Climate change: a local perspective

July 7, 2007 | By | Reply More

The Earth is too hotBhutan: Farmer Rinchen had endured, without complaints, the weeds competing for nutrition and sunshine in her chili garden for many seasons. But in recent years she has come across new weeds that spread faster.

“There are so many foreign weeds in the garden and they spread very fast,” says the 65-year old farmer from Semtokha, Thimphu, who calls the weeds Jagar yulma meaning Indian weeds. She adds quickly: “The climate is becoming hotter every year making it favourable for weeds from hot places to flourish.”

As more and more scientists try to pin down global warming to climate change, farmers in Bhutan have their own indigenous explanation. For instance, Rinchen never heard of global warming, but is adamant the climate in Thimphu has become warmer over the years.

According to Rinchen, the migratory bird, Chunka (Chough), which used to visit the Thimphu valley for about three months in winter- December, January, and February – could today be seen around only about a month in winter. “Not long ago I had a chunka nest in my attic, nowadays they hardly stay,” she said.

A farmer in Tshokona near Wangduephodrang recalls watching black-necked cranes dance in her fields not long ago. “It stopped coming about five years ago,” said farmer Sonam Chodey. ‘It could be the weather because the fields are still the same, never disturbed,” she said.

A glaciologist in his presentation on impact of climate change on glaciers and glacial lakes cited some examples of indigenous signs. He said that the frequent dengue fever problems and the change in agriculture pattern could be related to climate change. “We can cultivate paddy in Bumthang now,” he said relating it to the change in climate.

Skeptics argue that foreign weeds could have come from imported seeds, that paddy cultivation in colder regions is possible because of improved seeds variety, and cranes disappear because of developmental activities, but glaciers have continued to melt at an increasing pace in the Himalayas.

A report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) released last month on the study of glaciers and glacial lakes in the Lunana basin from 1968 to 1998 showed retreating glaciers and growing glacial lakes. The report stated that the Luggye glacier retreated by 160 metres a year from 1988 to 1993, resulting in a high growth rate of Luggye tsho.

The Raphsthreng glacier retreated on an average by 35 metres from 1984 to 1998, but within five years, from 1998 to 1993 the retreat rate was 60 metres a year, the report stated.

The study states that glaciers in the Himalayan regions are retreating, which was compelling evidence of global climate change. The study predicts that temperature in the sub continent would increase between 3.5 degree Celsius to 5.5 degree Celsius by 2100 and an even greater increase is predicted for the Tibetan plateau. It is predicted that a 1 degree Celsius in temperature would cause alpine glaciers worldwide to shrink by as much as 40 percent.

Bhutan has already suffered five glacial lake outburst floods in the past. The last one occurred in 1994 when the Luggye tsho burst in the early hours of October 7.

Author: Ugyen Penjore
Photo: Alex Lees

Category: Climate Change

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  1. Multimedia on Climate Change in Bangladesh

    In the eve of International Day for Biological Diversity, 2007 Climate Change Cell Bangladesh has published a Multimedia Production on Climate Change in Bangladesh.

    The URL for the multimedia kit is –

    Best success!


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