March 2, 2021 12:47:06 am
Local residents of Uttarakhand are experiencing the effects of climate change on a day-to-day basis. These changes have led to a shift in traditional crop cultivation, apple orchards moving to higher altitudes, frequent forest fires destroying fuel wood and more, according to a study by the GB Pant National Institute for Himalayan Environment (NIHE).
All of these have been linked to rising temperatures and erratic rainfall along the Himalayas, a place witnessing rapid and visible signs of climate change during the last three decades, a recent study has noted.
On February 7, a flash flood in Alakananda river washed away the Rishi Ganga hydro-power project, killing over 60 people and leaving over 100 labourers missing. Lives of several villagers living downstream of Tapovan area have been hit too. Similarly, in 2013, a cloud burst had led to heavy rain over the state, killing hundreds of locals and tourists who were visiting parts of the Chardham Yatra.
Researchers from the NIHE surveyed local residents across 14 villages in Pithoragarh district along the Kailash Sacred Landscape. The study is based on their interactions with 420 households and their traditional knowledge in agriculture, animal husbandry and adaptations due to climate change, witnessed while living at varying altitudes ranging between 1,000 metres to 3,800 metres above mean sea level (MSL).
“The indigenous people have reported a number of effects linking to climate change. Since their livelihoods are directly nature-dependent, they are facing the impact of climate change, especially post 1980,” said Vikram S Negi, lead author of the study which was published recently in the journal of American Meteorological Society.
Over 90 per cent of the local participants in the study have experienced and faced the brunt of changing climate, especially in the field of agriculture. The livelihood of local residents here is majorly dependent on rainfed traditional agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism and trade of natural resource-based goods. Animal husbandry in the area is closely linked with the forest and alpine ecosystems, which keeps the locals closer to nature and its changes, the study states.
“Food security is a real threat, as we have noticed poor pollination and flowering, both of which influence the crop yield. Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, green peas, potatoes — which were not traditionally grown, are now commonly cultivated here,” added Negi, a scientist at NIHE.
The indigenous communities of the Byans Valley, the study noted, are said to be shifting earlier from the winter to summer settlements. There is a prolonged stay at the summer settlements. There is also a change in grazing period and time along the alpine pastures. The size of the sheep and goat have reduced. The study highlights that the composition of the alpine meadows has undergone a sea change, all of which could affect the income of the locals here.
Over 90 per cent of the indigineous people from the district said they had experienced an overall warming trend. Communities living in the higher altitudes stated the rise in temperature as a concern, even though they reported no significant reduction in snowfall events. Whereas heavy rainfall, its erratic nature and untimely arrival were affecting lives of locals residing along the mid-altitude terrains in the district, stated the study.
Dry spring season has become more prominent and cultivation of apples, mangoes, papayas and plantain has been forced to be undertaken at higher altitudes, unlike in the past, the researchers found.
Elderly respondents in the survey shared that incidents involving cloudburst were leading to frequent flash floods, landslides and soil erosion along the Kuti and Gunji villages. Crops are also regularly coming under pest attack or facing diseases, noted the local farming community, which is facing the threat of less yield owing to prolonged dry periods.
” A delay in rainfall 15 – 20 days has led to uncertainty in planning sowing and harvesting activities, thereby affecting the traditional cropping calendar,” the researchers noted.
Production of wheat and barley take a hit due to untimely rainfall in January and February whereas farmers undertaking cultivation of legumes, paddy and mustard have been forced to undertake early harvest by 15-20 days, the scientists found.
This year, Uttarakhand witnessed some dramatic forest fires, which were both untimely and severe in nature. The NIHE scientists said that locals have linked it to the prolonged droughts, which were also depriving them of forest resources like fuelwoord, fodder and leaf litter.
The residents of Budi and Grbiyamg observed a decline in the population of Ophiocordyces sineens, a rare combination of caterpillar moth and fungi. This, researchers said, fetch high market value and support their income.
But the knowledge of such people must be factored in so as to design sustainable living and plan development over the region, stated the study. Key results of this study, which was a part of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, will be shared with the state government, the researchers said.
The study pointed out that globally, indigenous people may account for only 4 per cent of the world’s population but they manage 11 per cent of the total forestlands and maintain 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity.
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