Mountain de-population poses a huge challenge in maintaining the cultural heritage and the mountain ecosystem. We conduct a historical analysis of migration and livelihoods in Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand and conclude that migration is on the rise and the pattern and drivers of migration have changed over the decades. Whereas earlier political situation was the major driver, now it is industrialization. Depopulation affects the quality of life of the people still living in the mountains as well as the mountain ecosystems. It is important to focus on sustainable mountain development to reduce the growth inequality between the mountains and the plains, and to meet the changing aspirations of mountain population particularly the educated youth.