Eco-development attempts to look at activities that use resources in a sustainable manner to provide people livelihoods and improve the quality of their lives. It combines traditional knowledge and activities with appropriate modern scientific information, and attempts to upgrade living systems with better technologies and methods, village level institutions and enterprises with marketing support.
Owing to their specific environmental and resource related features, mountains provide a niche for ecological cycles, human activities, and products and services. While these regions suffer from remoteness, lack of infrastructure and other management and administrative problems, on the one hand, mountains also have potential comparative advantages over the plains in certain kinds of activities and lifestyles, e.g. a specific valley serving as habitat for special medicinal plants, a source of unique products like flowers, fruits and honey or as a source of hydropower. In practice, however, these “niche” advantages do not bear fruit unless conditions are created to harness the potential.
The transformation and management of natural resources in mountain regions pose interesting challenges since:
- Biodiversity systems tend to be complex
- Indigenous communities live and depend on natural systems for their livelihood, culture and daily needs
- Markets and distribution systems are usually governed by outsiders, leading to a skewed distribution of benefits
- Local ecology and economy govern natural resource management patterns. Issues such as encroachments, land use changes, drying watersheds, human-wildlife conflicts, fading traditions and knowledge assume paramount importance in forming better policies and programmes for the people and resources.
- Existence of strong vested interests, like plantations and tourism, tend to overlook environmental concerns.