Event Leader Speaks
“Dozens of houses have been badly damaged with their roofs blown off by the storm on 8th February, 2012; hundreds of trees have been knocked down; electricity lines as well as mobile phone towers have been destroyed. It is for the first time in living memory that such a strong storm has hit the Mount Everest region”- the renowned mountaineer Apa Sherpa (who has climbed Mt. Everest a record 21 times) reports from the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) that will take him to the entire stretch of Nepal’s Himalayas in search of pains and perils of the communities living in the Himalayas, in the wake of Climate Change. Apa and his entourage are walking the 1,700 KM long GHT in 120 days that begun on January 15, 2012.
They begun their journey from Ghunsa, Taplejung in the East. In the first month itself, they have encountered so many cases of rural challenges that could be attributed to the global Climate Change. The tea-farmers in Ilam are complaining of less yield. In Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha, similar voices are being heard ein relation to cardamom and orange. These products are literally the life-lines of the local economies- their failure would wreak havoc on the already poverty stricken hinterlands of Nepal. In Khandbari, a teacher gets emotional and speaks at length interacting with Apa, at the local press meet, of the disappearance of “Pani Makai”, a species he claims was endemic to their locality.
In Nepal, the Climate Science even at the national level remains sketchy (forget the local level), and therefore those who want to find holes in linking these incidents to Climate Change are at a huge advantage vis-a-vis those who are trying to connect these dots to make a credible case of international assistance. It is morally wrong, and outright impracticable for the world to put the onus of scientific investigation on the impoverished peasants and laborers suffering from this problem and others. Given the extreme geographical variations and a huge dependency on natural resources of its people, Nepal would continue to need support of the wider world in investigating impacts of, and finding solutions to the Climate Change.
Climate Change has a global origin. The people living in the villages in the Himalayas have hardly contributed to this problem, yet they are bracing the brunt of the Global Warming. Driven by their religion, culture and social beliefs, they go about protecting their loved ones, material belongings and livelihoods as their solemn duty just as their ancestors did over millenniums. The colossal magnitude of the problem called Climate Change is still not recognized by them- many still attributing them to the heavenly fury- and therefore are searching for solutions through godly interventions. The ignorance is serving them well in the short run as it gives them hope in the face of seemingly unsurpassable sets of challenges staring them in their faces. Apa and his entourage, walking the GHT, are making the villagers aware of the global nature of this problem and helping prepare them for the battle ahead.
Besides the moral imperative, there is another rather selfish reason too, for the wider world to help Climate Adaptation in the Himalayas, especially assisting in those activities that help conserve water and forests. The Himalayas provide water and other environmental services to some 1.5 billion people in Asia. And it is the economic activities in Asia that in many ways are sustaining the global economic growth. The people in the Himalayas continue to be the stewards of these gigantic water towers. By offering a helping hand to these stewards, the wider world will be helping itself too.
The help can come in many ways. It is not just financial all the time. Nepal like other developing countries lacks technical and human resources to deal with this 21st century problem. While the on-site scientific investigations in the agrarian Nepal and engineering and management solutions of dangerous Glacial Lakes are welcome, Nepal can also benefit from online collaborations. We live in the times of WIKIPEDIA and LINUX. Technical solutions to the problems in the Himalayas may come from technical volunteers using inexpensive technologies without having to come to Nepal provided we create such friendly platforms.
The 120 long trek that four brave Nepalis- Apa Sherpa, Dawa Steven Sherpa, Saurav Dhakal and Samir Jung Thapa- are currently undertaking is to attract the attention of the global elite to the problems faced by communities in the Himalayas. Their message is clear “Listen to us, work with us, speak for us. We are not fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for you too.” Walking the best trail in the world that passes through the breathtaking landscapes and millennium old fascinating cultures they are also indicating what is at stake for the humanity if we do not deal with the monstrous Climate Change.
As global citizens we Nepalis do not want to blame one or the other for this problem. Together the human kind has the ability to find solution to any problem. And it is only this spirit of camaraderie that will see us through this formidable threat called Climate Change we humans have created unknowingly. The flawed development model that measures success only by monetary bottom-line must take into consideration the social and environmental balance sheets of every entity- a company, a community, a country. That is the only guarantee to our safe and sustainable future.
CEO and Founder, Himalayan Climate Initiative