Sustainability Perspectives of Development in Leh District (Ladakh, Indian Trans-Himalaya): an Assessment

Vladimiro Pelliciardi, Varvaro, Dr Federico, Maria Pulselli
2007 unpublished
This thesis deals with a human inhabited territory in the Indian Trans-Himalaya: the Leh District, in Ladakh, at a "crossroad of high Asia", geographically classified "cold desert". For many centuries the local population has led a self-reliant existence mainly based upon subsistence agriculture, pastoralism and caravan trade. Modernization, due to governmental programs, and the progressive opening to external influence and resources -i.e. globalizationcharacterize the current development
more » ... In this study, emergy evaluation, an environmental accounting system, is utilized to assess the sustainability of the multiple interactions between human activities and the environment. Agricultural practices at small farm level (< 1 hectare) are investigated in detail. Site specific unit emergy values (UEV, emergy per unit product, a measure of the environmental contribution) of five staple crops (barley, wheat, pea, mustard and alfalfa) are calculated. Barley and wheat values (using manure) were 5.27E+05 and 6.64E+05 semj/J, respectively, comparable to those found in the literature for intensive modern agriculture (using chemicals), for which the order of magnitude is 10E+05 to 10E+07 semj/J. As a proxy for "man-made" agricultural soil function, a particular UEV is defined and calculated. The anthropic dynamics of the Leh District are investigated -e.g. government development programs, land-based economy, food security (calculating import dependency ratio), off-farm economy, tourism (estimating tourist receipts), imports of goods and commodities (estimating quantities) -along with physical features and other relevant aspects. Data is collected to evaluate the sustainability of development from the emergy point of view. A set of synthetic indices is calculated in time series (1999-2007) -i.e. emergy per capita (EC), renewability percentage (R%), emergy investment ratio (EIR) and environmental loading ratio (ELR). The results indicate that: the traditional farming system is efficient (UEV) in the use of environmental resources compared to those of modern farming systems (it is therefore argued that the traditional system should be preserved and conserved); the anthropic dynamics in the District have a low impact (ELR) on the environment (ecosphere); although the use of renewable resources (R%) remains high, the sustainability of development (the degree to which the District depends on renewable resources to achieve a certain level of internal organization (EIR) and standard of living (EC)) is decreasing. Abstract 3