Tso kar – one of the most beautiful places on earth
After the monster climb up Taglang la, it was time for a rest in the company of the WWF team from Leh. At their base on the shores of TsoKar, we were treated to fantastic Ladakhi hospitality, fed and rested like a five start hotel and made to feel incredibly welcome.
The following day we were taken on a tour of the lake environment by Tashi – our host come guide. Leaving the deserted village of Thukje, we headed out onto the ghostly empty plain in search of wildlife such as mountain Ass, wild horses, the endangered black neck crane and marmots. The thing about this environment that really struck me was its apparent harshness, devoid of trees, noticeable life, or signs of human habitation. What we soon discovered though was that despite the image of robustness, this area is full of life but highly susceptible to the effects of climate change and every year those effects are becoming more dramatic.
The lake sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by towering peaks, up to 6000 m high. Draped in beautiful white glaciers, the mountains gave the impression of majestic strength and environmental health. How wrong could this picture be. As it turns out, over the last 10 years the glaciers have retreated up to 20% and water flows that fill the lakes have reduced dramatically. There are no south facing glaciers left in the area and the remaining north facing glaciers are in dramatic retreat.
Even more worrying has been the lack of winter snow fall. On the valley floor and in the village last year for the first time in living memory there was no snow fall. This is devastating for the glaciers further up the mountains as they need to be replenished by significant snowfall if they are to survive into the future.
The great joy of being in TsoKar was being in the company of truly dedicated people who love their job and are doing serious work for the environment. Both Tashi and Nasi from WWF Leh, were fountains of information about the effect of climate change on the local wildlife. What became desperately apparent was that reduced flow from the glaciers meant lower lake levels by up to 20%. This inturn meant that the nesting habits of many species of migratory birds that use the area to breed, including wild geese, had been severely disrupted. So much so that this years breeding numbers were down by more than 30%. If this trend continues, there will almost certainly be dire consequences for the long term survival of these populations . Sadly, the Tso Kar region is not alone and glacial fed mountainous lake regions like this all over the world are suffering in similiar ways.
Climate change in Ladakh.
Climate change has come to this region in no uncertain terms and it was impossible to shake the feeling that the area had passed the point of no return and the future really is all about adaptation or abandonment for the local people and wildlife.
Because of its remoteness there has been little or no climate change, scientific research done and the Indian government with its priorities for rapid economic growth is not really interested in providing research that might suggest the need for curbing environmentally destructive economic activity.
Entry filed under: Uncategorized.