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Claiming the Alps: The Himalayan Commons in the Punjab and Himachal Pradesh

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Chakravarty-Kaul, Minoti
Conference: Voices from the Commons, the Sixth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Berkeley, CA
Conf. Date: June 5-8, 1996
Date: 1996
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/145
Sector: Grazing
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
customary law
mountain regions
Abstract: "Herding in the alpine pastures of the Himalayas has been proverbially, as 'old as the hills'. Customary grazing patterns of both herders and cultivators reflected both horizontal and vertical access to pastoral resources in the mountain commons. Such institutions of usage were designed over the years by constant and mutual adjustment during different seasons in the year and in pastures spread over varied elevations. Consequently the institutions of transhumance provided insurance against specific risks and preparation against general uncertainty prevailing in the Himalayas. The gains from such practices were shared by the commoners, both cultivators and herders. "These usages were relatively untouched by outside influences till the nineteenth century. External factors began to exert pressure when change in the political economy in the northern plains affected the character of risk and changed the nature of uncertainty. Further, growth in numbers of both humans and animals in the herd altered the ecological balance on the commons. Thus began the erosion of customary institutions which regulated herding and agricultural practices in the mountains. "This paper will attempt to map firstly the nature of customary usage on the pastoral commons both vertical and horizontal and examine the relation between these institutions and natural ecology; secondly, it will try to assess the disturbance to these institutions caused by firstly, forest reservation made by the Department of Forests; secondly, by statutory intervention like forest law; and thirdly by the capture of water-sheds of rivers on mountain systems like the Himalayas."

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