Can Celebrating Himalaya Diwas Save the Himalayan Ecology?

Since 2015, 9 September has been officially observed as Himalay Diwas or Himalaya Day in Uttarakhand. Some important considerations emerge from this. First, what is the potential of Himalay Diwas in highlighting the environmental issues faced by the region? Second, when research has shown that the past environmental movements (in the state) have actually been misrepresented and have created environmental injustices for the local populations (Bandyopadhyay 1999; Rangan 2000), to what extent does Himalay Diwas address these local voices? Finally, does the day receive attention from and appeal to the masses? The article intends to explore the conception of the Himalayas and the environment evident in the case of the Himalay Diwas celebrations. [1] 

In 2010, a group of environmentalists, activists, and NGOs (mainly from Uttarakhand) led by Sunderlal Bahuguna, Anil Joshi, Radha Behen, and others decided to celebrate 9 September[2] as Himalaya Diwas. The stated purpose of observing this day was to spread the message of conservation and highlight issues pertaining to the Himalayan ecosystem and its people. The idea was conceptualised by Anil Joshi of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO).[3]  This initiative intends to observe 9 September as Himalaya Diwas in all the Himalayan states of India—from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh. A common Himalayan social ecology is conceived to be existing in these states. The date selected for this occasion has no relevance whatsoever in the environmental history or socio-cultural sphere of any Himalayan state in India. It is possible that the Himalaya Diwas was declared in the aftermath of the devastating monsoon in August 2010. Additionally, the 2013 Kedarnath catastrophe exposed the fragility of the Himalayan ecosystem and model of development being followed. This perhaps influenced the 2014 decision of the Uttarakhand government to observe Himalay Diwas as an official day.

Globally and nationally, some days espousing the cause of the environment are Earth Day (observed on 22 April since 1970), Environment Day (observed on 5 June since 1974), World Biodiversity Day (observed on 29 December from 1993–2000 and 22 May since 2000), International Day of Forests (observed on 21 March since 2012), and World Wildlife Day (observed on 3 March since 2013). While most of these are declared mainly by the United Nations, the concept of Himalaya Diwas has emerged from Uttarakhand. However, it is important to note that though the state has a rich history of forest and ecological movements, there has been no tradition of celebrating or observing a day dedicated to environmental causes in the past.[4]

Environmentalism and the Voices

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