A new Himalayan crisis? Exploring transformative resilience pathways

Poshendra Satyal, Krishna Shrestha, Hemant Ojha, Bhaskar Vira, Jagannath Adhikari

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


This paper demonstrates that a new crisis has emerged in the Himalayas in recent years, as five decades of well-intentioned policy responses failed to tackle escalating environment and development challenges. It then suggests some practical pathways for achieving what we term transformative resilience in the region. Our analysis draws on a critical review of literature, combined with individual co-authors' longstanding experience in the region in both research and policy arenas. We highlight how the neo-Malthusian Theory of Himalayan Degradation continues to shape simplistic responses to environment and development problems of a multi-faceted nature, in the vulnerable, complex and politicized contexts of the Himalayas. A key reason for this failure is an obsession with technical reasoning underpinned by the dominance of biophysical analyses of the problems, which have, in most cases, undermined the potential for emancipatory political transformations. The failure is visible in various ways: poverty remains, while environmental vulnerabilities have increased. Foreign aid has often been counter-productive and ‘blue-print’ development planning has been fragmented and dysfunctional. Likewise, livelihood opportunities and social capital have seriously eroded due to unprecedented political crises, out-migration, abandonment of productive mountain lands and unregulated remittance economies. We term this phenomenon a ‘new Himalayan crisis’. In response, we argue for the need to open up a transformative agenda for integrating approaches to environment and development challenges, emphasizing an emancipatory multi-scalar politics that has the potential to open up sustainable pathways in the context of dynamic social and ecological changes in the Himalayas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Development
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


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