Geography: Recommendations through Case Studies: Climate, Suggested Planning for Hill Area Development

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The village records extreme continental type of climate. Its climate is characterised by scanty rainfall, high range in the annual and diurnal temperatures, warm summers, and severe cold winters. The mean monthly temperature varies from 12°C in January to 12°C in July. The approximate annual range of temperature is about 24°C. The village lies in the rain shadow area and receives less than 15 cm of annual precipitation. Unfortunately, larger amount of precipitation occurs in the form of snow during winter months. Gulmatango is the nearby observatory for recording the weather and climatic data.


  • Rangdoom has a hostile environment due to high altitude and extremely rugged terrain on the one hand and cold arid climate on the other. Climate dictates the overall pattern of vegetation. It presents a system of alternating valleys and mountain ranges. The barren rocky surfaces of mountain ranges are devoid of soil and vegetation cover. Most of the plants require a minimum of 6°C temperature for germination of seeds and plants to grow. The high diurnal range of temperature makes mean temperature values quite deceptive. The growing season is restricted to less than 6 months in a year. Plants are almost all ground-hugging shrubs and short woody trees. All the leaves are packed with nutrients. The vegetation type is dominated by grasses, bushes, and small trees.

  • Scanty vegetation covers large areas because of cold dry conditions. Vegetation is very sensitive to grazing and is poor in species. The type of vegetation varies with altitude. Pasture grasses and weeds (Polygonum tortuous etc.) are common near Rangdoom. Grazing is the most common activity during summer. The village presents a very desolate picture with very little greenery. Locally known as ‘Tsermang’, the sea buckthorn is used for food, fire, and fodder. It is a medicinal plant and its juice does not freeze in sub-zero temperature.


  • The total geographical area of the village is 289.76 hectares. The total cropped area is 94.29 hectares. The Culturable waste accounts for 49.37 hectares and remaining 104.82 hectares is not available for cultivation. As such, less than 40 % of the total land was found to be under plough. About 68.2 % land holdings are less than I hectare, 27.3 % between 1 to 2.5 hectares, and remaining 4.5 % between 5 to 10 hectares. It is further observed that 35.8 % leased in land for agriculture belongs to less than 1 hectare, 32.7 % between 1 to 2.5 hectares, and remaining 31.4 % between 5 to 10 hectares. As such over 95.5 % peasants in Rangdoom village were cultivating land measuring less than 2.5 hectares. The distribution of land as a resource is very uneven.

  • The agriculture is subsistence type in this village. The important crops grown in the region include grim (Naked Barley), wheat, and peas. The mixed grim, wheat, and peas are roasted and then ground to make Tsampa (Sattu) which forms the main food. Grim is used for making Chhaang, a popular drink with the Buddhists in the region. The chhaang is made through fermentation of grim. Peas are used both as vegetable and for making Tsampa. Other crops include Oal (alfalfa) for fodder and also some Trumba (Buck wheat) and Garasl Bakla (Beans). Recently some vegetable crops have also been introduced to meet the demand of tourists and nearby market areas. However, most of these crops are grown mainly for self-consumption. The relative share of different crops reveals that grim accounts for about 64.6 % of the total cultivated area.

  • It is followed by peas (23.1 %), fodder (4.8 %), Garas/Bakla (4.1 %), wheat (2.4 %), and other crops (1 %). Thus, agriculture is a seasonal activity which lasts for about 5 to 6 months in a year. Agriculture is practised through traditional tools. The animal power of Yak or Dzo is used for ploughing and thrashing. Human labour is used for most of the operations. Use of modem machinery, fertilizer, and high yielding variety seeds is very limited. The collective form of agriculture is also common in the village. It is known as Phaspun in which a group of households join together to complete labour intensive works such as sowing, harvesting etc.

  • Manure is an important input in agriculture. It consists of animal dung/droppings and night soil. Since winters are too cold, there is a provision of toilet in every house. It is usually built on the first floor with a hole in the wooden floor. The excreta get collected in the ground floor. This is mixed with soil and is used as manure in the agricultural fields.

Pastoral Activities

Livestock rearing is the other important component of the economy. Most of the livestock, except those required for agricultural operations, are taken to natural pastures during summer months. Most of the pastures are located on the higher grounds. Sheep, goats, ponies, and yaks are the most common animals reared on these pastures. Large flocks of sheep and goats are kept in these areas. Usually, one family from each village takes the cattle to summer pastures and live there in a hut, called Daksha. It is a temporary structure. The activity or animal herding is carried out among all households of the village on yearly basis. Milk and milk products are made in the Daksha. Besides milk and milk products, meat and wool are the other important products obtained from animal herding.


Rangdoom is an important centre for summer tourism. Tourists and trekkers visit Rangdoom during summer season. According to an estimate, there are about 1000 visitors to the place during a summer season. Of the total tourists, about 47.3 % are trekkers, 38.2 % scientists, and about 14.5 % other unclassified visitors. Nearly 78 % tourists are international and remaining 22 % are domestic tourists. There are two important festivals that attract tourists to Rangdoom Gompa. The Ladakh Festival is celebrated on 15th September and Sindhu Darshan in June every year. Both domestic as well as foreign tourists take interest in participating in these festivals.

Prospects for Development

The overall analysis reveals that villagers in Rangdoom practise subsistence agriculture and nomadic herding on seasonal basis. The role of collective operations, both in agriculture and pastoralism, is still dominant in the economy of the village. People in this remote hilly village rely on barter system for exchange of goods and services. However, the role of Phospun (collective operations) is declining and it is getting replaced with hired labour. The changes are slow and dynamic. Nature is a major determinant of human activities in hill areas. Tourism is a new dimension in hill economy. The society is largely well-knit and composed. The scope of development in hill areas depends upon the provision of essential infrastructures like roads, social facilities, markets etc. Mechanisation in agriculture and commercial pastoralism are the other important areas that can accelerate the pace of development in hill areas like that in Rangdoom.

Suggested Planning for Hill Area Development

Hill areas usually remain backward due to harsh climatic conditions and other natural constraints. However, planned efforts based on local needs could accelerate people’s participation and local area development in a hill environment.

The following priorities of planning are suggested to develop the Rangdoom area.

  • Provision for Basic Amenities and Facilities: The basic infrastructures such as metalled road, means of transportation, highway restaurants and guest houses, health centres, weather stations, schools, veterinary centres, markets, banks, and postal services need to be upgraded and established along Kargil-Padum highway. It will act as a basis for human interaction and local area development.

  • Provision for The Improvement of Ecological Setup and Economic Basis: The ecological setup is largely devoid of vegetation. Large scale pastoral activities have resulted in degenerating the ecological setup. The pressure of animal population is on the ranges and is ever increasing. As such it is suggested that high altitude cold resistant trees be planted along the national highway and along the Suru valley areas. It is possible to grow Tsermang, a local berry tree which is known for its commercial value as its juice does not freeze even in sub-zero temperature. Similarly, pastures need to be managed through irrigation channels. Use of chemical fertilizers and assured irrigation to the land along Suru valley can improve the existing levels of agricultural development.

  • Tourism Promotion: Rugged topography and glaciated landscape offer ideal natural conditions for expeditions, adventure tourism, rock climbing, skating, trekking etc. Rangdoom occupies central location for promoting such tourism between Nun Kun peaks and Panji La. However, provision of tourist amenities such as hotels, camping sites, guides, escorts etc. need to be made. Scientific and cultural tourism also have scopes to develop. Scientists and cultural tourists are already attracted to Buddhist Culture, Gompa organization, exploration of rocks, plants etc.

  • Development of Commercial Pastoralism and Cottage Industries: Pastoralism is an important economic activity of the area. However, animal products and the quality of animals are quite poor. As such there is an apparent need to upgrade the quality of animals such as sheep, goats, yak, ponies etc. The hybridization local breeds with karakul sheep, goats etc. can improve the quality as well as quantity of wool, milk, etc. Cottage industries which form the basis for indoor winter activity need to be equipped with modern tools and markets. It will improve the economic status of the local people.

  • Trade Relations and Regional Interactions: Trade relations of local surplus products need to be linked to the regional and national markets. Local people get minimum returns to their products due to distress sale. Government support in establishing institutions of service centres, subsidies, and support services can be most useful in mobilizing local and regional products. It will also improve the local economic conditions. Traditional routes and trade links need to be further strengthened.

priorities of planning

Image of Priorities of Planning

In brief, it can be said that

  • We have learnt in this lesson that field work is necessary for getting first-hand basic information about people and places. The information, thus, collected is useful for developing general ideas and making meaningful explanations. However, fieldwork remains insufficient for making planning proposals on different themes and issues concerning area development. Theme or problem specific situations demand in-depth information related to particular issues which is covered through case studies. Since issues vary significantly from one situation to the other, the design of case studies varies with issues to cover it minute details of investigations. This chapter presents four case studies viz., market, slum, tribal, and hill areas.

  • The case study on market areas reveals marked variations in terms of structure and specialization for the items on sale in different markets. While weekly markets present temporary structure and mobile shopping system, wholesale markets present a permanent structure and routine shopping system.

  • The case study on slums reflects the sites of deprivation of bare minimum facilities, large scale displacements, and influx of rural poverty into urban poverty.

  • Tribal areas are also underdeveloped. These are remote rural areas of highlands. The tribal people practice limited agriculture and grazing. Protection and promotion of plants and animals is common to tribal culture and heritage. The share of tribal population to total Indian population is nearly 8 %.

  • Hill areas are marked with rugged topography, mostly devoid of vegetation, poor accessibility, and harshness of the climatic conditions. Consequently, hill areas have common grazing grounds, limited agriculture, prevalence of collective operations, and barter system of exchange of goods and services. The community, in a backward setup, remains well-knit, organized, and cooperative.

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