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Himachal Pradesh – Bath Spa University

Disasters, Climate Extremes and Human Predicament in Himalayan Mountain State of Himachal Pradesh With Special Reference to Kullu Valley, India

Wednesday 26 May, 2021 – Wednesday 26 May, 2021
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM


Part of the Hazard, Risk and Disaster (HRD) Research Lecture Series 2020-21.

Revered as ‘Abode of Gods & Goddesses’ Himalayan mountains have always fascinated human desire and imaginations. Known for its majestic hills, rivers, valleys, forests and highland pastures the enchanting landscape of Himachal Pradesh offers an experience to a diverse array of indigenous cultures. As a source of perennial rivers and glaciers, conducive climate for horticulture, storehouse of flora and fauna; fascinating landscapes and indigenous culture, aesthetic magnetism, potential for tourism and hydropower, these mountains have been the testing ground for developmental and commercial experiments.

These ventures undoubtedly brought economic prosperity to the state resulting in rapid growth of human population and intensification of human activities. Himachal Pradesh, especially the Kullu valley embodies economic possibilities that mountains can offer to improve life and livelihood of local people. On the other side, this valley also represents a perfect example of a coupled human-environment system where economic development has amplified human vulnerability to natural processes. It appears that with an established history of multiple disasters, risk in this valley stems from human induced landscape changes. The result is a less resilient society and more vulnerable people.

This talk intends to focus on highlighting how the Himalayan landscape stands threatened by changing climatic aspects. Its vulnerability to geo-physical and hydro-meteorological extremes is exacerbated by socio-economic contexts. Based on extensive geospatial information created from multiple historical sources, scientific datasets and intensive field-work, connections between changing manifestation of climatic extremes and disaster occurrence are examined. Examples of recent events in September 2018 and August 2019 that caused massive destruction to human created structures, establish how landscape modification has been creating circumstances for disaster risk in these mountains.

About the speaker

Vishwa B. S. Chandel began his academic career in 2006 as Curator at the Department of Geography, Panjab University where he now holds the position of Assistant Professor of Geography. He has bachelor's degree with Mathematics, Geography and Economics; master’s degree in Geography; a professional degree in Remote Sensing and GIS and a doctoral degree in Geography besides training on geospatial technology from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). His bond with Geography started in the mountains of Western Himalayas where he was fortuitously exposed to mountain culture and landscape fashioned by unique human-nature interactions. With a keen interest in geo-environmental studies, his research expertise delves into the field of natural hazards & disaster studies, mountain landscapes and nature-human interactions.

His research interests relate to human-nature linkages and a parallel interest in the physical basis of geography, mountains, hazard scenario, disaster risk, climate change and natural history. He has a strong methodological inclination towards fieldwork-based research aided by geoinformatics. He has published in a range of journals including: Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk; Journal of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing; Annals of the American Association of Geographers; Asia Pacific Journal of Social Science; Malaysian Journal of Tropical Geography; and Punjab Geographer.

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