Mesmerising Ladakh

Ladakh is simply incredible and is an unforgettable experience of beautiful mountains changing colours and hues; barren landscape for hundreds of miles and the ultimate cold desert….so serene & so enchanting. Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert region in northern most part of India. It straddles the Himalayan and Karakorum mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley. It is bounded on the north & east side by the China, in the north-west by Pakistan & in western side by Kashmir Valley, alongwith state of Himachal Pradesh which touches its border.

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Ladakh is a place where earth & sky seem to meet and it looks like the roof of the world. Ladakh is geographically important as only sources of water are melting glaciers and minimal snowfall. Precipitation is very low with annual precipitation of 10cm mainly in form of snow. So, these mountain areas are particularly sensitive to climate change as relatively small alternations in temperatures can have severe impact on water supply, agriculture-based livelihood and infrastructure.

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For Ladakh,the real challenges in face of climate change are unpredictable weather, floods, and the prospects of diminished water supply from glacial melt.

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Ladakhi communities are seeing the changes in climate as early melting of zanskar frozen trek, heavy rains & flash floods, advance in summers, damage to crops & plantations, soil erosion, attack of locusts in Changthang area, heavy snowfall, rising water level of Pangong & Tsomoriri Lake, changing migration pattern & early arrivals of birds & change in adaptation. The Indus Canal constructed at huge expense by government has turned into a white elephant, as there is no sufficient water in Indus.

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The mountain areas like Ladakh are more vulnerable to even a small change in climatic conditions as shown by the devastating floods of 6 August 2010 in Ladakh where more than 150 people died & 500 went missing.These flash floods triggered by torrential rains all because of changing climate, left a trail of death and destruction. And a scenic Landscape turned into a disaster zone. How can the extreme events like heavy rainfall, flash floods be justified in a cold desert region with a annual precipitation of only 10cm!

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Diakonie, Katastrophenhilfe, Germany’s Project Adaptation to Climate Change and Capacity Building for Disaster Preparedness / Prevention in Remote Villages in the Fragile Western Himalayan Ecosystem of Ladakh (2008-2009) in terms of policy and methodology was to study the impact of climate change on water resources & its further affects on agriculture & livelihood & how the communities are adapting to these erratic changes. A abroad based programme, beside participatory study & survey it also seeks to expand and improve disaster preparedness and management.

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Receding Zanskar Glacier

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Receding Zanskar Glacier

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Receding Zanskar Glacier

So adaptation & capacity building through sustainable water management systems is critical for survival of Ladakh Himalayas. The project underlines various adaptive measures taken by people   – organic farming, water harvesting through reservoirs & innovative techniques like artificial glaciers for water harvesting beside recharging ground water and reviving water bodies- lakes & wetlands through restoration of forests.

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