Pandemic Resilience in the Western Himalayas: Extraordinary Stories of ‘Ordinary’ People
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of our fragile economic system. We heard stories of people hoarding essentials when the lockdown was announced. There were stories of young people given medical beds at the cost of the elderly. These stories around the world reflect how the pandemic and the lockdown have affected human beings around the world. The tourism sector was one of the most affected sectors after the lockdown was announced with millions losing their jobs.
It isn’t just the economic system that’s been hit hard. The Himalayan region is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world with rising evidence of climate change, land degradation, over-exploitation, outmigration, and natural disasters. The Western Himalayan region, comprising of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, is home to 51 million people. The region also includes diverse flora and fauna. People are largely agriculture-dependent with tourism being the other primary job-creating sector in the region.
When the pandemic hit, the vulnerabilities of the region were exposed further. A trend of ‘reverse migration’ occurred as migrant workers who had left earlier for jobs in cities and towns far away began returning to their villages. The booming tourism industry came to a halt, leading to a devastating loss of livelihoods. But resilience was built and coping strategies began taking shape.
The 3rd Volume of Vikalp Sangam’s series on “Extraordinary Work of ‘Ordinary’ People: Beyond Pandemics and Lockdowns” is now out. This volume, supported by Heinrich Boll Foundation and Misereor, documents 10 stories of inspiration from the Himalayan region which reflect perseverance, resilience, and tenacity. When a flood destroyed the only school in a village, the locals and returnee-migrants worked together to renovate the school. A bird enthusiast from Kashmir took to environmentally sustainable tourism and employment generation. As tourism came to a halt, a tourist operator in Ladakh started a door-to-door delivery service sustaining all its employees. Another community took to subsistence farming and focused on digital literacy. These stories especially reflect how youth and women have led the way during the pandemic.