging to see that waste management, marketing, and branding and tourism enterprise development (governance) are largely represented.

IHR State policies match-up with sustainable tourism indicator (UNWTO) areas

United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) published ‘Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations: A Guidebook’ with 13 key sustainable tourism indicators.

(1) Wellbeing of host communities, (2) Sustaining cultural assets, (3) Community participation in tourism, (4) Tourist satisfaction, (5) Health and safety, (6) Capturing economic benefits from tourism, (7) Protection of valuable natural assets, (8) Managing scarce natural resources, (9) Limiting impacts of tourism activities, (10) Controlling tourist activities and levels, (11) Destination planning and control, (12) Designing products and services, (13) Sustainability of tourism operations and services.

Assessments related to policies and plans of IHR states

  • Only West Bengal is lagging behind in some principles such as in sustaining cultural assets, tourist satisfaction, and sustainability of tourism operations and services.
  • It is reiterated that climate change brings a common factor to challenges that states are trying to meet for evolving and sustaining good practices of tourism.
  • IHR has a typical bio-physical context (e.g. fragility, marginality, and inaccessibility), it is also clear that there are cross-border contexts such as upstream-downstream linkages of cultures, ecosystem services, trade and markets, and services sector.

Opportunities and paradigms of the tourism sector

  • India ranks 15th in the world in terms of International Tourism Receipts, with a share of 1.62%. India registered 8.03 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2015, an annual growth of 4.5% over the previous year.
  • It is the third highest foreign exchange earner, after gems, jewellery, and garments (Economic Survey of India, 2018).
  • India aims to create 100 million jobs through tourism and attract 40 million foreign tourists annually in the next five years (Union Minister K J Alphons on 23 October 2017). At present, 14.4 million international tourists visit India annually.
  • However, in the IHR, due to environmental fragility (e.g. ban on green felling) tourism is not necessarily an investment friendly for the private sector.

Govt. initiative for promotion of tourism

  • Tax Incentives: An investment-linked deduction under Section 35 AD of the Income Tax Act is in place for establishing new hotels in the 2-star category and above across India. 100% deduction on investment of capital nature excludes land.
  • State Incentives: Incentives offered by state governments include subsidized land cost, relaxation in stamp duty, exemption on sale/lease of land, power tariff incentives, concessional rate of interest on loans, investment subsidies/tax incentives, backward areas subsidies and special incentive packages for mega projects; Incentives are provided for setting up projects in special areas – the North-east, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • Incentives from the Ministry of Tourism: Assistance in large revenue-generating projects; Support to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure development such as viability gap funding; Schemes for capacity building of service provider.
  • mobile application called ‘Swachh Paryatan’ was launched in 2016, which lets citizens report any hygiene issues at various tourist destinations across the country.
  • The Ministry of Tourism launched the 24×7 Toll Free Multi-Lingual Tourist Helpline in 12 languages in 2016 and it can be accessed on toll free numbers.

Trans-boundary Tourism Aspects

  • Improving living standards in the IHR and its neighbouring countries, traditional trans-boundary pilgrimages (e.g. Kailash in Tibet, Muktinath in Nepal, Char Dham in Uttarakhand, India) are now witnessing continuous and increasing flow of tourists from neighbouring countries.
  • Hence IHR has a clear trans-boundary and strong inter-state context as visitors and tourism actors (South Asia) are coming from beyond the borders, with different understanding of standards of responsible tourism and awareness of delicate socio ecological and cultural contexts and sensitivities.
  • IHR sites are significant for their trans-boundary protected areas connect (e.g. Askot-ANCA on the Indo-Nepal border of the Kailash and Kangchenjunga landscapes between India, Nepal, and Bhutan with 19 protected areas).
  • Planning for tourist destinations as “Cross-border Circuits in IHR” is attractive and managing such cross-border tourism is an emerging field.

Building on Cultural Paradigm

No other mountain range anywhere in world has affected the life of people and shaped the destiny of a nation as the Himalayas have with respect to India. Apart from its physical grandeur and natural splendour, and prime heritage values of culture, aesthetic beauty and sacredness, these mountains are Asia’s Water Towers and also known as the “Third Pole”.

However, there are some key concerns in the IHR:

  • Socio-demographic disincentives: Lack of sustained economic opportunities, adoption of generic development paradigm (e.g. such as for plains of India) and inadequate outreach to local communities has brought enormous disincentives and resulted in migration of youth and men manifested in the “Ghost Villages of Uttarakhand” and predominantly women headed households. This has further eroded the cultural and social fabric of collectivism in the mountains.
  • Stewardship degradation: Adoption of management concepts including for tourism and technologies (for road and infrastructure, construction) that are appropriate for plains has led to degradation of ecosystem services and problems such as human-wildlife conflicts, forest fires, drying of springs and land degradation through waste accumulation.
  • Security and national sovereignty: As the natural and cultural legacy is fast deteriorating, depopulation from border and remote areas to greener pastures in the urban centres is bringing a sense of social demographic alienation with the rest of the population of 60 million. Thus sensitiveness of situation is visible in the borders as Illegal trade, wildlife trafficking etc. is increasing and cross-border connect to cultural linkages is further leading to inter-country polarization.
  • Synergy deficits: As mentioned earlier, development investments and interventions made in IHR are not harmonized or synchronised so there is a lack of convergence among a host of planning and implementing institutions and networks which often leads to unsustainable models of tourism development.

Given the above scenario of IHR, sustaining the natural and cultural legacy of IHR is a massive challenge, Govt is pursuing following initiatives:

  • Inclusion of ancient knowledge and wisdom in providing tourism services, Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Culture channelizes work on the Folk and Tribal Performing Arts and Puppetry traditions of the country by organising national level festivals in various parts of the country.
  • Showcasing of festivals, folk and tribal performing art traditions of various states of the country on the lines of cultural exchange as consolidated also by the “Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat” initiative is an innovative way to add heritage value to tourism in IHR.

Best Practices

’Making Tourism More Sustainable’ guidelines by the WTO (WTO & UNEP, 2005):

  • Sustainable tourism is tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. It is not a special form of tourism; rather, all forms of tourism may strive to be more sustainable.
  • Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural resources and biodiversity.
  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values; and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
  • Ensure viable, long-term economic operations; providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed; including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities; and contributing to poverty alleviation.

TERI and Metroeconomica (2013)

It suggests introduction of a special tourist tax. It is collecting a modest tax in the form of a service fee for the provision of high quality environmental services to visitors.

Recommended Sustainability Needs in IHR

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

  • (For a Destination)
    • Sustainable destination strategy: It considers environmental, economic, social, cultural, quality, health, and safety, and aesthetic issues; and was developed with public participation.
    • Destination management: It defines responsibilities, oversight, and implementation capability for the management of environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues.
    • Monitoring: The destination has a system to monitor, publicly report, and respond to environmental, economic, social, cultural, tourism, and human rights issues.
    • Tourism seasonality management: The destination dedicates resources to mitigate seasonal variability of tourism by identifying year-round tourism opportunities.
    • Climate change adaptation: It identifies risks and opportunities associated with climate change and encourage climate change adaptation strategies.
    • Property acquisitions: Laws and regulations regarding property acquisitions exist, are enforced, comply with communal and indigenous rights, ensure public consultation, and do not authorize resettlement without prior informed consent and/or reasonable compensation.
    • Crisis and emergency management: The destination has a crisis and emergency response plan that is appropriate to the destination.
    • Protection of sensitive environments: The destination has a system to monitor the environmental impact of tourism, conserve habitats, species, and ecosystems, and prevent the introduction of invasive species
    • Solid waste reduction: The destination has a system to encourage enterprises to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste.
  • (For Hotels and Tour Operators)
    • Legal compliance: The organization is in compliance with all applicable local, national and international legislation and regulations including, among others, health, safety, labour and environmental aspects.
    • Impact & Integrity: The integrity of archaeological, cultural heritage and sacred sites has been preserved.
    • Cultural interactions: The organization follows international and national good practice and locally agreed guidance for the management and promotion of visits to indigenous communities and culturally or historically sensitive sites in order to minimize adverse impacts and maximize local benefits and visitor fulfilment.
    • Exploitation and harassment: The organization has implemented a policy against commercial, sexual or any other form of exploitation or harassment, particularly of children, adolescents, women, minorities and other vulnerable groups.

The adapted aims for sustainable tourism and associated actions in the IHR region

  • Economic viability: To ensure the viability and competitiveness of tourism destinations and enterprises, so that they are able to sustain prosperity and deliver benefits in the long term.
  • Local prosperity: To maximize the contribution of tourism to the economic prosperity of the host destination, including the proportion of visitor spending that is retained locally.
  • Employment quality and social equity: To strengthen the number and quality of local jobs created and supported by tourism, including standardized skill and entrepreneurship development, the level of pay, conditions of service and availability to all without discrimination by gender, disability or in other ways.
  • Visitor fulfilment: To provide a safe, satisfying and fulfilling experience for visitors, available to all without discrimination by gender, disability or in other ways.
  • Community wellbeing: To maintain and strengthen the quality of life in local communities, including social structures and access to resources, amenities and life support systems, avoiding any form of social degradation or exploitation.
  • Cultural richness, integration and mutual understanding: To respect and enhance the historic heritage, authentic culture, traditions and distinctiveness of host communities. Respect for, and understanding of, cultural diversity between nations and peoples is a key principle of sustainable development.
  • Physical integrity: To maintain and enhance the quality of IHR, both rural and remote, and avoid the physical and visual degradation of the environment. It includes Carrying Capacity Management, Infrastructure, Resource Consumption, Eco-labelling, and Waste Management.
  • Mountain biological diversity: In relation to visual impacts, most attention in the past has been paid to the quality of rural landscapes and how they affect, and are affected by, tourism. However, there should be equal concern for the integrity and aesthetic quality of built as well as natural environments in rural and urban areas.
  • Resource efficiency: To minimize the use of scarce and non-renewable resources in the development and operation of tourism facilities and services.
  • Environmental purity: To minimize the pollution of air, water and land and the generation of waste by tourism enterprises and visitors.
  • Standards and monitoring and evaluation: To design and implement eco-labelling standards and monitor these for measuring changes and performance to initiative timely corrective policy and practice actions.

Actions for Impacts

Action agenda for states:

  • Institutions and processes: Create separate divisions within tourism departments to look after the key aspects of tourism and related information viz. capacity building, marketing and promotion including product development, standards, certification and guidelines.
  • Capacity building: Design and deliver an IHR specific Awareness and sensitization package of different actors and sectors, including all key service providers and producers and unleash this information through a proactive media campaign and existing travel related websites and tourism information centres.
  • Research/science and technology: A detailed survey of tourists should be carried out in the near future to elicit visitor perceptions on what services they are looking for and identify the gap areas. Promote new opportunities and technologies to widen the spectrum of entrepreneurship and associated skills.
  • Finance and market: Market/State instruments for entrepreneurship and start-ups (e.g. adventure tourism, sports equipment, waste management technologies) must be encouraged by facilitating access to credit and low interest loans.
  • Planning, implementation, and monitoring: All IHR states must link their tourism related plans and investments according to envisaged state growth models that integrate targeted private sector investments. A system to monitor and publicly report visitor satisfaction.
  • Policy and regulations: All key services providers must be made to follow international and national good practices and locally agreed guidance for the management and promotion of visits to indigenous communities and culturally or historically sensitive sites in order to minimize adverse impacts and maximize local benefits and visitor fulfilment.



The Circum-Pacific Belt, also referred to as The Ring of Fire, is a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.


  • Location: A nearly continuous chain of volcanoes surrounds the Pacific Ocean. The chain passes along the west coast of North and South America, from the Aleutian Islands to the south of Japan, from Indonesia to the Tonga Islands, and New Zealand.
  • Formation: This Circum-Pacific chain of volcanoes (often called the Ring of Fire) and the mountain ranges associated with it owe their formation to the repeated subduction of the oceanic lithosphere beneath the continents and the islands that surround the Pacific Ocean.
    • The Ring of Fire is the result of plate tectonics (Convergent, Divergent Plate Boundary, Transform Plate Boundary).
  • Harbors Majority of Volcano & Earthquakes: Seventy-five percent of Earth’s volcanoes—more than 450 volcanoes—are located along the Ring of Fire.
    • Ninety percent of Earth’s earthquakes occur along its path, including the planet’s most violent and dramatic seismic events.
  • List of Some Volcano Circum-Pacific Belt: Mount Fuji of Japan, The Aleutian Islands of US, Krakatau Island Volcano in Indonesia, etc.
  • Formation of Hot Spots: The Ring of Fire is also home to hot spots, areas deep within the Earth’s mantle from which heat rises.
    • This heat facilitates the melting of rock in the brittle, upper portion of the mantle. The melted rock, known as magma, often pushes through cracks in the crust to form volcanoes.


As the Circum-Pacific Belt harbors the majority of global Volcanic eruptions & Earthquakes, it holds immense significance regarding the study of the earth’s interior.



Some northern Indian states could receive rainfall during the next 4-5 days, but monsoon activity could be subdued in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra’s interiors, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the next 3-4 days, the India Meteorological Department said on Sunday. After recording above normal rains between July 6 and July 11, monsoon appears to be slowing down, sparking concerns in the agriculture sector, according to experts. Overall rainfall deficiency in the country till last Sunday was 12.5% over the long period average, an improvement from June’s 33% — the highest deficiency in June in four years. The sluggish monsoon has impacted the sowing of summer cops. But in northeastern India, floods have caused widespread damage, with several lives being lost as a result of flooding.


The interlinking project aims to link India’s rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals that will allow for their water capacities to be shared and redistributed. According to some, this is an engineered panacea that will reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts besides facilitating the generation of hydroelectricity for an increasingly power hungry country.



Since the 1980s, the interlinking project has been managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under the Ministry of Water Resources. It has been split into three parts:

  1. A northern Himalayan rivers interlink component.
  2. A southern peninsular component.
  3. An intra-State rivers linking component.

The NWDA has studied and prepared reports on 14 projects for the Himalayan region, 16 projects for the peninsular India component and 36 intra-State river interlinking projects. However, various governments have shelved the idea for a number of reasons.


Why this is a good idea?

  • India receives most of its rain during monsoon season from June to September, most of it falls in northern and eastern part of India, the amount of rainfall in southern and western part are comparatively low. It will be these places which will have shortage of water. Interlinking of rivers will help these areas to have water throughout the year.
  • This will cut farmers dependence on monsoon rains by bringing millions of hectares of cultivatable land under irrigation.
  • Crop productivity would increase and so would revenues for the State.
  • Even one bad monsoon has a direct and debilitating economic impact.
  • The river linking project will ease the water shortages in western and southern India while mitigating the impacts of recurrent floods in eastern India.
  • The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. In order to avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this – floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.
  • Simultaneous floods and droughts continue to wreak havoc, destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions.
  • India needs clean energy to fuel its development processes, and river water can be leveraged for this.
  • Fulfilling water needs impact socio-economic life of people which will help end poverty.
  • Need for interlinking of rivers to prevent inter-state water disputes.
  • Potential benefits to transportation through navigation, as well as broadening income sources in rural areas through fishing.


Critics argue that:

  • The idea that river linking would allow us to cope with flood in the north east and shortage of water in the Deccan is the positive aspect as pointed earlier but misleading one too. This floods come at the time when most parts of the country run short of water, we need to hold the water somewhere to use it in dry season but the amount of flowing in the short period of time in Brahmaputra and Ganga is so huge to store and use it later.
  • Interlinking of rivers is a very expensive proposal. The amount required for these projects is so huge that government will have to take loans from the foreign sources which would increase the burden on the government and country will fall in a debt trap.
  • The river interlinking project will adversely affect land, forests, biodiversity, rivers and the livelihood of millions of people.
  • The Ken-Betwa link threatens about 200 sq. km of the Panna tiger reserve.
  • Interlinking of rivers will lead to destruction of forests, wetlands and local water bodies, which are major groundwater recharge mechanisms.
  • Less than positive experience that other countries have, like diversion of Amu Darya and the Syr Darya or the Australia’s experiments in its Murray Darling basin.
  • It causes massive displacement of people. Huge burden on the government to deal with the issue of rehabilitation of displaced people.
  • Due to interlinking of rivers, there will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life.
  • The Shah committee pointed out that the linking of rivers will affect natural supply of nutrients for agricultural lands through curtailing flooding of downstream areas.



  • India has 18 percent of the world’s population but only 4 percent of the usable water resources.
  • Variability in rainfall is high which is the main source in the country, flood and drought simultaneously within the states of Bihar and Maharashtra.
  • Irrigation potential from interlinking rivers will have limited impact. The net national irrigated area from big dams has decreased and India’s irrigated area has gone up primarily due to groundwater.
  • We don’t have River basin plan yet in place.
  • Large hydropower projects are no longer a viable option in India.
  • Storing large quantities of waters. Most of the sites suitable for the big reservoirs are in Nepal, Bhutan and in the North-East—who are in opposition to big storage reservoirs.
  • Water has now become a political issue.
  • There are political challenges as well. Water transfer and water sharing are sensitive subjects.
  • If the glaciers don’t sustain their glacier mass due to climate change, the interlinking project will have limited benefit.
  • Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.


Way Forward:

  • To look at water as a strategic resource for development.
  • Environment is one issue where anyone of us should be concerned about.
  • Best practices done by China and neighboring countries needs to be looked upon.
  • The biggest, cheapest, most benign, possibly fastest and most decentralized storage option for India is the groundwater
  • Invest in water conservation, more efficient irrigation and better farm practices.
  • Recycling of water for internal usage as that of Israel.
  • We need a mandatory enforceable river policy aimed at treating rivers as national treasure.
  • Accumulation of silt in huge quantities, particularly the Ganga and its tributaries. These rivers need to be desilted.
  • River linking in the south and other parts which was undertaken in the past has been going well so such model needs to be taken forward.
  • Planting trees on the river banks is one way of bringing life back to the rivers.
  • Forest catchments will need to be restored, wastewater from industries and towns will need to be treated, sand mining need to be stopped.
  • Need to build the responsibility, capability and accountability in our water management institutions to revive our rivers.
  • The judicious use of canal water, growing crops that are appropriate to a region, encouraging drip irrigation and reviving traditional systems such as tanks.



The river linking project is a great challenge and an opportunity to address the water issues arising out of climate change. The long-term solution to water scarcity lies in making the IRL project work by building a network of dams and canals across the length and breadth of the country. However, interlinking has to take place after a detailed study so that does not cause any problem to the environment or aquatic life.