The Karakoram Highway: The impact of road construction on mountain societies (1991)

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The opening up of regions in the high mountains for motorised traffic has led world-wide to consequences concerning the penetration of these formerly remote areas. Not only have the running-times and means of transport been reduced through the modern routes, but also radical developments in the mountains have been induced. In this context, physio-geographical and socio-political frame, conditions are of predominant importance for the installation of functional communication systems. Especially in the high mountain regions of Asia relief, snow covers in passes, glacial movements, earthquakes, water level fluctuations of rivers at fords and limited possibilities of fuel, fodder and foodstuff supplies all restrict the chances for the development of major trade routes. Yet, more important were the security of the routes and the struggles for power in the mountains over slave trade and exchange possibilities for certain products which influenced the flowering and decay of the famous Silk Road. All these factors which were crucial in the formation of a trade network covering the Hindukush, Karakoram, Pamir and Himalayan mountains in a widespread way, can only partially explain the recent extension of metalled roads. After the decolonisation of the Indian subcontinent, there were preponderantly strategic reasons in the extended Kashmir conflict area for the development of the communication network: the point was to underpin territorial claims through military presence and to guarantee the supply of the garrisons.
Year: 1991
Language: English
In: Modern Asian Studies 125, 4 (1991) pp711-736,



 Record created 2011-12-21, last modified 2013-01-17