A green future for Leh?

I think we could all really get used to the pace of life here in Leh, the thought of weaning ourself off wifi, bathrooms and and a growing addiction for ginger and masala chai when we leave for Zanskar in a couple of days is both exciting and daunting. Our research plans really got underway yesterday with our first set of interviews. Firstly we visited Mr Chewang Norphel ,the engineer of Ladakh’s pioneering artificial glaciers, who inbetween plenty of chai and chit chat explained the logistics of villagers maintaining artificial glaciers after they are put in place. It was invaluable having Kalsang and Tanzin there to help iron out what was lost in translation. Later on we returned to the LAMO (Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation) HQ and discussed a wide range of issues from the environmental stress of tourism to political representation in Ladakh with the knowledgeable journalist and director of the centre Tashi Morup. The range of projects the centre has been involved in from filmmaking to environmental workshops reflects a growing awareness of environmental issues in Ladakh.

During our stay in Leh we have become increasingly aware of the ecological impact of tourism and modernisation on the area.  Non-biodegrable modern materials have been introduced into Ladakh and disposal of plastic bottles for example has become a significant issue. Leh does not have an infrastructure sufficient to deal with the huge amounts of waste now being produced nor sufficient water resources to cope with the inflating population. We visited the Ladakh Ecological Development Group in Leh who are aiming to raise awareness among tourists about how they can be more environmentally friendly while in Ladakh. Perhaps a good way of getting the information out would be to leaflet at the airport as tourists fly in. Even though our eyes were open to such issues it took us a couple of days to realise the specific problems and how we could reduce our impact.

Our final full day in Leh was spent visiting SECMOL, a fully sustainable school campus 20km from the city.  The school’s pupils are predominantly high school students perfecting their English before sitting their final government examinations which must be taken in English. The campus was seriously impressive and made full use of the solar energy available, using solar power for everything from baking bread to heating water to powering conputers. It was a positive example
of how sustainable living in Ladakh is possible while still taking advantage of the modernisation of the area.

This may be our last blog for a few weeks as we head to the far more remote Zanskar Valley tomorrow. We are looking forward to delving further into the issue of climate change in Ladakh and Zanskar after gaining valuable background information during our time here in Leh.

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