Posts Tagged "india"

India’s Hydroelectric Plans Threaten Local Comunities

Posted by on Sep 22, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts | 0 comments

India’s Hydroelectric Plans Threaten Local Comunities

Spread the News:Share  Indigenous Buddhist tribes in northeast India are protesting government plans to build fifteen new hydroelectric sites along their settlement region. The Monpa tribe, which lives along the Tawang river basin in over 234 scattered settlements in Arunachal Pradesh, fears that the hydroelectric projects will affect their religious sites and monasteries, as well as the region’s springs, and biological diversity, which carry large cultural significance for the tribe. The region is also at risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), which could have hazardous impacts on hydroelectric projects. The government is proceeding with the construction of one particularly contentious hydroelectric site: a 780MW station along the Nyamjang Chhu river that threatens a cultural and religiously significant migration site of endangered black-necked cranes. This site will occupy the middle of a 3-km stretch of the Nyamjang Chhu river, which is partially fed by the region’s glaciers and along which eight black-necked cranes reside during their winter migration.  The Monpa eagerly await the birds’ arrival, and revere their species as the reincarnation of the sixth Dalai Lama. In late July of 2015, the Save Mon Region Federation sent a letter to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the ministry, accusing NJC Hydropower, the independent company building the Nyanjan Chhu hydroelectric site, of purposely concealing information about the black-necked cranes’ wintering site. Allegedly, the company didn’t cooperate with the study’s researchers until the end of winter, when the black-necked cranes had left their wintering site. “The hydroelectric projects will totally destroy natural habitats in the region,” Asad Rahmani, scientific adviser of the Bombay Natural History Society, told the Guardian. “When planning such projects, we’re not paying attention to their impact on local culture. The electricity is for people like us in the cities, but all the damage is suffered by the local people.” In addition to going ahead with the highly disputed site placement, the Dehli government has plans for another fourteen proposed hydroelectric projects in the Tawang region. These projects are part of major government efforts to bring power to the 300 million people living without electricity by 2022. The government will also increase solar, wind and coal generation in the next seven years. “We don’t need so many hydel projects to meet the electricity demand of our people,” Save Mon Region Federation’s general secretary, Lobsang Gyatso, told the Times of India. “Small hydro-projects would suffice. All these large dams are meant to generate electricity to be sold outside, at the cost of our livelihoods and ecology.” To express concerns about the new hydroelectric plans, villagers in the Tawang region organized a large rally in December of 2012. The protesters alleged that the government had developed hydroelectric projects with private utility developers without proper consent from the residents in the region. The region currently maintains a ban against public gathering. In addition, the relatively unexplored, mountainous region in the Eastern Himalayas is especially prone to the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), as are most regions of this type, which poses risky problems to hydroelectric development. GLOFs are one of the major hazards of mountainous, glacial regions, especially those susceptible to climate change. Tawang’s lakes and rivers are mainly supplied by snowmelt and the melting glaciers of the Himalayas. The lakes, while usually dammed by end-moraines, have a tendency to flash flood, which induces large volumes of flowing water, large quantities of sediment runoff, as well as potential flowing boulders and the risk of washing away mountain valleys. GLOFs are often responsible for catastrophic flooding, large losses of property, and human life. While the region’s dams have a combined capacity of...

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Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Glacier Lake Bursts in Bhutan

Spread the News:ShareOn the morning of Sunday 28 June, an earthquake in India caused a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in northern Bhutan.  Local residents alerted officials, who activated warning systems and ordered evacuations downstream. Rivers  rose to high levels, but no fatalities occurred. By Monday night, the rivers had begun to fall. The United States Geological Survey reported an earthquake of 5.5 on the modified Richter scale at 7:05 AM local time, at 17km north-northeast of the town of Basugaon, in Assam State, India and 22 km south of the town of Gelephu in  Sarpang District, Bhutan. Light to moderate shaking was reported from Nepal and Bangladesh as well as Bhutan and India. Sonam Choden in Thimphu in western Bhutan reported on Facebook “the earthquake rocked my husband right back on to sleeping.” Sangay Wangchuk, who lives in Jakar in central Bhutan, wrote “Ap Naka wags its tail again.” Ap Naka means “father earthquake,” referring to the common belief that the earth is held by a giant male spirit whose movements cause earthquakes. The immediate damage in Bhutan was negligible, and even in India it was slight. Three persons sustained minor injuries when an old wall collapsed near the railway station in Kokrajhar, Assam, injuring three people. At an ancient temple in Chirang district, Assam, a sculpture of a lion was knocked off its base. A glacial lake, Lemthang Tsho, located about 95 km northwest of the epicenter, burst later that day. This lake, also known as Shinchila Tsho, is located in Laya County in Gasa District in northern Bhutan, close to the border with China.   According to Kuensel, Kinley Dorji, a county official  in Laya, stated that mushroom collectors in the high pastures near glaciers had called him to let him know about the outburst from the lake, which is one of the sources of the Mochu, a major river of Central Bhutan. He, in turn, alerted district officials in Gasa and in Punakha and Wangdue, two large districts downstream on the Mochu. He also spoke with police, hospitals and officials at a large hydroelectric station at Punatsangchu. Officials at the three major gauges along the Mochu monitored the water levels closely. They began sounding the sirens around 6:30 pm, even before the rivers reached the level for alerts, because they were concerned about additional risks from the monsoon rains, which had been heavy during the preceding weeks. The sirens caused panic among many residents, and they were turned off after more than an hour. The Prime Minster ordered evacuations along the Mochu River and at the hydropower station at 9:30pm, and reports suggest that these were largely complete within an hour. Patients at a hospital close to the river were moved to a military hospital at higher ground. The river peaked late that evening, with high waters at Punakha a bit before midnight and at Wangdue later on. Fortunately, the towns were not damaged. The historic fortress or dzong of Punakha had been partially destroyed by a glacier lake outburst flood in 1994, so residents were concerned. The residents returned to their homes the next morning. Power, which had been cut in Punakha, was also restored. Teams traveled through the area on 29 and 30 June to examine the damage. They reported that six wooden bridges had been washed out, isolating some villages and Laya town, and impeding the assessment efforts. Several groups of mushroom collectors were stranded on the far side of the now-empty Lemthang Tsho lake. ++ without the bridges connecting to their villages. Laya stands totally cut off from Gasa or Lingzhi after the Shinchey La lake outburst!...

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A Dying Glacier, a Drought-Stricken Village, and a Good View

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

A Dying Glacier, a Drought-Stricken Village, and a Good View

Spread the News:ShareIn the course of researching my new book, “Fire and Ice: Soot, Solidarity and Survival on the Roof of the World”, I traveled to many communities living in the shadow of retreating snow and ice. I talked to Sherpa villagers who fear potential glacial lake outburst floods in Nepal’s Khumbu Valley, and with Naxi people adapting to drought conditions not far from the increasingly bare flanks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China’s Yunnan Province. But nowhere did I find the consequences of the Himalaya’s shrinking glaciers and snowfields as stark or sobering as in Kumik, a cluster of 39 households hugging a hillside in northwest India. Kumik is one of the oldest communities in the remote Zanskar Valley, and the first there to be abandoned due to a changing climate. Zanskar lies in the “rain shadow” formed by the Great Himalayan Range, where the only source of water – and therefore life – is melting snow and ice. The villagers of Zanskar long ago developed a sophisticated water-sharing system, to irrigate their fields of barley, peas, wheat and fodder grasses. But physics threatens to overwhelm this cultural ingenuity. “There are loud indicators that these glaciers are melting,” Shakeel Romshoo, a glaciologist at the University of Kashmir, told me. He has studied glaciers in Zanskar and other parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir since the mid-1980s. “Out of 365 glaciers in the Zanskar region that were there in 1969, about 6 of these glaciers are not there.” As in, completely gone. “I would say, all the glaciers I have seen, they are showing the recession.” Ulrich Kamp, of the University of Montana, measured thirteen glaciers in Zanskar, combining field measurements of glacier topography with thermal imaging and remote sensing data. “Most of the glaciers in the Greater Himalaya Range in Zanskar are receding since at least the 1970s,” he and his colleagues concluded. Kumik is on the sharp edge of this troubling trend. Its sole lifeline is one small stream coursing down from the glacier-capped mountain of Sultan Largo. This lifeline is frequently severed by the double whammy of declining snowfall and earlier, warmer springs. The stream now often dries up by August, before the harvest. Ishay Paldan, the oldest resident of Kumik, has watched as the snowfields and small glaciers on the mountains above have steadily retreated over the course of his lifetime. “When I was a child, we had no problems with water,” he told me on my first visit. The view from his window shows just how much things have changed: the snowline that once almost came down to the edge of Kumik is now several kilometers distant. Kumik’s chronic state of drought became so acute in the summer of 2000 that the entire community gathered and made a painful decision. They would leave their ancient homes, and start over somewhere else. The government offered them a dusty, wind-scoured patch of desert – a couple miles and almost a thousand feet below – where they could start over. So they began to dig a canal, five miles long, to bring water from the Lungnak River. They gathered stones and mixed mud bricks. They started to build a new village from scratch, hoping to green this no-man’s-land long known as Marthang, “the red place.” Since my first visit in 2008, I have spent many happy days with the people of Kumik, listening to their stories in the old village they are slowly leaving, and working alongside them in the new one they are slowly coaxing from the desert floor. The villagers are...

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Roundup: Climate Science and International Adaptation

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Adaptation, All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Roundup, Science | 0 comments

Roundup: Climate Science and International Adaptation

Spread the News:ShareIntegration of Glacier and Snow “Energy budget-based distributed modeling of snow and glacier melt runoff is essential in a hydrologic model to accurately describe hydrologic processes in cold regions and high-altitude catchments. We developed herein an integrated modeling system with an energy budget-based multilayer scheme for clean glaciers, a single-layer scheme for debris-covered glaciers, and multilayer scheme for seasonal snow over glacier, soil, and forest within a distributed biosphere hydrological modeling framework.” Read more of the article here.   Climate Science on Glaciers “The 2001–2013 sum of positive temperatures (SPT) record, as a proxy of snow/ice ablation, has been obtained for the high-mountain glaciarized Munku-Sardyk massif, East Sayan Mountains, using daily NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data. The SPT (and ice melt) demonstrates a significant decreasing trend, with the highest values in 2001, 2002, and 2007, and the lowest in 2013. We have investigated relationships between potential summer ablation and synoptic-scale conditions over the study area.” Read more of this article here. International Adaptation to Glacier Retreat “The transboundary Himalayan Rivers flowing through Bhutan to India and Bangladesh constitute an enormous asset for economic development in a region which contains the largest number of poor people in the world. However, the rapid retreat of Himalayan glaciers has made South Asia vulnerable to variety of water-related natural hazards and disasters such as floods, landslides, and glacial lake outburst.” Read more of this book chapter here. Spread the...

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Pad Yatra: A Himalayan Journey

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Pad Yatra: A Himalayan Journey

Spread the News:ShareEnvironmental degradation and a rapidly changing climate have left populations in the Himalayas vulnerable. Cloudbursts and mudslides have destroyed villages while growing levels of plastic wastes and other kinds of trash pollute rivers, harming the people who drink from them. In a journey as spiritual as it was physical, 700 voyagers trekked through the land of 15,000 glaciers in 2010 to spread a message of love and ecological compassion. The journey, led by His Holiness Gyalwang Drupka, a Buddhist spiritual leader in the region, passed through 725 kilometers of some of the world’s most dangerous and most stunning landscapes. Pad Yatras, or pilgrimages on foot, have taken place annually since 2007 in different parts of the Himalayas and South Asia. “Many of the problems in this world are based on selfish and egoistic kinds of fighting,” said His Holiness Gyalwang Drupka. “But the spirituality is the kindness – real kindness – not only just being kind but real, true kindness to not only human beings, but nature. Including the trees and rocks and mountains.” The current Gyalwang Drupka, Jigme Pema Wangchen, is believed to be the twelfth reincarnation of the first Drupka, Tsangpa Gyare, who was born in the 12th century. Today’s reincarnation of the Drupka is known for his environmental activism. In 2007, he launched Live to Love, a humanitarian organization that aims to address the environment protection, education, relief aid, medical services and heritage preservation. For the Drupka, sharing a message of kindness and compassion is essential for people living in high altitudes who often feel forgotten by their country when faced with natural disasters and uncertainties caused by a warming world. In an interview, he said he wanted people in the Himalayas to feel they played a role in the protecting the world. The group survived conditions well below freezing, off-season snow storms and came close to starving when weather conditions made it impossible for them to carry some of their supplies through the mountains. The experience was documented by Himalayan monk Ngawang Sodpa, who used solar power to charge his camera, in a film produced by Michelle Yeo. Nearly a third of Sodpa’s footage was lost from weather and physical damage at altitudes higher than 5,000 meters. Along the path, the voyagers, all followers of the Buddhist Drupka Lineage, encountered hundreds of remote villages, passing on knowledge about the dangers of non-biodegradeable waste and planting trees. Native communities from the Himalayas were accompanied by travelers from around the world. As they walked, they picked up half a ton of waste, which they carried with them to the end of the journey. “While modern products have made their way to these areas, they have not come with a sustainable means for disposal,” narrated American actress Darryl Hannah. Trekkers planted more than 50,000 trees and rescued trapped and hurt animals. To avoid unnecessary suffering in the world, they gently blew ants off the paths they traveled along so the ants would not be crushed under hundreds of feet. “A respect for life, no matter how small, is a defining character for this philosophy,” said Hannah. “It is the same philosophy of compassion that motivates this effort to motivate the national environment at large.” The legacy of the Pad Yatra continues from year to year as one of the largest environmental movements the world has ever seen. Numerous villages in the Himalayas have banned plastics in their communities and have undertaken projects to plant trees. Watch the trailer here: Spread the...

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