These are the top two entries, along with four other honourable mentions, in our story competition – ‘Stories of climate change from across the Hindu Kush Himalaya’. Launched in March 2022, the competition invited compelling personal stories from the youth in the HKH on how they have witnessed and coped with the impacts of climate change and other challenges in the region.
These stories have been published unedited to retain the original narrative and voice. The views and experiences expressed in these stories are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect ICIMOD’s views. ICIMOD makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the content in these stories.
Taseer Baig, Pakistan I belong to the Wakhi (Xik) tribe living in the high mountain regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China. As a mountain community, the tribe faces different Climate Change consequences in the form of floods, landslides, glacial outbursts, extreme winters, and hot summers, which were never experienced before. Living in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, The Wakhi community goes through several climate change consequences such as floods, landslides, temperature change, etc., making it harder for them to survive. Talking about the Chapursan valley in Hunza Gilgit Baltistan, bordering village of Afghanistan, the temperature drops to -25 to -30 degree celsius in winter, which results in the freezing of water channels, pipelines, and toilets. The locals are forced to collect water from rivers and nearby ice holes to drink and fulfill their household needs as major water scarcity hits the valley, every day a member of every household, especially women, walks for miles in snow and dry weather conditions to reach the river to collect water and carry it back home. The locals usually have to visit the riverside twice daily to collect water, depending on their needs. The Chipursan valley lacks basic necessities such as proper electricity, drinking water, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and employment opportunities as it is a far-flung valley in Pakistan. Life gets paralysed due to extreme winters, and firewood is the only source to keep themselves warm. The photographs feature the inhabitants of Chapursan valley and their struggle with climate change in fulfilling their basic needs. Women, especially in Pakistan, have to take care of the household chores and serve the rest of the family, and it has become their responsibility to maintain water in the house. Hunza Gilgit Baltistan is a climate challenging region as in the past, we have experienced different natural calamities such as floods, landslides, and glacial outbursts due to sudden changes in the climate such as Shisper Glacial Lake outburst, Shimshal Pamir Glacial Lake outburst, Batura Glacier outburst and Attabad Disaster. The sudden change in Climate has affected the livelihood of mountain communities as people have lost their lives, homes, land etc. I have explored some of the far-flung valleys of Gilgit Baltistan, which are going through climate-related issues and their consequences on underprivileged communities, and I strive to increase awareness of climate-related issues and their consequences through my photography. The Photo story revolves around the community of Chapursan valley living in a challenging climate.
Tsering Dharkey Gurung Class – 9, Crystal Mountain School Dho –Tarap, Dolpo, Nepal Many, many years ago, there was a village at the roof of the world called Tarap. It was a little warm in summer and winter was extremely cold. The place was rich in natural and cultural beauty. There was a man named Tsewang who used to live in that village. He used to involve in agriculture and animal husbandry for survival. He used to irrigate his barley fields from snow melt water stored in winter. Proper irrigation was very crucial for cultivating fields. But after some time, there were irregularities in snowfall and rainfall. In winter, it didn’t snow as it used to, neither did it rain in the summertime. In the past, there used to be a big amount of snow in rocky mountain whose melted water was used in summer for irrigation. But now all those mountains were barren and naked. It affected his livelihood. He couldn’t cultivate his fields. It became difficult to look after his family. Yartsagumbu was another vital source of economy for people of Tarap. They used to collect these expensive herbs and sell it to the market in China for good amount of money. Changing climate also affected in production of these herbs. Many snow leopards also started dying. Snow leopards generally collect meat and bring it to their children. As the temperature increases, the meat collected by snow leopards gets decayed, filled of parasites and fungi. According to the local belief of Tarap, these insects get inside the ear of baby leopard and make them ill, and ultimately dies. So lots of snow leopards died in that region. This ultimately increased the population of blue sheep (Naur). All the masses of Naur started overgrazing the small amount of pastureland left in that valley. The villagers’ livestock started starvation due to a lack of grazing lands.
Lhakpa Dolma Class – 10, Crystal Mountain School Dho-Tarap, Dolpo, Nepal Climate change is the change that occurs in the troposphere, and it is caused by both natural and artificial. We can see there are many negative changes and their effects on our own community or environment. I am going to share stories of my village. Its name is Dho-Tarap which is located in the Himalayan region of Nepal. It lies at an altitude of 4000m above sea level. I was born in 2004. I have experienced a lot of environmental changes from my childhood to the current time. A few decades back, people used to sow barley in May and harvest it in October. It needs six months of total time to get good quality barley. There used to be snowfall during harvesting time. But now it has changed. Nowadays, people sow barley in May and harvest on September. So, harvesting season has shifted earlier by one month. Along with it, we don’t witness any snowfall during harvesting time. In the past, people only grow barley, potato, and some vegetable like spinach. But now we see different kinds of vegetables like pumpkin, cauliflower, and broccoli which used to be only found in the Hilly and Terai regions. All these changes are happening due to climate change. The weather has also changed dramatically. Before 20-30 years ago, there used to be heavy snowfall in winter from December to March and in the morning time, the river used to rush with a mixture of ice and snow. But now it’s not happening like snow is not falling on the proper time. Lands have dried up. The village has similarly turned into a desert. In the past, there are records that 20 yaks were killed by snow avalanches due to the heavy snow fall in a single year. But nowadays there is no incident like that. In our village, there are many mountains with a height of 7000m, and we all know that the mountain with a height of 7000m is always covered by snow for the whole year. But the mountain which is located in our village has no snow. All the snow and ice of the mountain are melted. Yartsagumbu of one of the medicinal herbs. It is used to make medicine for many diseases. It is found in high-altitude regions similar to our village. For Yarchagumbu, we have to walk for one day from the village and we set up our temporary tent. From there we walk for 30 minutes to find it. But nowadays, it has started to grow near our tent. Also, our elderly people said, they used to collect 700-800 Yarsta gumbu in one day but nowadays it has decreased. Sometimes it is difficult to find even a single Yarcha in a day. Lastly I want to talk about insects like mosquitos. Mosquitos is only found in hot places like the hilly and Terai region, but due to climate change we find mosquitos in the mountain region. And along with it, there are different types of bees which our parents haven’t seen.
Inza Batool, Pakistan I am Inza Batool, and I belong to Gilgit-Baltistan, Northern Areas of Pakistan. Almighty has blessed this area with natural beauty. It includes all components of natural beauty, such as lakes, mountains, glaciers, forests and this area is appealing to tourist from around the world. Apart from being a beautiful and peaceful area, it often terrifies its inhabitants. Here I will narrate a true story that happened to villagers just because of climate change. My village is located in the Karakoram range and is 86 km east-northeast of Gilgit city. The name of my village is ISKARA. This valley is famous for its green pastures, mountains, thick forests and springs. The people of the village are mostly farmers. They grow local fruits and vegetables and have livestock like sheep, goats and cows. Their livelihood largely depends on it. The green pastures also attract shepherds from other villages in summer. They live three months in summer and then go back to their villages. People live happily in the valley. Besides, its natural beauty attracts tourists in every season. Due to the influx of tourists, local people sell their products to outsiders. This improves their economic condition. Facilities for movement of people were less and they traveled on foot. They burn wood for cooking and people live in mud houses. On a self-help basis, the people established the only school in the plains for the entire community. Life was going well until they faced a natural disaster due to climate change.
Due to weather conditions, a heavy slide fell from the top of a nearby mountain after a heavy rain on March 20, 2018 at around 6 am. It hit 5 houses resulting in 2 deaths and 5 injuries. Hundreds of villagers’ livestock died. Apart from this, the lands, fields, trees and fruits of the villagers were also damaged. This mountain, which was famous for its pastures, has now turned into a dangerous place. The landslide blocked the road to a nearby village and around 20 households were forced to migrate elsewhere. Ironically, the matter does not end there, since then, the life of the whole village has been paralyzed by the frequent falling of huge boulders from this mountain and people are afraid to take their domestic animals to this mountain. Not even passing through the surrounding areas. Even those who initially migrated did not return to their homes and built new houses. The new settlement is far from the school and the children have to walk for two hours every day. The land of villagers that used to grow vegetables, fruits and pulses is now barren and people are afraid to even go there.
Nikeet Pradhan, Nepal Exploring new areas, and trekking are some dreams of nature lovers and I happen to be one of them. While searching for a new location to travel me, and my brother happened to find out about the Paanchpokhari trek. We decided our trek on October 17, 2021. We were traveling to Sindupalchowk district which is very much prone to natural disasters. On our way we stopped at Melamchi Bazaar, it was devastating to see all those losses caused due to flood many households were left stranded and perished due to its effects. We knew about the event two months ago and were devastated just by listening but when we saw the after-effect we were unable to speak. Many news had covered the issue and experts have said that it was not only due to the rainfall but changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change. Climate change had caused so much damage to the people living. We had encountered many landslides and erosion on our way. The effect of the disaster had been more active catalyzed by climate change. These drastic environmental changes to this degree were not seen before in the region and climate change has been the root cause for all these effects. Climate change effects have caused a major challenge in the transport system of the region. Finally, after hurdling over all the obstacles we finally reached our first destination Chimti, from where after a 30-minute walk we reached Deurali. During our stay at the hotel of kancha dai where he lived with his wife, we listened to the beautiful song of kancha dai with Tungna. While our dinner was being ready I saw Paha frogs hanging which was for food and also for medical values. The Paha frog in the mountain region has been decreasing rapidly due to excessive hunting by the local people and another main reason is habitat alteration due to climate change. As there is a shortage of food and the cost of imported raw material is quite high so, local people had to sustain their life through all the forest and low-yield agricultural products. Climate change has affected many families like kancha dai as they depend on the availability of the local resources but due to climate change, their livelihood has been affected adversely. The next day we decided to reach Paachpokhari. We started our walk from Deurali at 5:30 am and reached midpoint Noshyampati at 12:00 pm and finally Paachpokhari at 5:00 pm. Finally, we were able to reach Paachpokhari successfully and the next day we roamed around, clicked photos, then directly reached Chimti on the last day. Everywhere we went people were using firewood from the forest, forest resources are depleting day by day due to anthropogenic activities and climate change. Who knows what effects this problem will cause the locals in the future? This is my story which I witnessed during my trek and the devastating effect of climate change was seen prominently in the region where I traveled Sindupalchowk District.