The dharma of development
DOI link for The dharma of development
The dharma of development book
In 1957 (six years after the overthrow of the ‘feudal’ Rana regime, the Nepalese historical equivalent of the Japanese shoguns) Nepal’s forests were nationalised, a reform that resulted in massive deforestation and degradation. This outcome was then blamed on the victim: the ‘ignorant and fecund peasant’, and justified in terms of what is now called THED: the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation.1 This theory held that it was the mushrooming population that was forcing the farmers to fell more and more trees on steeper and steeper hillsides so as to create more terraced fields on which to grow the crops to feed all the extra mouths, while at the same time requiring them to extract more and more fuelwood from that ever-diminishing forest. The reduced cover, so the theory went, then increased erosion by the monsoon rains, while the ever-steeper new terraces increased the incidence of landslides, thereby propelling more and more precious topsoil into the mountain torrents, increasing the flooding down in the plains of India and Bangladesh, clogging the turbines in the downstream hydroelectric power stations and rapidly filling their dams with silt. And so it went, population increase leading to vicious circle piled upon vicious circle, a diagnosis that led, in the 1980s, to the General Assembly of the United Nations identifying the Himalayan region as one of the world’s ‘environmental hot-spots’. It was only at (and in the lead-up to) the Mohonk Mountain Conference in 1986 that THED was shown to be invalid and that the true cause – nationalisation – was identified (Thompson and Warburton 1985; Ives and Messerli 1989; Ives 2004; Thompson and Gyawali 2007).