Indian activist on climate fast urges gov’t action on receding glaciers

New Delhi, Jan 27 (EFE).- Well-known environmental activist and educational reformist Sonam Wangchuk called the government to action on Friday as he embarked on the second day of his five-day climate fast aimed at drawing attention to the Himalayan glaciers and ecology of India’s Ladakh region.

“Good morning, world”, Wangchuck greeted from a sleeping bag on the rooftop of the Himalayan Institute of Alternative Ladakh that he founded in this, remote, mountainous region located at a height of 3,500 meters and inhabited by some 270,000 people.

“I’m doing this fast so that our prime minister, Mr (Narendra) Modi will call our leaders from Ladakh for immediate talks to discuss safeguards to this region under the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

This provision, which is aimed at providing a certain degree of autonomy to regions inhabited mostly by tribal populations and currently applies only to the northeastern states of the country, is seen by Wangchuck as a remedy for the environmental problems of this disputed region between India and China.

Wangchuck, who inspired the 2009 Indian blockbuster “3 Idiots”, has likened Ladakh and the Himalayas as the “third pole of the planet” with “the largest reservoir of fresh frozen water after (the) north and south pole.”

However, according to a study published in 2021 by researchers at the University of Kashmir, the glaciers have receded up to 6.7 percent in the last two decades.

“If the glaciers here melt fast and are gone by the end of the century as new research shows, two thirds of it (all the glaciers of the world) will be gone,” Wangchuck said.

Calls to include Ladakh, which has a majority tribal population, under the sixth schedule have been growing among local politicians since the Indian government ordered, in August 2019, the withdrawal of the semi-autonomous status of the Jammu and Kashmir state, of which Ladakh was a part until then.

The authorities then divided the region into two union territories directly controlled by New Delhi.

“It’s not govt’s policies alone that can save the glaciers and the mountains, it is as much to do with you and me, people in the big cities that live a lifestyle that is so polluting, so high emission” said Wangchuck, before urging citizens of India and from around the world to “use this day as a climate fast day.” EFE


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