1.1 History & Background
Ladakh is in the far north of India, between Tibet and the Karakoram. This Himalayan enclave of Tibetan Buddhism is an area which has strong local traditions and a unique culture. Over the centuries its people developed carefully balanced systems to cultivate the dry land and survive the extreme winter temperatures.
Originally a centre of trade between Kashmir and Tibet the area became isolated due to political change in these areas. This subsequent isolation and loss of economic influence was to an extent reversed with the construction of a road to Leh in the 1970s and a new airport which brought tourism to the region. But from November to May, Ladakh is still almost completely cut off from the outside world when the roads are closed by snow. Even in summer, getting here involves crossing the highest mountain passes in the world, or a flight that weaves between Himalayan peaks. Although tourism has brought prosperity to some it has also led to rapid erosion of many of Ladakh’s precious traditions.
1.2 Climatic Conditions
Although summer temperatures can be warm during the day, Ladakh has approximately six months of below freezing temperatures per year and winter temperatures that can drop as low as -28C. However its clear high altitude skies typically provide over 300 days of sunshine per year.
1.3 Natural Disaster Risk
“Natural disasters do not just claim lives and livelihoods. In most cases, they erase generations of oral history,
knowledge, practices, accumulated wisdom and the social fabric of communities. Can we ever replace these social structures and collective wisdom?” – SEEDS India
The Himalayan region is one of the most disaster prone and ecologically vulnerable ecosystems in the world.
Continent-continent collision caused by northward drifting of Indian Plate against the Asian Plate gave rise to the youngest mountain chain known as the Himalaya. This compression is still ongoing and at times releases in the form of earthquake shocks. The Himalayan region is mostly in Seismic Zones V and IV, indicating very high earthquake vulnerability (Ladakh is in seismic zone IV).
The Himalayan region is also prone to cloudbursts, flash floods, avalanches, landslides and forest fires, with such disasters affecting thousands of lives, houses and infrastructure each year. Many of the hydro-meteorological disasters have been demonstrating an increasing trend in the past decades, and are reportedly set to get worse due to the impacts of climate change.