“The days are getting hotter and hotter.” My village folks use to complain while they work in the field or ferry their farm products to the nearby roads, and they say it is due to the sun, which they believe is growing larger is size year after year. For that matter, I, being a student who have studied geography and having learnt that Himalayas are the young fold mountains which keep growing little by little year after year, opposed their theory and use to explain the same to them, why our places are getting hotter year after year. Indeed, I was of the opinion that Himalayan countries are getting nearer to the sun as they keep growing. To such a blunt and irrational explanation, they won’t argue further but use to support my view. It so happened some nine years ago, when I was in class seven.
|GangKarPuensum Glacier: source:linked|
Now at this stage when such childhood incidents flashback in my thoughts I use to laugh over such ridicules, and use to contemplate broader and deeper. Of late, my village folks use to say that there are incidence of mosquitoes biting them which never happened before, and that exotic weeds which were once not familiar to them are found growing in their gardens. In such case, they believe that it’s the packaged seed, which they get from the agriculture extension offices that contained the seed of obnoxious weeds found in lower regions.
They say that the rainfall patterns have changed over the years. Once they use to experience chilly drizzles as they rear their cattle in the subalpine hills but now, it is more of torrential rains that hit them hard. And when such incessant rains keep pouring, it so happened that there was a destructive flash flood washing away bridges and temporary cowshed even killing a couple of their cattle which grazed by the side of the river, a few years ago. Besides complaining about the rising heat, they even observed that the snowlines were shifting higher year after year and are very confident that they won’t find mountains covered with snow throughout the year any more in the next decades. And this time though not so convincible, I have a better reason to explain to my illiterate fellow village mates. The reason is Global Warming and Climate Change.
Though our country hardly contribute to the rising of global temperature caused by emission of green house gases, extensive deforestation, burning of fossil fuels etc.., the causes so incepted by the world around has posed an equal impact to this Himalayan kingdom, if not more. The increase in the global temperature, according to the experts, causes the retreating of the glaciers, melting of the alpine snows, changing the pattern of precipitation, and eventual rise in the sea level. This lead to many natural disasters which affects the developing nations and the poors at worst.
The recent Kuensel Report states that a major part of the Eastern Himalayas, where Bhutan is located, is undergoing a warming trend of about one-degree Celsius per year. This means Bhutan is very much prone to the negative effects of climate change, due to more variability in temperature and precipitation. Bhutan being a developing country, does not have advanced meteorological technologies to assess the exact trend in the variability of various weather variables in first hand, and secondly we are not very well equipped to face the natural disaster caused by the changing climate.
The various adverse impacts of climate change in Bhutan are the increased Glacial lake Outburst Floods, Landslides, Drought and Flood. This would mean our agriculture and hydropower sector would be at stake as both sectors depend heavily on the monsoon and temperature change patterns. This would pose vulnerability to 70% or so of the total population, that depend on subsistence farming. There will be increase in the incidence of pest and disease and the reduction in the production of agricultural crops. The rural poor will be hit hardest from such climate change impact. 40% of Bhutan’s revenue depends on income from hydropower, and this calls for the perpetual flow of our river systems without much erratic change in their volume during the two extreme seasons. Further there will be disruption in ecosystem and loss of species, increased establishment of invasive species etc.., due to climate change.
In order to face the challenges of climate change our government has already adopted many climatic change adaptation policies, the most prominent example of which is the carrying out of risk mitigation project from GLOF at the Thorthomi lake in Lunana. In 2009, at Copenhagen, Bhutan committed itself to remain carbon neutral for all times to come, meaning we will remove as much as carbon dioxide from the air and limit our own emission, as carbon dioxide is one of the most dangerous green house gases which trap solar heat in the atmosphere.
Bhutan though a developing country, which need to emphasize more on to pick up the economic growth, reducing poverty and solving the unemployment problems, have never gone to the extent of exploiting the natural resources in name of development. Guided by the developmental principle of Gross National Happiness, whose two major pillars includes Sustainable and Equitable Socio-economic Development, and Conservation of the Environment, we care a lot for our pristine environment. Our constitution states that 60% of forest cover must be maintained at all times, and today we maintained 72.5% of our total geographical land under forest cover, which serve as a sink of carbon dioxide.
While appreciating the major adaptation policies adopted by the government, there are many small things, which we individuals can do to fight the climate change. This includes preferring to walk rather than driving for the short distances and putting off the vehicle engines while waiting for short durations. This will not only reduce the vehicular exhaust in the air but also saves the fuel, whose price is escalating very high. There is a need for us to adhere to the law banning plastics strictly and if ever we tend to use, we need to recycle them instead of burning or dumping, both of which have adverse effect to the environment.
While in the villages, we can always encourage our farmers to use Farm Yard Manures in the field instead of toxic chemical fertilizers, and educate them about the causes and effects of pollution. We can reduce the cutting down of trees to erect prayers flags, by using other means such as bamboos, metallic rods, ropes etc.., and create awareness about the forest fire and inspire them to work together in conservation of our valuable natural resource. Planting valuable trees by the side of the field is of great benefit to not only provide favourable microenvironment for the crop but also as timber and fuel wood as it matures, there are many such small things, which we can do to make a big difference. We cannot simply wait till disasters happen so “We must work together to make sure that we can grow our economy without endangering our planet, and this is the greatest gift our children” as addressed by Her Royal Highness, Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck.
May Bhutan remain free from natural calamities caused by Climate Change.