Forest figures of the past (and present): Consequences on the future of settling with/in forests of the Garhwal Himalayas, India
Keywords:Adaptation, ecological floors, ecological ruptures, forest policies, state development
This research unfolds the notion of ‘settling with/in forests,’ shaped by the dynamic environmental and socio-political interactions in India’s Garhwal Himalayas. Garhwal’s forests perform diverse ecosystem functions that characterise the regional landscape. Settling with/in forests is fundamental to Himalayan communities as, directly and/or indirectly, forests structure the ecology, livelihoods, settlements, and seasonal mobilities across the mountainous landscape. Today, Garhwal’s forests are endangered by the cascading impacts of global warming, increasing urbanisation, natural disasters, and extensive infrastructure construction. Using a “thick description” approach, the research seeks to examine the intertwined layers of forests, local habitats, practices, and institutions, provide insight into the region’s unique environmental history, and identify the challenges associated with settling with/ in forests. The research combines fieldwork, archival materials, and interpretive mapping to examine a case study in the Garhwal Himalayas.
The findings highlight the conflicts and coexistence of State policies and non-state adaptations, as well as the vulnerability of the region’s forests to climatic stress and future anthropogenic change. The forests of Garhwal are critical to the larger Himalayan ecology, and the research findings point the way forward for developing potential adaptations that strengthen the concept of settling with/in forests.
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