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Chakravorty, Suha Priyadarshini (2022) Collective Sustenance and the Environment: A Political Economy Analysis of Tourism in Himachal Pradesh, India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The Himalayas have long been a source of attraction for people for its resources that have encouraged its use and exploitation by the government since colonial times. The Himalayan terrain has typically been favoured for the tourism industry owing to its scenic beauty, recreational activities and the local cottage industries that have developed over a period of time, alongside the tourism sector that has facilitated the growth and sustenance of the local hill economies. Tourism in Himachal Pradesh is not a new phenomenon and dates back to the historical accounts of the famous Chinese Traveler, Hiuen Tsang and later colonial travelers later such as William Moorcroft, who had written extensively on the social and economic life, art and architecture, scenic beauty and the flora and fauna of Himachal. However modern day tourism in the state has acquired new dimensions. Both formal and informal networks of people have been involved with the tourism industry in Himachal that has symbolically separated older forms of tourism with the newer kinds. This relates to not only the massive influx in the quantum of people to the state but the articles of exchange- kinds of products exchanged, and kinds of recreational opportunities made available to the tourists. Owing to the fact that agriculture was by itself not sufficient and was often severely impaired by adverse climatic conditions, the local communities engaged in trade of plants, herbs and herbomineral oils such as shilajit or paththar ka paseena (some of which were made illegal by colonial and post-colonial law). The nexus of contractors and tourists with that of the local communities in the trading of a narcotic produce from Cannabis resin, Malana cream (native of the village Malana, in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh) is another issue linked with the creation of a massive illicit drug trade that caters to the national and international market. While on the one hand its positive impact on the economy cannot be disregarded, the issue of environmental degradation has gradually deepened with the massive explosion of mega and midsized resort projects and building of hotels that have eroded the fragile slopes and been responsible for tremendous deforestation. Furthermore, the growth of the tourism sector (which has itself been heartened by the building of roadways) has in its turn encouraged incessant construction of roadways and led to urban modes of expansion in the hills, that have resulted in slope erosion and continuously de-stabilized slopes displacing the landless living in forests. Additionally, air pollution has become a major concern in the Himachal, owing to the vehicular emission from the large volume of buses and cars that ply to and fro the hills to cater to tourists. Himachal Pradesh has therefore witnessed a process of steady environmental degradation. The study is conducted in Manali town in the Kullu district of Himachal, to critically look at the changing nature of peoples’ survival mechanisms and coping strategies in the context of exploitation and management of natural resources vis-à-vis tourism. The notions of ‘risk’ is understood not merely in terms of environmental concerns in the hills, but also from the 4 perceptions of ‘new threats’ to ‘security’ that are embedded in the very geopolitical composition of the region, in the context of modern risk societies and the way in which ‘collective sustenance’ finds meaning in the context of the ‘shadow’ economy. It endeavoures to contribute to existing literature on exploitation of natural resources owing to tourism development in hill economies broadly, by trying to bridge gaps in the literature and bringing in an integrated agenda to look at institutional frameworks of the state and that of the local people in their modus operandi and collective sustenance mechanisms, including coping strategies in the light of ‘risks’ in ecologically fragile landscapes. Also, since not much literature has been generated as significant case study material for Himachal Pradesh, in terms of analysing the political economy of tourism in the region, the study addresses the concerns of these neglected hills and their communities as ‘precarious’ ‘risk communities’ attempting to cope with changing environment through collective action. The study specifically engages in- 1. To examine how collective sustenance mechanisms operate beyond mere sustenance needs and evolve as coping strategies underlying the fabric of hill economies as tourism expands and impacts the politics of survival in molding these power configurations. 2. To study the networks that grow as a result of the interplay of tourism in relation to adaptive measures and coping strategies employed which has further repercussions in changing patterns of collective sustenance mechanisms. 3. To understand the ‘risk’ perceptions in relation to livelihood, shadows and collective sustenance and explore to what extent they have had implications for shaping the economy of the region.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Subir Sinha
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2022 16:36

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