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Volume: Garhwal Himalaya: Nature, Culture & Society

Editors: O P Kandari & O P Gusain
Foreword by: Dr An Purohit of the HNB Garhwal University
Published by: Suresh Bhatt for Transmedia, Media House, Srinagar, Garhwal
Price: Rs 1,250 (US$ 75)
ISBN: 81-900907-4-1
First Edition: Jan, 2001
Pages: 480 with colour photographs (Glossy art paper)
Can be booked with Suresh Bhatt. His E-mail address is:
transmedia@vsnl.com


Do you know there are as many as six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries together spread over 6408.10 square kilometer area, covering approximately 21 percent of region's total geographic area and 28 per cent of its forest area in Uttaranchal, popularly known as Uttarakhand?

"Garhwal Himalaya: Nature, Culture, and Society" is the book you are looking for getting such information on the new state of Uttaranchal. Known as Devbhoomi or the land of gods, religious sanctuary, source region of the Ganga and Yamuna, and the land of outstandingly rich and diverse natural grandeur. Thus the Garhwal region of the newly formed state of Uttaranchal
is described. The influence of Garhwal on the contemporary culture and civilization seems to be visible.

According to the book, the stone tools collected from the Alaknanda valley by the HNB Garhwal University confirm the presence of human civilization in this part of Himalaya during late Mesolithic age (5000BC) or megalithic age (app 2600 BC). This is evident in the fact that despite its complex, arduous, and mountainous topography, the evolution process of human civilization in Garhwal has been more or less parallel to rest of the country.

The 480-page exhaustive volume entitled as "Garhwal Himalaya: Nature, Culture and Society," which has been edited by O P Kandari and OP Gusain of the HNBG University, Srinagar-Garhwal, faithfully chronicles several aspects of the life in the region. From history and physiographic perspective to geological and geometrical appraisal, ethnobotanical heritage, land use patter, agriculture, rural settlement system, archaeology, education, avifauna, achthyofauna, women, tribal populace, fairs and festivals, non-governmental organizations, the new state in the making, and keeping in view the aesthetic beauty of the Garhwal hills, relevant information on
tourism and pilgrimage. The publication comprises documented information as well as experiences and perceptions of the scholars actively engaged in relevant fields.

For sure, the region known for its sylvan, serene, and mundane environment and amazingly diverse natural grandeur and vividly varied colorful landscapes owes to its strategic location in the midst of might mountain ranges. And marked contrasts in biotic, geomorphological as well as meteorological aspects. The volume touches all relevant issues making it important for the readers.

The socio-cultural fabric in the region is as contrasting and colorful as the natural one. The traditions, rituals, food habits, and different settlement patterns in different valleys, are distinct.
It has fabulously rich biotic wealth, especially in terms of bio-diversity. The vegetation spectrum due to the various influences like altitude, topography, local edaphic controls, and micro climatic patterns is quite distinctive along different valleys. Like bio-diversity and ecology, the socio-cultural and economic fabric of the region too has suffered in many ways.

Those who wish to have first hand information about the new state, will find the volume very handy. One would even find names of several NGOs operating in the state. Most of the contributors are from the HNB Garhwal University who have first hand knowledge of the region. The editors Kandari and Gusain are also teachers. While kandari is Professor and Head, institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, Bundelkhand University, Jhansi; Gusain is a senior
lecturer, Department of Zoology, GNB Garhwal University. Dr Kandari has also been editor of a multidisciplinary journal with wide international circulation. Dr Gusain completed his doctoral study on primary production in hillstream. His other areas of interests include aquatic biodiversity and conservation.

D D Chauniyal, in his chapter on the land use pattern argues that highly complex and rugged mountainous nature of terrain singularly has played a vital role in determining the land use patterns in this hill region. Thus, only 9.6 per cent of its total area has been classified to be cultivated as against 16.5 per cent and 75 per cent to be perpetually snow covered and
under forests, respectively. According to him, the interplay of various physical and cultural factors have resulted into diverse land use patterns of the river terraces, spurs, and ridges or mountain ranges in different parts of the region.

Historically, the earlier settlers occupied the easily accessible, flat or gentle sun facing, fertile slopes with favorable environment for human survival. With the population increase, people started to clean the forests to convert into pastures, waste land and cultivated land - a process that still continues in some parts of the Garhwal and the neighbouring Kumaon region. In brief, the spatial distribution of agricultural land use in Garhwal is mainly controlled by physiographic conditions. Altitude is one of the very important factors which influences the climate of the region.

The chapter on agriculture points out that the Garhwal Himalaya has a long heritage of subsistence economy, with agriculture being the core component involving over 80 per cent of its population. Obviously on account of great variations in the altitude, topography, climate, forest resources, availability of water for irrigation and, socio-economic and cultural factors.

According to the volume, appropriate measures need to be urgently introduced in the region if the sustainability of the traditional agricultural system alongside the natural resources base is to be achieved. According to the volume, more than 22 per cent of population of Garhwal lives in urban settlements of various sizes. As regards the rural settlements, their size measured in terms of population serves as a useful parameter of comparative study. In nutshell, the book is worth keeping in one's shelf for time-to-time reference and consultations.