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Monday, July 25, 2011

weeping glacier

I was born in the family of 15,000 Himalayan Glaciers. Today, I am 1,000 years old. I guess so. I am not so sure for I have lost count. Over the years, instead of growing I have found myself  rather shrinking.  Age catches up. Or is there more?

(Environmental lecturer Michael Nolan captured the image on a trip to Norway in July while he was observing the ice-shelf, Austfonna, which is shrinking by almost 50m each year)

Inch by inch, I am shrinking. What is it that makes me smaller every year? I am in a state of limbo. It gives me chills when I think about disappearing from the face of mother earth.
Decades ago, I never felt the heat that I am experiencing today. It’s not very hot but it is enough to melt me. Recently, I have seen many humans around me. I think they are trying to find the answers to my questions. They come here often, always measure my length and depth. I think they have the answers.
My cousins are also shrinking and I guess it runs in the family. One day, a group of climate experts as they call themselves came toward me. They were carrying different types of equipment. Some of them hit hard on me and dug a hole. They were measuring my height and length. I remember back in the 1960’s a team also did the same thing.
And there was this old man. He was also in the team that came here long before. After they finished what they were doing, he stopped, took a long breath and said: “It is melting. The temperature of the area has also increased,” he said with a long gasp of air.
It was then I realized that the climate was changing and it was due to this that I was melting. I don’t want to. I have been here since the Himalayans were formed millions of years ago.
That night the sky was clear, I could see stars twinkling all over. I could feel the cool breeze like the icy death was fast approaching me. I couldn’t sleep that night.
Recently, I have been spotting humans in large numbers every year. It seems they are trying to get the stored water out and release it.
I heard there are humans living way below and these lakes as they call it might kill them if it bursts. I live with constant fear, a fear that I will kill thousands downstream.
But I am not what they think I am. Not a single day goes by when I think of the humans that live downstream. I feel this is why they come here every year and start releasing the stored water.
A few years back, I overheard one of my sisters saying that the United Nations’ climate science experts claimed that our race in will be extinct by 2035. It was a sad moment. All we could do was pray that the end wasn’t here.
And yes! Our prayers were answered.
The claim that the so called climate experts made were all wrong. But deep inside I still feel that I along with my family members will soon fade away from the face of mother earth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

with only half the workers recruited, taming bhutan’s most dangerous glacial lake becomes tougher

The set target for this year is to reduce the water level by 1.4 meters but it appears far fetched given that only half the number of manual workers have turned up this year

This year only 165 workers have been recruited to lower the water level at Lake Thorthormi, the biggest and the most dangerous glacial lake in Bhutan. This is just 50% of the number of workers required for the project.
The project manager, Dowchu Drukpa, said it will be difficult to achieve the target if only 165 workers will be working at the site. “This year the response is very poor and I don’t know why,” he said.
The target of the project is to reduce the water level by five meters (17,100,000 cubic meters).
The project manager said there could be several reasons why people didn’t come forward this year. “It could be the advertisement of the work, the local government elections as it coincided with our registration and also it could be because of the three deaths, but you never know,” he said.
The total requirement of the project is 340 workers. However, the project expects the highlanders to join the work as the cordyceps season was not good.
“We are hopeful that the highlanders will be forthcoming as the cordyceps season was not that good. We expect around 100 workers would turn up there,” he said.
He said that some of the workers had already worked for the last two years. In 2009, the workers achieved an 86 centimeter reduction while last year they achieved 1.37 meters (7,626,600 cubic meters of water released). This year the set target is 1.4meters.
After the three unfortunate deaths that occurred last year the project has initiated various programs. “Right after the incidents there were concerns not only from our side but also from the donors,” said Dowchu Drukpa.
He said the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hired a medical consultancy to assess what happened and came up with a few recommendations.
The assessment report stated that some of the issues were not adequately addressed in terms of health aspects. The report recommended establishing transit medical camps.
“Moving to the site and coming back is the most crucial stage of the journey so two transit medical camps has now been set up at two different altitudes (one at 3,900meters and the other at around 4,100 meters),” he said.
If the workers are not able to move any further, they will be examined at the camp. The workers are also made to halt compulsorily at the medical camps for checkups.
Another recommendation by the team was to have a medical team at the site. “We had medical personnel before but they were fresh MBBS graduates who were not really experienced,” he said.
The project had already sent a few medical personnel for training on high altitude issues outside Bhutan.
Another recommendation was to have a detailed medical checkup of the workers before recruitment. A detailed system of medical checkup has now been instituted, following which of around 216 people checked, more than 30 failed the tests.
This year the work has been delayed by almost a month. It was supposed to start by mid July and end in September.
However, the work might be extended till mid-October depending on the weather.

himalayan countries to collectively fight biodiversity loss in the region

More than 200mn people depend on the Himalayan biodiversity for their livelihood but climate change may result in significant biodiversity loss by the end of this century
Four Himalayan countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal will now protect areas which interconnect these countries to conserve biodiversity and adapt to climate change. This was agreed during the second experts groups meet ‘Biodiversity Persistence and Climate Change’ leading up to the Bhutan Climate Summit later this year.
The agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, said it is important for the four partner countries to come together in conserving biodiversity in the region as they share common issues, threats and challenges.
“The four eastern Himalayan countries are bound together by geography, history, culture, economy and ecology and therefore we cannot act in isolation if we are to secure the future of our region,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, adding that biodiversity hotspots in the Himalayas are vulnerable to climate change because they are rich in endemic species with restricted distribution.
The nations have agreed on five key strategies and actions. The countries have decided to secure connected landscapes for enhanced ecosystem resilience. The four countries will identify potential Community Conservation Areas (CCA) to ensure regional connectivity. Implement regional conservation programs to conserve trans-boundary species of concern.
The countries have also agreed to ensure sustainable use of biodiversity for poverty alleviation and income generation by sharing knowledge on bio-prospecting, propagation and harvesting, markets and best practices to promote sustainable use.
It has also been agreed to establish a regional mechanism for information generation, knowledge sharing and capacity building.
Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho highlighted the importance to save wild animals saying that national boundaries do not confine them. “We must recognize them as our regional heritage and take collective responsibility to ensure their survival,” he said.
He said the four countries were making good progress in protection of the Sundarbans between Bangladesh and India, Terai landscape between India and Nepal, the Manas Wildlife Sancturay between Bhutan and India and the Kanchenjunga landscape among India, Nepal and Bhutan. “These bilateral and trilateral cooperation sites should serve as models for future cooperation in regional biodiversity conservation,” said Lyonpo.
The Himalayas are home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians, and 269 freshwater fish. The region also has the highest density of Royal Bengal Tiger and is also home to the great one-horned Rhino.

Monday, July 11, 2011

bangladesh meet draws attention to regional water security issues

Water towers of Asia, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal, will be hosting the regional expert group meeting on the four thematic issues on water, biodiversity, food, and energy this month
Bangladesh hosted the first regional expert group meeting on water security last week where Bhutan also presented its recommendations for the regional level action.
The state minister for environment and forest of Bangladesh, Dr Hasan Mahmud, at the inaugural session, stressed on strengthening collective action for regional water security guided by the principle of equity, fairness and internationally agreed climate adaptation policies.
“Water is fixed in the planet. A stronger collective action is very important in the South Asia region to make water available for the people, biodiversity and others animals,” he was quoted as saying in UNB Connect.
The four south Asian countries identified areas of cooperation and agreed to assess the existing hydro-meteorological network and enhance data collection process. They agreed to review climate modeling and appropriate modeling tools to develop hydrological scenarios at different scales in the region will also be selected. The member countries also agreed to enhance ecosystem management practices to minimize the impacts of climate change-induced disasters.
The Executive Secretary of the Bhutan Climate Secretariat, Tashi Jamtsho, said all four countries have already developed their national road map on all the four thematic issues. “Bhutan has also developed its papers on the four issues and will be presented at the four different meetings,” he said.
Bhutan will host the biodiversity meeting on July 12 and 13 in Thimphu. India will be hosting the food meeting on July 25 and 26 in Delhi while Nepal will host the last meeting on energy on July 28 and 29 in Kathmandu.
Last year during the a high-level technical consultative meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal, the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, said countries should work together in developing medium and long term strategies as citizens of the eastern Himalayas. “We share a common geography, common problems, and a common destiny and need to take collective action to tackle the problems posed by changing climate,” he said.
The outcome of the four regional meetings on the four issues will feed the Bhutan Climate Summit 2011 which aims at adapting and endorsing a 10-year roadmap for the adaptation to climate change in the region for ensuring food, water and energy security while maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Monday, July 4, 2011

young bhutanese and americans to bike for climate change

A group of young Bhutanese and Americans will take a journey to find out what climate change really means from a farmer to a hydropower engineer

Around 15 youth from Bhutan and the United States will set out on a biking expedition from Bumthang to Thimphu this month, learning on the way different aspects of climate change from the experiences of common people.
The 15-day “Bike to the Climate Summit” will have different themes each day exposing the bikers to harsh realities of climate change faced by a common farmer to a hydropower engineer.
The program officer of Bhutan Foundation, Jamyang Tashi, said the ride is an opportunity for the youth to learn about how climate change affects the lives of many different people in the country. “We are focusing on the youth because they will be inheriting the affects of climate change in future,” he said.
Based on their experiences, the participants will prepare recommendations that will be presented to political leaders at the regional Climate Change Summit to be held in November in Bhutan. The youth will also identify and adopt a community project to keep them connected even after the summit.
“They (youth participants) will capture their experiences on video along the way and will be screened during the Bhutan Climate Summit,” said Jamyang Tashi.
The executive secretary of Bhutan Climate Secretariat, Tashi Jamtsho, said the program is also aimed at creating an opportunity for youth from different cultures and countries to interact with and learn from each other.
He said that the event, a run-up to the summit, will help youth understand what climate change is really about. “We can get in experts on climate change but we also need firsthand experiences of people on the effects of climate change,” said Tashi Jamtsho.
Nicky Phear, instructor and program director of the University of Montana’s Climate Change Studies program, who will be participating in the event was quoted as saying in,: “This year, the big purpose of the trip is to prepare students to have a voice in the climate change summit,”
She said that she would be going back with more global awareness on climate change as a global issue and the effects felt by other parts of the world.
The event is organized by Bhutan Foundation and Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation.