We have not been good listeners

On the major problems besieging the Himalaya:
Mountain regions the world over have been neglected. The Himalaya face a major water crisis. In spite of housing the source of three major river systems, the resource is scarce in the hills. The other issue is irrigation. Less than 10 per cent of the total area under cultivation is irrigated. Popularising simple and traditional water harvesting systems could help alleviate the problem. Scarcity of fodder and fuel are other problems. Traditional technologies like the panchakki (water mill) could be used as microhydel plants to solve the energy crisis.

The problems faced by the region are unique and they demand special solutions. For instance, depending on the terrain, the construction of a kilometre-long stretch of road would cost 10-50 times more in the mountains than in the plains. It is high time people realise that unless the hills are given their due attention, their problems will spread, the impact of which downstream will be much more severe. If the higher reaches are deforested, the floods below would be devastating. The Ninth Five Year Plan is believed to be giving special attention to the mountains.

On the mandate of the G B Pant Institute:
The institute works towards evolving integrated management strategies to achieve sustainable economic development in the hills.

On the institute's mode of functioning:
One of the fundamental philosophies of the institute has been to develop network partners. We try and involve as many institutions and organisations as we can in our work. Core programmes for networking have been developed so that technological or scientific developments taking place elsewhere can be accessed.

For instance, sweet (sloping watershed environmental engineering technology) developed by us attempts to regenerate degraded land. Apart from the institute, the technology is being independently tested by seven other organisations in different parts of the Himalaya.

On the role of people:
People's role is crucial and unless they are involved, no amount of policing will deliver the desired results. Wherever people have participated, conservation programmes have been a success.

On the institute's openness to suggestions:
Suggestions are of course welcome. There are no two opinions about the fact that we have not been good listeners in the past. We have to learn from our mistakes. All along one has been under the impression that one knows best. As it turns out, this has not always been true. For instance, high altitude communities have a unique lifestyle and culture and their own traditional values. Mere legislation will not help find solutions to their problems. Developmental planning, for this very reason, has not been successful in many areas. Policies cannot be uniformly applied all over India. They have to be location-specific.

On the action plan for the Himalaya:
Initially prepared in 1992, the plan needs modification. A questionnaire for the Himalayan states