Climate Change hits world’s highest village: Water crisis threatens farmers’ livelihood

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New Delhi | Updated: November 16, 2017 12:09:25 PM

Komic, a buddhist hamlet, is one such place in the upper belt of Spiti which is undergoing excessive water crisis, retreating glaciers and even inadequate snowfall during peak winters.

climate change, spiti valley, lahaul-spiti, himachal pradesh, hp polls, virbhadra singh, chief minister himachal pradesh, water crisis in spiti, irrigation problem at worlds highest willage, gest motorable road in indiaSpiti, a cold trans-Himalayan desert valley, has the highest motorable road in India and is cut off from the rest of the country for at least six months in a year. (Photo: IE)

Spiti, a cold trans-Himalayan desert valley, has the highest motorable road in India and is cut off from the rest of the country for at least six months in a year. The villagers need to stock up food supplies as the roads get blocked due to snowfall but on the other hand it also receives less monsoon as the valley falls under a rain-shadow area. Komic, a Buddhist hamlet, is one such place in the upper belt of Spiti which is undergoing excessive water crisis, retreating glaciers and even inadequate snowfall during peak winters. Streams, ponds and lakes that helped irrigate the fields are, hence, now drying up fast, reports The Indian Express. The Buddhist hamlet at 4,587 metre (15,050 feet) is facing adverse effects of climate change as 56 year-old farmer Nawang Tandup, according to The ndian Express said, “Water isn’t an issue so long as we receive snowfall in peak winter. But that is not happening and our glaciers, too, are melting faster than before.” He was referring to a barren mountain situated about 10 km from the village which is also the primary source of water. Komic is the world’s highest village that boasts a motorable road.

The snowfall pattern has changed over the years as a result, now, much of the snow falls in peak winter which is high in water content. The water doesn’t stay for long and results in soil erosion, says Surjeet Singh Randhawa, senior scientific officer at the Himachal Pradesh State Centre on Climate Change in Shimla. Even the Agriculture Office at Kaza attributes irregular snowfall to the cause for less yield in crops for the last five years. Farmers blame the local administration for not understanding the urgency. Chief Minister Virbhadra SIngh acknowledged the acute water crisis in July and promised to initiate a ‘Green Spiti’ mission for increasing the forest cover in the area that would mitigate the shortage of water. But, nothing has materialised so far, according to The Indian Express report.

Manoj Negi, assistant executive engineer at the Irrigation and Public Health Department, Lahaul & Spiti said, “The kuhls (navigational channels) are a lifeline for these villages. There is a problem of budgetary funds to restore them whenever they suffer damage due to snow”. The glacier basin gets depleted fast as they are small and are exposed to solar radiation, according to Randhawa, which promotes faster melting.

Meanwhile, to counter the depletion of glaciers that affects irrigation heavily, officials have decided to build artificial glaciers with a budget of Rupees 55 lakh but not the irrigation canals. According to The Express, The Himachal Pradesh State Centre on Climate Change as a part of Rupees 90 lakh Ministry of Science and Technology-funded programme has identified some spots upstream of the village at more than 4,000-metres altitude, where ice can be conserved. The water from it can be utilised in peak summers for irrigation and other needs.

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