All is not well in Ladakh: Sonam Wangchuk

Many people from Ladakh and also the entire country have asked to accompany me during the fast to show their solidarity but I will be doing it alone as it is a huge risk

By Anoushka Williams  Published on  24 Jan 2023 4:25 AM GMT
All is not well in Ladakh: Sonam Wangchuk

Hyderabad: Sonam Wangchuk, the icon who inspired Amir Khan’s character in the movie ‘3 idiots,’ will go on a five-day fast starting on Republic Day over climate issues and issues concerning the 6th Schedule. Through the fast, he hopes to get the attention of not only the government but also the citizens of India over the ecologically-fragile Ladakh region.

Here is our exclusive interview with environmentalist and activist Sonam Wangchuk.

Can you tell us about the issue at hand?

As I have said in my video ‘All is not well in Ladakh. Ladakh ki Mann ki Baat,’ Ladakh has been appealing and demanding some safeguards for its environment, its people, and its land. Global warming has been leading to melting glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Range, where Ladakh is located. This has caused a water crisis in the region. In this regard, our leaders started talks with the government and we were assured that after becoming a Union Territory we would get all the protection we needed to save our environment. But instead, there has been a long silence.

What was your thought process behind the climate fast?

To strengthen our argument and draw the attention of the government and the people of the world, we are exposing them to the climate challenges we are facing. To make them understand the fragile ecology of the glaciers, I have decided to fast in the shadow of those very glaciers up at Khardungla Pass which is 18,000 ft high in a temperature of -40°C.

Who will be joining you during the 5–day fast?

Many people from Ladakh and also the entire country have asked to accompany me during the fast to show their solidarity but I will be doing it alone as it is a huge risk. But at the same time, I want them to express their views and their support from their own homes, communities, and schools by fasting for a day on 26 January to make sure our pleas reach the Prime Minister.

Why did you decide to start the climate fast on 26 January?

Republic Day is the day when India adopted its Constitution. Ladakh has nearly 95% of the tribal population while the Constitution looks for 50% of the tribal population in an area for the relevance of the 6th Schedule. I want our government to pledge to discuss earnestly with our leaders about including Ladakh in the 6th Schedule.

How is this whole ordeal affecting the lives of the people of Ladakh?

Some villages are already becoming climate refugees. People are abandoning their villages and now we have the imminent challenge that if we don’t get any safeguards, it will make way for industries and mining, which makes for very scary visions. As of now, we are facing water challenges and flash floods now and then but if it escalates, it will be a disastrous problem.

Ladakh is now a Union Territory. What is the 6th Schedule?

As I said before, the Constitution looks for 50% tribal population in an area for the relevance of the 6th Schedule. Prospects were being made that Ladakh would soon be included considering that 95% of its population have a tribal background. The Tribal Affairs minister, Arjun Munda, had also given assurances. People are stunned as to why the government that answered its 70-year-old demand for a Union Territory has not been heeding this demand.

Could you explain what you meant when you said ‘people need to adjust their lifestyles rather than contributing money to the globe’?

People around the world do not care about the environment and live very carelessly which is resulting in emissions that are melting our glaciers which are our lifeline. We need to draw the attention of the people to the climate challenges that we are facing, which is why I am going on this climate hunger strike. People’s lifestyles are causing these problems. They live their lives in such a way that causes many environmental issues and we in the mountains and those in the coastal areas will be the first victims of climate change.

You have appealed to the people of India and the government of India. Is there any response?

I want the government to take responsibility and protect regions like Ladakh from capitalism. I also want to appeal to the citizens of India to live more responsibly, change their lifestyles, and take measures to save the environment.

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