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Garhwal Himalaya: Dehra Dun-Mussoorie
Richards (1987), drawing upon a rich source of government documents, has reconstructed the pattern of land-use changes and population growth (18801980) for the Dehra Dun administrative district. The official extent of the district is 308,800 ha which, in addition to Dehra Dun Valley, includes Chakrata administrative district or tahsil, the much less densely populated subdistrict to the north of the valley. With an area of 136,000 ha it comprises 44 percent of the total district.
During the hundred-year period of the survey the population rose by 426.3 percent, from 144,070 to 758,241 (1981 census). The most dramatic growth has occurred since 1940 with a 185 percent increase from 229,850 to its 1981 level. Population densities have increased from 47/ km² in 1880 to 246/ km² in 1980. Much of this growth has been driven by the rapid development of the Dehra Dun metropolitan area, with an urban population of 293,628 in 1981.
This development is reflected in extensive changes in land use and vegetation cover with the main categories shown in Table 3.1. Thus, while the growth of a major metropolitan area renders this district not representative of the Central Indian Himalaya in general, the early establishment of the central offices and institutes of the Forestry Department in Dehra Dun partially offset what otherwise would have been an unusual degree of forest destruction. This ensured that a large portion of the district's forests and woodlands came under official management early. The area devoted to officially designated reserved and protected forests has grown by 90 percent between about 1880 and 1970 (Table 3.2), and today they occupy 48.8 percent of the total area.
The impacts of forest management, therefore, on agricultural expansion have been severe. Also, government control may have limited, but certainly did not halt, the deterioration of forests, woodlands, and wetlands in the district. Richards documents that much unrestrained timber cutting had already taken place between the assumption of British control in the 1850s and the demarcation of the reserved and protected forests in 1880. Subsequently, there followed some sixty years of British control with a forest policy designed to ensure a substantial financial return for the Crown. For instance, in the 1900s Dehra Dun's average annual timber export to the plains was 6,333 m³, mostly sold for railway sleepers and building timbers. During the same period the Forestry Department licensed the extraction of 27,088 m³ for fuelwood and charcoal. After the early 1900s illicit cutting has grown progressively, with a rapid increase after 1947, to the effect that by 1980, for many peasants, subsistence rather than merely supplemental income may be at stake in the forests. This is an indication of the serious deterioration of forest quality, if not of actual area of designated forest cover. Of course, without reliable biomass estimates precise figures for rate of forest loss cannot be derived.
Attendant problems facing Dehra Dun district are rapid loss of wildlife, including tigers, leopards, hyena - the last Khedah, indicating a catastrophic reduction in the number of elephants, was held in 1905 - while the growth in limestone quarrying, and its mode of operation, and the concentration of cement works have served to turn one of the 'gems' of the Himalaya into a cause célèbre of air and noise pollution and serious disruption of water resources and surface cover. At least this has been checked in recent years by India's first Supreme Court environmental ruling (Shiva and Bandyopadhyay, 1985). It must also be borne in mind that ail of those processes together have brought about a decline in available arable land per person from about 0.3 ha in 1880 to a little over 0.1 ha in 1980. Similarly, per capita access to natural vegetation has declined from about 1.8 ha/ person in 1880 to under 0.4 ha/person in 1980. There can be no doubt that the district's population has been extensively and progressively impoverished over the hundred-year period, a trend that also implies an acceleration in the human pressures on the vegetation of the district.
A very different situation can be seen to prevail within a few tens of kilometres north of Dehra Dun. Moench and Bandyopadhyay (1986) have conducted a fascinating study of the forest ecology and forest use by inhabitants of the small village of Munglori. It is situated at an altitude of 1,700 m on the slopes of Nag Tibba (3,022 m) in the partial rain shadow of the Mussoorie ridge (2,200 m). Moench and Bandyopadhyay have estimated, from a careful survey of the types of forest cover and land use in conjunction with a study of total village biomass consumption, that while total biomass productivity exceeds human consumption by a wide margin, there is a progressive loss in forest cover. This they refer to as peripheral degradation or the 'nibble effect.'
In practice, villagers, usually women, are collecting firewood and fodder along the margins of the forest. This occurs on south-facing slopes, at the lower elevations, and in areas where the demand is high. As lopping begins in a forested area and opening of the canopy occurs, grasses and fortes enter in large quantities. This in turn creates increased competition for oak seedlings, encourages grazing, and accentuates risk of fire. Hence the 'nibble effect,' whereby the forest margins are progressively rolled back. Moench and Bandyopadhyay (1986) go on to demonstrate many other aspects of the villagerforest balance and to suggest a number of critical forestry policy implications. Most important amongst these is the need for 'participatory management' whereby the local people are fully incorporated into official programmes. The latter so far have not taken seriously into account either the creative or the consumptive roles of the local people.
Sikkim and Bhutan
Sikkim is generally regarded as having incurred extensive deforestation. Pressures of land tenure and taxation in Nepal brought about by the demands of the House of Gorkha after 1769 resulted in the out-migration of large numbers of Nepalese subsistence farmers to what is currently the Indian State of Sikkim, the Darjeeling Himalaya, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. Extensive increases in subsistence agriculture and the widespread development of tea plantations certainly reduced the forest cover in the Sikkim and Darjeeling outer ranges and hills. While this process of deforestation continues today (Karen, 1984, 1987a), as in Sindhu Palchok and Kabhre Palanchok districts in Nepal, it also has a much longer history than the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation would demand.
Karan (1987a) notes that Sikkim has an overall density of population of 44/km², a total population of 315,682 (1981 census), and a growth rate of 5 percent per annum. Only 36 percent of Sikkim's total area remains under forest, and extensive clear-cutting continues to occur, especially in the more accessible southern districts. While the northern forests at higher elevations are reported to be in good condition, lack of survey, demarcation, and an inventory of forest land has hindered the formulation of a forest management plan.
In addition, over the past twenty years, Sikkim has acquired one of the highest road network densities in the Himalaya (12 km/ 100 km² compared with 0.44 km/100 km² in Bhutan). This in turn has caused accelerated landsliding and further loss of forest cover (see Chapter 5).
Bhutan, in contrast, has a much more extensive forest cover, amounting to 60 percent of total area, a much lower population density and a much lower population growth rate (2 percent per annum). In Bhutan, unlike many areas throughout the Himalaya, there is a need for an increase in the extent of logging roads to reduce loss of forest products through more effective harvesting. One of the special features of Bhutan is the beneficent effects of government control, in terms of stringent protection of the country's forest and in many other respects (Karen, 1987a).
The Hengduan Mountains
Reconnaissance expeditions into the Gongga Shan area of western Sichuan and the Yulongxue Shan-upper Jinsha Jiang gorge area of northwestern Yunnan (Messerli and Ives, 1984) led to the preliminary conclusion that in these areas the claim for massive deforestation since 1950 was a serious over-statement. First, extensive high montane areas in western Sichuan were seen to be reforested due to natural processes, with a strong growth of immature or submature trees depending upon the time span since the reduction of human impacts. In specific areas that were photographed or painted in watercolours by Eduard Imhof (1974) during the 1929-30 Swiss expedition to Gongga Shan (7,556 m) virtually no change had occurred. Where replicate photography could be obtained it could be demonstrated that no significant change in vegetation cover has occurred in the past half century. In addition, where the Imhof documents indicated extensive deforestation, this had likely occurred long prior to his visit. In other areas, especially those close to main roads, there is also recent deforestation.
This line of enquiry was pursued more thoroughly in the Yulongxue Shan (5,596 m) area of northwestern Yunnan during a ten-week field study in 1985 (Ives, 1985). Here it was possible to compare present-day vegetation cover with that shown on high-quality photographs taken by Joseph F. Rock between 1923 and 1947. In some areas extensive deforestation has occurred and the impact of heavy monsoon downpours on log skid trails has produced significant loss of top soil and gullying (Figure 3.2). Also, an extensive expansion of village housing following the introduction of the 1979 liberal 'local responsibility in rural areas' policy of Mr. Deng Xiaoping has had a noticeable impact on forest cover adjacent to many Naxi villages. Naxi house construction consumes a large amount of timber (Figure 3.3). Local government authorities in Lijiang autonomous county explained that at least a third of the county's houses in existence in 1985 had been built since 1979. In addition, the methods of harvesting timber, including squaring of the tree trunks with hand axes, heavy destruction of saplings and seedlings during felling operations, and abandonment of logs with a spiral grain, resulted in at least 50 percent wastage (Ives, unpub.). However, many other areas show a much improved, denser and more vigorous forest cover when compared with that shown on Rock's photographs taken as long as sixty years ago (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). Additional large areas, which have gone through at least one cycle of clear cutting and regrowth since the mid-1920s, currently have a forest cover strictly comparable to that shown on Rock's photographs (Figures 3.6 and 3.7). Finally, travel along the main highway between Lijiang, Dali, and Kunming provided evidence that vast areas of the Yunnan Plateau had not only been stripped of forest cover, but that subsequent soil erosion has removed the soil cover completely over wide areas so that the multi-coloured bedrock of slates, shales, and limestones displays the underlying geology most vividly (Figure 3.8). The important point here, however, is not that deforestation has occurred, but that it occurred hundreds, if not more than a thousand, years ago.
To sum up the Sichuan and Yunnan reconnaissance, it is concluded that deforestation has been a very long-term process, that it has been interspersed with cycles of natural reforestation, that many areas have experienced formation of badlands, but that the overall picture is one of extreme variation from one specific site to another and certainly not a simple process of extensive deforestation in recent decades. Additionally, the extensive areas of the Yunnan Plateau that have been stripped of forest cover over the past thousand years or so have been a source of sediment over the same length of time, casting further doubt on the claims of massive increases in soil erosion and sediment transfer during the past four decades. This does not imply that there are no problems deriving from forest management in Sichuan and Yunnan. It does imply, however, that the emotional claims for sudden catastrophic destruction occurring in recent decades must be viewed with scepticism; a much longer historical perspective is required.
The Southeastem Tibetan Plateau (Xizang)
The Tibetan Plateau has been regarded traditionally as a high-altitude mountain or plateau desert, or semi-arid land devoid of trees, on account of both altitude and sparse precipitation. While little detailed historical information relating to vegetation cover change is available, members of the first scientific group invited to Lhasa by the Government of the People's Republic of China, and to traverse the Plateau and Himalaya to Kathmandu, reacted to signs of much more extensive forest cover in the past than previously supposed. Trees surviving today at very high altitudes (in excess of 4,000 m) at the sites of former small temples and monasteries suggest that much of the lower valley slopes may have supported extensive forests prior to the establishment of the Tibetan state. Supporting indirect evidence was located in the form of thick peat deposits, and the very success of the current Chinese programme of afforestation (Ives, 1981). Reiter (1981) goes much further and raises the question of how a population of between one and four million (cf. Goldstein, 1981, for discussion on population size), supporting significant cities and large religious structures, could have evolved and continued to thrive for more than a thousand years if there had been a total dependency on importing timber and fuelwood over great distances and across very rugged terrain. Reiter even raises the fascinating idea that widespread deforestation of the Tibetan Plateau, and the consequent increase in albedo, particularly during periods of snow cover, may have had a marked effect on the mechanism and strength of the Indian monsoon.
The case for former extensive forest cover in parts of Tibet, and deforestation over the past 1,200 years or so, is by no means proven. It is perhaps appropriate to introduce the possibility here as an example of the type of direction in which scholarly enquiry could move once the comfortable assumptions upon which conventional wisdom is based are questioned. The tentative hypothesis for Tibetan deforestation provides at least a similar chronological framework to that of the much more defensible account of deforestation in neighbouring western Sichuan and Yunnan.
Khumbu Himal Nepal
The problem of deforestation in Khumbu Himal is introduced here for two reasons. The first is that it provides a useful case study of the condition of the forests of a widely known high montane Himalayan region, with world-wide attention being focused on the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, home of the Sherpas, and a World Heritage Centre. The second reason is that it is an ideal example of Thompson and Warburton's (1985a) 'uncertainty on a Himalayan scale,' and of the confusion being created by totally contradictory observations that have been widely reported and discussed.
First, within the framework of the eight-point scenario of the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation, the forests of Khumbu Himal have been depicted as being in the process of rapid destruction (Fürer-Haimendorf, 1975; Eckholm, 1976; Jeffries, 1982; Andrews, 1983; Coburn, 1983). Various reasons have been given for this dramatic state of affairs and the main points are as follows:
1. The rapid increase in mountaineering expeditions and in trekking tourism since the 1960s has brought into Khumbu Himal large numbers of visitors. By the late 1970s the total number of annual visits, of an average fourteenday per person, exceeded 5,000, double the total indigenous Sherpa population. This is claimed to have greatly increased pressures on the local forests in several ways: fuelwood for camp fires, both for cooking and for the warmth and enjoyment of the large numbers of trekkers and mountaineers, and their larger numbers of porters; timber for housing, in part to provide lodges, small hotels, and tea houses for tourists, and in part to enable the increasingly affluent Sherpas to build larger private houses. Additional requirements have been fuel for heating water to provide hot showers for tourists, wood fires for the Japanese-built Mount Everest View hotel, and construction timber for better bridges across the Dudh Kosi.
2. In 1957 the Nepalese government nationalized the forests in a misguided effort to protect them. Campbell (1979), Messerschmidt (1981, 1987), and others have discussed this point in some detail. It was claimed that the Sherpas had a superb system of forest management, as had many indigenous groups in Nepal. This flourished on the basis of community recognition of the importance of the forests to their continued well-being. Forest guards (shinga naua), appointed by the village headmen, controlled forest use. Fuelwood collection, timing, and location of felling of large trees for construction and maintenance of sacred forests was controlled and policed by the forest guards who had power to levy fines on offenders. The nationalization of the forests destroyed this efficient traditional system and replaced it with an ineffective alternative. For instance, when a Sherpa was faced with a three-day walk to obtain permission to cut a tree from a disinterested government agent who was not even a Sherpa, he simply went into the forest and helped himself. Thus a wave of indiscriminate felling occurred.
3. The establishment of Sagarmatha National Park in 1977 had been heralded by discussion of the prospects for implementation of total forest protection. In fact, the possibility of forcibly ejecting the entire Sherpa community from their traditional homeland had been raised as essential to the development of a national park, a policy that had been put into effect when the Lake Rara National Park was established in western Nepal. In this instance, several hundred high-altitude Chhetris were forcibly expelled from their traditional homeland and abandoned without compensation. Fürer-Haimendorf (1975) reported that the threat of restricted access to the forest products set off a further wave of forest destruction whereby the local people sought to obtain all they could of their forests before formal establishment of the park deprived them of their traditional rights.
4. The influx of several hundred Tibetan refugees into Khumbu Himal after 1959 placed further demands on the forests for construction timber and fuelwood.
These various pressures on the forests of Khumbu Himal were perceived as causing devastation to the montane forests and the forest-alpine ecotone shrub juniper and rhododendron cover. To provide a few examples:
- Fürer-Haimendorf (1975:97-8) claimed that 'forests in the vicinity of the [Khumbu] villages have already been seriously depleted, and particularly near Namche Bazar whole hillsides which were densely forested in 1957 are now bare of tree growth and villagers have to go further and further to collect dry firewood.'
- Blower (1972, cited in Mishra, 1973:2), as a justification for the establishment of the Sagarmatha National Park, emphasizes the need to conserve the 'depleting forests of the Khumbu ... since destruction would result in disastrous erosion leading to enormous economic and aesthetic loss to the country.'
- Speechly (1976:2) explained that the 'forest areas in the proposed Sagarmatha National Park are, as a result of a combination of influences, in a depleted state, such that if present pressure of use is continued, severe environmental damage will result.'
- Hinrichsen e) al. (1983:204) suggested that 'more deforestation [has occurred in Khumbu Himal] during the past two decades than during the preceding 200 years.'
Thus Khumbu Himal came to have its own mini-version of the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation. Deforestation is assumed to have occurred, accompanied by changing patterns of yak and cross-breed grazing, as a result of the impacts of tourism on the traditional life style, leading to overgrazing near the villages (Bjonness, 1980a and b). This is believed to have accentuated soil erosion, landslides, and gullying and to have caused a variety of downstream impacts. To this was added trampling of vegetation by tourists and the spread of refuse so that the world-famous trekking route to the Mount Everest Base Camp became known as 'The Garbage Trail'.
It may come as a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find that the above combined descriptions and predictions of portending disaster for one small, but special, part of Nepal are totally turned on their head by the thirty-year comparison of a sympathetic and careful observer. A former US Peace Corps Director in India, Dr. Charles Houston, revisited Khumbu Himal in 1981, more than thirty years after being a member of the first mountaineering reconnaissance team ever allowed into the southern approaches to Mount Everest. He wrote that, with the exception of a thicket of dwarf juniper at Pheriche, in 1981 there was 'es much or more forest cover than there was in 1950 and I have the pictures to prove it' (Houston, 1982). Thompson and Warburton (1985a) use this statement to argue that Houston has questioned the very existence of a possible crisis facing Khumbu Himal, or even Nepal. While we do not think that Houston intended his remarks to be taken in this way (cf. Houston, 1987), it is convenient for our argument to introduce his quotation because, to a large degree, it coincides with more recent deliberate examination of the Khumbu Himal forests by Byers (1987a and b) and Stevens (1986). Thompson and Warburton (1985a) themselves talk about the 'vast tracts of forest some distance from the villages and trekking routes [that] are still intact. Indeed, large fallen trees lie rotting within them' (but even here we must ask: how far from the villages?).
In 1984 Byers spent ten months in Khumbu Himal attempting to reduce some of this uncertainty by collecting field data from carefully selected study sites. While the primary purpose was to quantify rates of soil erosion and degree of slope instability relative to vegetation cover, slope angle and altitude, and rainfall amount and intensity (see Chapter 6), important secondary tasks were to assess the changes in forest cover and to determine rates of fuelwood usage. His observations on forest cover will be introduced for comparison with the claims of Fürer-Haimendorf Jeffries, Coburn, and Hinrichsen, and others.
One of the methods employed by Byers was repeat photography using Erwin Schneider's terrestrial photogrammetic surveys of 1956-63 that were the base material for the production of the 1:50,000 topographic map 'Khumbu Himal'. Byers also undertook numerous studies of forest stands and made many spot observations. His conclusions are that the claims for forest disaster in Khumbu Himal are grossly over-dramatized, especially where applied to the montane forests. It is likely that, prior to the arrival of the Sherpas approximately 400 years ago, the forests of Khumbu Himal were much more extensive than today; that deforestation has progressively occurred over this long period of four centuries of human occupation.
The most recent findings of Byers (1987c) even raise the question of a longer period of progressive deforestation, possibly ante-dating the traditionally accepted time of the initial movement of Sherpas into the area. Pollen analyses and radiocarbon dating of buried soil horizons and charcoal fragments are providing the first indications that complex changes in vegetation cover due to human impacts over a millenium may have occurred. According to these preliminary analyses, the valleys between about 3,500 and 3,900 m were occupied by open birch/fir/alder forest from several thousand years ago to a period represented by the relative age of the 15-cm level in one of the sampled soil profiles (it has not yet been possible to provide an 'absolute' date for this level due to lack of datable material). At the 15-cm level (i.e., upward in the profile) there occurred an abrupt transition to a grasslands formation on the drier, south-facing slopes, such as we see today. Byers (1987c:200) makes the tentative estimate that the replacement of the open birch/fir/alder forest by grassland communities occurred between 400 and 800 years ago. What is even more interesting, however, is the speculation by the palynologist (Markgraf in Byers, 1987c:199) that the open forest itself shows indications of human alteration in the form of burning and grazing.
Furthermore, grains of cereal pollen were identified at each of the four soil levels analysed, and fragments of charcoal from 31-cm and 41-cm depths give dates of 1,480 + 360 and 2,170 + 330 radiocarbon years HP, respectively.
It is interesting to speculate that significant landscape changes may have been effected by other ethnic groups (from the south?) or that Sherpa groups arrived in the Khumbu much earlier than is generally supposed on the basis of historic and linguistic evidence and analysis of folk-lore (i.e., about 400 years ago).
What is important in the present context is that, as this relatively new phase of more rigorous research begins to produce results, it becomes apparent that the broad assumptions, to which we refer as the "conventional wisdom,' that have led to the emergence of the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation, become more and more inadequate.
To return to the general claims of recent widespread deforestation in the Khumbu, some of the specific contentions, such as that of Fürer-Haimendorf to the effect that the formerly forested slopes above Namche Bazar and above the villages of Khunde and Khumjung had been clear-cut within his own memory, demand an equally specific response. Byers (1987a) replicated photographs taken in the 1950s and 1960s by Erwin Schneider. An example, the Imja KholaNamche Bazar-Everest 1962 panorama, was taken from an altitude of 4,488 m on the northwest slope of Tamserku (6,608 m) (Byers, 1987a:78, 79). Despite difficulties in lighting, angle of view, scale, and differences in optical qualities of the lenses used, Byers was able to conclude:
1. that most forested areas in the Namche-Khunde-Khumjung region appear to be relatively unchanged;
2. considerable thinning of certain juniper woodlands has occurred;
3. little change of a medium- to large-scale geomorphic nature is discernible;
4. several distinctive tourist- and National Park-related structures are very evident.
Byers comments: 'In general the photographic evidence does not support the hypothesis of widespread deforestation, nor the assumed linkages between tree removal, grazing, and geomorphic damage within the specific geographic areas under discussion' (Byers, 1987a: 80). The open and rigorous discussion about details of the deforestation history of the Khumbu, and other areas, that is now rapidly emerging is an effective vindication of our initial decision to question the validity of much of the conventional wisdom. In terms of the Khumbu, therefore, we must conclude that the claims of many of the supporters of recent catastrophic forest and soil degradation are simply false.
Byers (1986, 1987c) does point out that in the higher altitude fuel-scarce areas, specifically within and above the juniper and rhododendron shrub belt in the upper part of the forest-alpine meadow ecotone, serious damage has occurred and continues to occur. Here Sherpas and trekking groups are pulling up even the roots of shrub juniper for cooking fires and thereby exposing sandy soils to extensive wind and rill-wash erosion. His two soil study plot losses in this belt were twenty five times greater than losses from the typical lower altitude shrub/grassland plots, and forty-two times greater than those from the forest plots. Two points arise from Byers's observations: one, that individual scientists have seriously misunderstood, or misreported, local conditions; and two, that the furore raised by over-dramatized claims of deforestation is resulting in attention being focused on the main montane forest belts and the development of new forest plantations. While this is by no means a bad thing on its own account, attention is being diverted away from the really critical areas at higher altitudes. In this sense, Houston has performed an invaluable service in prompting the resolve of the new wave of scientists to make a critical assessment of the actual conditions. This point is argued on the conviction that good policy cannot be based upon bad information, however 'sympathetic" it may be to a worthy cause. Houston and Byers also add to the findings of Mahat, Tucker, Richards, Bishop, Messerli, and Ives that deforestation in many specific areas within the broader Himalayan region is a process that has a very long history, and is not, at leas' in these specific areas, a recent, post-1950, catastrophic phenomenon.
Stevens (1986) has taken several aspects of the discussion on forest use, protection, and destruction in Khumbu Himal a stage further. His report, following more than fourteen months of resident study, concludes that a picture emerges of traditional Sherpa forest-use that is far different from the one presented by Fürer-Haimendorf and others. 'Instead of a well-regulated traditional system geared to sustainable use of forests, there appears to have been a pattern of unregulated use which has led to substantial' changes in forest composition, density, and total forest area throughout the 400 or so years of Sherpa occupation of Khumbu Himal. Sherpa subsistence use of the forests seems to have consisted of gleaning the floors of protected forests for fuelwood and fodder and then outflanking the forest guard and other forms of local control to supply their needs for fuel, construction timber, and tools. Their use of the forests went to the extent of grubbing out the tree roots so that nothing remained. This progressive assault on the forests resulted in the clearing of areas near the villages first and then moved further and further afield. Lack of any tradition of reforestation, together with the heavy grazing pressures, prevented any significant recuperation of forest cover. These conclusions by Stevens have been anticipated by Messerschmidt (1981, 1987) who has also documented a recent shift to re-emphasis on traditional management and control systems.
To sum up for the Khumbu Himal forests, it is apparent that conservationist claims for rapidly approaching disaster stemming from a change in forest use over the past three or four decades is a gross exaggeration. It must be concluded that the history of deforestation in this area, at least in a general way, parallels that of the other areas - Sindhu Palchok and Kabhre Palanchok districts, parts of Karnali Zone, Pangma Panchayat in the eastern pahar of Nepal, and further afield, in the Debra Dun-Mussoorie, Yulongxue Shan, and Gongga Shan areas. In terms of the viability of present-day subsistence agriculture in these areas, however, this does not mean that there is no crisis. In fact, with continued population growth in many of these areas, and the apparent accompaniment of forest depauperization, shortages of fodder, and other forest products, and eventually of fuelwood, cast a serious shadow over the future well-being of the mountain people. What we wish to emphasize here, however, is that if significant deforestation since 1950 has not occurred in the areas for which reasonably reliable data is available, and if these results are applicable, at least to adjacent areas, the claim that post-l950 deforestation in the mountains has led to increased flooding, siltation, and other deleterious impacts on the Ganges and Brahmaputra (and Chengdu) plains is tenuous at best. This conclusion appears reasonably well validated without considering whether or not deforestation accomplishes the damage that has been asserted for it. This issue, the linkage between forests, precipitation, and soil erosion, will be considered in Chapter 5. First, however, it is necessary to analyse the actual pressures that are affecting the remaining forests and to discuss why so much confusion has arisen concerning the presumed rates of forest product consumption. Chapter 4 is devoted to these issues.
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