Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Himalayan people feel heat of climate change

Times of India: Munni Rawat, a 50-year-old homemaker in Uttarakhand state in the Himalayas, does not know about the climate summit in Copenhagen next month. But she does know that climate change has dried up the stream in her hillside village in northern India.

"There has hardly been any rain or snow in winter since 2006, and there was very little rain this year even during monsoon. Besides, almost all the rainfall this monsoon took place over two weeks instead of four months, so all the water flowed down the hill instead of going underground. How do you expect the stream to run?" Rawat asked. The woman, who is a small farmer from Pratap Nagar in Tehri district, was here to take part in a seminar Tuesday on the effects of climate change in the Himalayas.

Dehradun-based NGO Navdanya, which organised the seminar, has just finished a survey of these effects in 165 villages spread across Uttarakhand as well as Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The survey found that in the last few years rainfall has not only been scanty but also erratic.

"As a result, we found that during the past one decade, 34.6 percent perennial springs (280 springs out of 809) have been converted either into seasonal springs or dried up completely," said Vinod Kumar Bhatt, one of the scientists who carried out the survey.

…These effects are now all too obvious on the ground, said Bhatt, who described 2009 as "the year of forest fires in Garhwal...Prolonged drought has meant rapid drying of moisture in the oak and other broad-leaved forests (in the Himalayas) and has paved the way for fires."

…"I have no doubt that the climate is changing," said Rawat. "It's becoming impossible to live in our villages any more. If this goes on, we'll all have to shift to Delhi."

Bangali, a village in Uttaranchal near Nandprayag. Shot by Michael Scalet, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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