Students reflect on their experiences in the field as part of a research project in the Indian Himalayas.
A team of students, graduates and postgraduates from Bath Spa University and PhD students from the G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment have just completed a research project in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. Building on existing partnership expertise in the Indian Himalayan region, this new multi-lateral project, led by Dr Rich Johnson and Dr Ceri Davies from Bath Spa University, and Dr Jagdish Chandra Kuniyal from G. B. Pant NIHE, is assembling a unique record of historical floods in the high-mountain Dhauliganga (headwaters of the Ganges) river catchment in the Chamoli District.
Data collected through village meetings held in four high altitude villages situated on the banks of the Dhauliganga, alongside data obtained from district government archives and from various academic sources, will be collated into a flood database. This will bring new insight into flood occurrence and impacts as a basis to enhance regional disaster risk reduction efforts. The one-month placement of the Bath Spa students was funded by the Turing Scheme and the Royal Commonwealth Society (Bath and District Branch) and generously hosted by G. B. Pant NIHE. Here the students reflect on their experiences in the field and share some of their highlights.
I found travelling by road in India an exciting, sometimes alarming and educational experience. Describing the connectivity of fellow road users whether human or non-human as a ‘system’ (as Dr Jesse Baker at Western Colorado University does), in itself, is an accurate reflection of these relationships. Observing the intermingling of drivers and bike riders somehow manoeuvring around pedestrians and animals including cows, goats and dogs who share the road with equal rights and dignity is a miracle of understanding, cooperation and coordination.
The use of the vehicle horn is the accepted method of communication on the busy roads informing place and awareness and animals also seem to react to this. Drivers and riders have an inbuilt spatial awareness where the tiniest of spaces is used to pass and avoid connecting with fellow humans and animals.
- Debra Edwards (Bath Spa University)
The use of the vehicle horn is the accepted method of communication. Drivers and riders have an inbuilt spatial awareness where the tiniest of spaces is used to pass and avoid connecting with fellow humans and animals.
My exciting journey began with the BSU team and GBP-NIHE team from Almora to Joshimath, and then onwards to Malari village from 30 May to 7 June 2023. The journey was captured through scenic shots, as we traversed roads winding through beautiful valleys, offering breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, cascading waterfalls, and ever-changing landscapes from lower valleys to higher altitudes. However, we also witnessed some environmental degradation caused by the widening of roads, leading to landslips in certain areas.
During our stay in Joshimath, we had the opportunity to explore Raini Village, which has faced flash floods that occurred on 7 February 2021. Interacting with the locals made me realize the challenges they face while living in such risky areas. Despite the hardships, they continue to lead their lives with resilience and unity. I had the privilege of meeting Kumari Bali Devi, a strong supporter of the Chipko movement, who beautifully depicted the essence of the movement through her song.
Throughout my journey, I actively gathered historical knowledge about floods from the local people, who warmly shared their stories and experiences, particularly the women. While we encountered some challenges during our journey, the beauty of nature and the kindness of the local people never ceased to amaze us, ensuring a smooth and unforgettable experience. The sense of belonging and hospitality I experienced from the locals made me feel as though I was part of their community.
- Nidhi Kanwar (G. B. Pant-NIHE)
This trip has been filled with unforgettable moments. Getting a chance to visit the villages on the banks of the Dhauliganga river and having the opportunity to incorporate the rich knowledge of the people embedded in this dynamic landscape into our research has been very valuable. The day we spent in Kosa village was especially memorable. It was a rainy day in the mountains, and we were all quite cold.
After the village meeting, the generous people of Kosa insisted that we should have a hot meal before our journey back to Joshimath. Sitting underneath the shelter in front of the school building, looking up at the highest peaks of the mountains disappearing into the clouds above us while eating steaming hot kapa was a moment I will cherish for a long time.
- Iðunn Jónsdóttir (Bath Spa University)
Sitting underneath the shelter in front of the school building, looking up at the highest peaks of the mountains disappearing into the clouds above us while eating steaming hot kapa was a moment I will cherish for a long time.
Both people and place were inspiring. Getting to immerse in traditional Indian culture as well as witness Nanda Devi and the snowy mountain peaks. Combined, it made for a truly unique once in a lifetime experience. Every village member was happy and welcoming, being cooked for and celebrating with each other reminded me of the importance of community belonging, and how these traditional ways of life are so valuable to protect.
- Molly Croft (Bath Spa University)
As amazing it may sound and you believe me or not, I had the incredible opportunity to revisit Joshimath in Chamoli, this time accompanied by the students and faculty from Bath Spa University. As always, visiting this town is an awe-inspiring experience, but this time it was even more exhilarating as we had the chance to explore the remote villages in Joshimath. The purpose of this field visit was to engage in discussions with the villagers to gather their local knowledge about past hazard events.
We visited Raini, Fagti, Kosa and Malari villages; among all the villages we visited, Village Fagti (Tolma) left the most lasting impression on me. It was an adventure in itself, to reach the village, we had to cross a suspension bridge that seemed to sway in the air above the rushing Dhauli Ganga stream beneath. Once we arrived at the village, our meeting took place in the primary school. As I entered, I was surprised to see only one girl studying there. Coincidentally, her name was Arushi, just like mine. In that moment, I couldn't help but feel a sense of encouragement, thinking, "You go, girl!" It was a reminder of the resilience and potential that young girls possess, and how they are truly rocking and making a difference in their own unique ways.
This experience reminded me of the importance of education and the empowerment of girls. It highlighted the transformative impact that education can have on individuals and their communities. The visit to Village Fagti (Tolma) helped me to witness the determined spirit of the villagers. Their resilience in the face of challenges and their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences left a profound impact on all of us.
Visiting Joshimath and its remote villages is a journey that reaffirmed our commitment to understanding and working with local communities, and a reminder that field visits has the potential to make a lasting impact not only on your research but also on mind.
- Arushi Sharma (G.B.Pant-NIHE)
I was surprised to see only one girl studying there. Coincidentally, her name was Arushi, just like mine. In that moment, I couldn't help but feel a sense of encouragement, thinking, "You go, girl!"
It’s hard to focus on a single event to summarize the experience of an incredible trip, and this is certainly true of my time working alongside colleagues from Bath Spa University and GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment in Uttarakhand.
However, one day stands out for me: day three of our village data collection spent in Kosa. It encapsulated the varied and spectacular scenery on our long drives up the Dhauliganga valley as well as the change in climate that accompanied the increasing altitude. Nearby peaks appeared momentarily through low clouds, creating an atmosphere later enhanced by a cold wind and rain.
It was a privilege to conduct research in such a location, and we left well fed and on a high which was only topped by the moon rising over snow-capped mountains in the distance on our drive back to Joshimath.
- Jacob Sudell (Bath Spa University)
These are just some of the highlights from a month of hard work, unpredictable circumstances and countless new experiences. We leave this stage of the project happy with the work we have been able to complete, thankful for those who have facilitated it and excited for what the future holds.
Read more about our Geography and Environmental Studies research on the Hazard, Risk and Disaster (HRD) Research Group page.
Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.
- Art and design
- Bath Spa
- Business and management
- Culture and society
- Education and teaching
- Science and environment
- Students and alumni
- Writing, Performance and Production
Our talented Bath Spa community has your book lovers’ Christmas shopping list sorted!
Ray Lewis shares how the vibrant spirit of Cambodia created an unforgettable journey and paved the way for exciting job prospects.
There's great care, hard work, history and a lot of interesting facts behind our trees.
Join us for a series of free events to celebrate Disability History Month 2023.
Learners on our Skills Bootcamp in Data Analytics recently attended a day of workshops and guest lectures from The Data Place.
Our Bath Spa community is providing a bumper crop of great reads this autumn.