Viewpoints: Rapid urban growth in mountainous regions: The case of Nainital, India

Prakash C. Tiwari
Kumaon University, India

Bhagwati Joshi
Government Post Graduate College, India

shutterstock_362847104 (1)Mountain ecosystems, particularly in developing and underdeveloped regions, are experiencing rapid, unplanned and unregulated urban-growth. Recently, less accessible areas of the Himalaya region in India have begun to urbanize due to the extension of the road network, growth in tourism, and economic globalization. The sprawling urban growth in these fragile mountains and the resultant land use intensification have disrupted the hydrological systems of urban areas, and have consequently increased the susceptibility of anthropogenically-modified slopes to recurrent slope failures, landslides, and flash floods. Moreover, climate change has stressed urban ecosystems by increasing the frequency, severity, and intensity of extreme weather events.

This article analyzes the impacts of rapid urbanization on the social and ecological systems of high mountain towns, and observes how the rapid urban growth is making high mountains towns susceptible to natural risks under the impact of changing climatic conditions. This underlines the need to understand the local geo-tectonic and geo-morphological conditions before allowing to expand the urbanization in fragile mountain terrain. It also suggests various measures for managing high mountain urbanization on a sustainable basis, and integrating adaptation strategies into urban management action-plan for fast growing mountain towns.

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