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Wangchuk's Climate Fast: Ladakh's Environmental Concerns



  Apr 17, 2024

Wangchuk's Climate Fast: Ladakh's Environmental Concerns



1. Who is Sonam Wangchuk and what did he do recently?

Sonam Wangchuk is a 2018 Ramon Magsaysay award winner and a prominent climate activist. Recently, he announced a 21-day climate fast in a public gathering in Leh, Ladakh, to raise awareness and appeal for global action against climate change.

2. Why is Ladakh significant in the context of climate change?

Ladakh, located at an elevation of 11,500 feet between Pakistan and China, is predominantly inhabited by indigenous tribes who rely on pastoral and agricultural livelihoods. The region faces significant environmental threats such as floods, droughts, and landslides due to climate change, impacting its glaciers—known as the Third Pole—which are crucial water sources for major rivers like the Indus, the Ganga, and the Brahmaputra.

3. What is the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE)?

Launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), the NMSHE aims to scientifically assess the vulnerability of the Himalayan region to climate change and monitor the health of its ecosystem. It focuses on developing capacities to mitigate and adapt to environmental changes.

4. What concerns have been raised about development projects in Ladakh?

Concerns have been raised about rapid infrastructure development in Ladakh, especially after it became a Union Territory. Major projects include road expansions, tunnels, and large-scale solar energy developments, which pose risks to the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. Critics argue that these projects are pursued without sufficient consideration of their environmental impact and past disaster warnings.

5. What disasters have occurred in the Himalayan region, and what were the consequences?

The Himalayan region has witnessed several disasters, such as the 2013 Kedarnath cloudburst which resulted in devastating floods and thousands of deaths. Other incidents include the Joshimath submersion in 2023 and the Silkyara tunnel collapse. These events have caused significant loss of life and highlight the vulnerabilities associated with ignoring ecological and geological risks in infrastructure planning.

6. What has been the response to environmental warnings and expert recommendations in the Himalayas?

Despite expert warnings and past disasters, the response to environmental concerns has been inadequate. Recommendations by expert committees and court-ordered reviews often go unheeded, with ongoing projects lacking thorough risk assessments and safety measures. This neglect has led to repeated environmental and human tragedies in the region.

7. Why is Sonam Wangchuk’s climate fast significant?

Wangchuk’s climate fast is significant as it not only highlights the specific issues facing Ladakh but also underscores the broader challenges of climate change affecting humanity globally. His activism aims to inspire action and accountability for preserving the Himalayan environment and, by extension, protecting the global ecosystem.

This FAQ aims to provide a clear understanding of the environmental challenges faced by Ladakh, the impact of rapid development, and the ongoing efforts by activists like Sonam Wangchuk to advocate for sustainable practices and policies.


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