Pirineos, Vol 167 (2012)

Cambio ambiental y desafíos en el Himalaya. Una perspectiva histórica


https://doi.org/10.3989/Pirineos.2012.167003

Jack D. Ives
Carleton University, Canadá

Resumen


Esta perspectiva global, o retrospectiva, tiene dos objetivos. El primero es demostrar cómo se aplicaron los principios de la “geoecología de montaña” en un intento por contrarrestar los impactos políticos y socioeconómicos de una errónea ortodoxia ambiental, la Teoría de la Degradación Ambiental del Himalaya (en adelante referida como la “Teoría”). El segundo es explorar las dificultades para transferir los resultados de la investigación científica en montaña a los procesos públicos de decisión. En este sentido, el artículo debería ser contemplado como un estudio de caso de los efectos potencialmente serios de las exageradas respuestas a las ortodoxias basadas en suposiciones y mitos de última hora. Un tercer objetivo, reservado a otro trabajo publicado en este volumen, subraya los orígenes de la geoecología de montaña y explora cómo la investigación académica influyó en la incorporación de la preocupación por los problemas de la montaña en la AGENDA 21, uno de los principales resultados de la Conferencia de Naciones Unidas de 1992 sobre Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo (popularmente conocida como la Cumbre de Río), y la declaración de 2002 como el Año Internacional de las Montañas.
La ortodoxia ambiental original (la Teoría) ha sido eclipsada desde el cambio de milenio por una nueva alarma populista que propone que el actual calentamiento climático hará que todos los glaciares del Himalaya desaparezcan en un futuro próximo. De ahí puede deducirse que, a medida que la fusión glaciar progrese, numerosos lagos glaciares reventarían y las consiguientes avenidas aniquilarían a millones de personas. Eventualmente, tras la desaparición de los glaciares, algunos ríos fundamentales, como el Ganges y el Brahmaputra podrían convertirse en ríos estacionales ocasionando la pérdida masiva de vidas humanas debido a la desertificación y el hambre. Esta alarma ambiental podría ser vista como paralela a la Teoría original, y será examinada en la parte final de este artículo.
Entre 1970 y 1985 se mantuvo la opinión entre los científicos y especialistas en desarrollo, así como entre los conservacionistas, de que el Himalaya estaba al borde del colapso ambiental, socioeconómico y político. Este pesimismo y predestinación fue adoptado ávidamente por periodistas, políticos y diplomáticos, e influyó en la dedicación de grandes sumas de dinero y ayudas. En pocas palabras, a comienzos de los años setenta se asumió la ocurrencia de un desastre ambiental determinado por el crecimiento demográfico de comunidades que dependían de los bosques de montaña para la obtención de energía, forraje, materiales de construcción y expansión de los terrenos agrícolas. La asunción de una rápida y catastrófica deforestación de laderas pendientes bajo clima monzónico (el Banco Mundial predijo que no habría bosques accesibles en Nepal hacia el año 2000) condujo inexorablemente a aceptar otras suposiciones: aumento de la erosión del suelo y acentuación de la incidencia de los deslizamientos; incremento de la magnitud y frecuencia de las avenidas y del transporte de sedimento en las llanuras del Ganges en India y Bangladesh; conflictividad social y política, cuando no serios conflictos armados, es decir, la noción de una supercrisis mundial, teniendo en cuenta que la región en cuestión contiene alrededor del 10 por ciento de la población mundial y alrededor de la tercera parte de los más pobres.
Como se pone de relieve a continuación, ninguna de esas ideas se basaba en evidencias fiables, pero fueron aceptadas mundialmente como un hecho. Representan un ejemplo claro de los peligros asociados a la adopción de mitos u ortodoxias ambientales, especialmente donde el mito es una construcción “científica” del mundo occidental. Yo la definí como la Teoría de la Degradación Ambiental del Himalaya (Ives, 1985).

Palabras clave


Degradación ambiental; riesgos Geomórficos; riesgos hidrológicos; fluctuaciones glaciares; Himalaya

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