The Indian Himalaya holds key to India’s ecological and social security by virtue of being centre of biological and cultural diversity and store house for water and other resources. Apart from harbouring rich cultural and biological diversity, the Indian Himalayan region (IHR) is the major supplier of timber, medicines, fiber, oils, spices and condiments, firewood, organic manure, fodder and hydropower. It is reckoned as ‘genebank’ and continues to remain an important centre for the origin of the crop diversity and numerous under-utilized and potential future crops. The north eastern region of the IHR has been recognized as a world heritage of biodiversity hot spot.
The real world data, both quantitative and qualitative, originating from the fact and figures of finite resource are dispersed across a geographical location of the IHR. Both human and natural resources in the IHR can be quantified from the facts that originate from the real world data. But this data unless processed or analyzed can not be used in a decision making process and may take the form of historical records that are recorded and filed without immediate intent to retrieve the same for decision making. Probably with the realization of this fact, two decades ago the National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination had organized a national seminar on ‘Resources development and environment in the Himalayan region’. The issues raised at that time indicated the existence of information gaps. The recommendations included a list of priorities and among them two important ones were i) constitution of a high-level multidisciplinary group to identify gaps in the on-going research, design and development pertaining to the Himalayan region and also to identify appropriate financial arrangements for supporting further activities that need to be taken up, and ii) initiating a programme on long-term research into the functioning and dynamics of the Himalayan ecosystems. Some recommendations of this seminar were implemented and progress on certain sectors such as inventory of resources and development of suitable technologies was satisfactory. However, the pace of all such activities is not sufficient to meet the pace of population growth and their growing requirements, which are intimately linked with the natural resources of the region.
Certain limitations of this volume have also been realized. For example, it is understood that the information module of this volume is the outcome of processed data using mathematical/statistical operation and human reasoning techniques. Therefore, the usefulness and validity of the data may lesser over time as information is always time variant and a dynamic model of resource use that involves change over time. Further, futuristic predictions based on historical time series data may result in inaccurate outcome as the nature is exposed to several environmental factors. However, using a time-series data a probable outcome could be predicted with a measure of variability to describe the significance of the outcome. The
present volume based on secondary data could effectively be used for analytical purposes relating to regional planning and development. The major constraint while compiling this document was non-availability/accessibility of all the data on various parameters. Another constraint, as we felt, was the comparison of regions and states in the same scale in spite of their geographical size. In order to avoid this problem in some tables, the data of Assam hills and West Bengal hills were excluded. However, despite the limitations and constraints, the volume would certainly serve as a reference point not only to general readership but also to the development planners particularly for the effective management of the resources in the Indian Himalayan region.