Saturday, September 7, 2019

Global warming is now becoming a reality

Photo of Wangdue-Tsirang Highway submerged in water in August 2019. Image source: Kuensel

Although Bhutan has more than 70 percent of its land under forest coverage, it is clearly visible how we have been facing the brunt of global warming over the years. The atmosphere is heating up right in front of us. September is supposed to be a comparatively cooler month in Thimphu, but I am still using a fan at times. Until some decades ago, Thimphu used to be one of the coldest places in Bhutan around this time of the year. We used to receive heavy snowfalls by October and November but today, we don’t see such snowfalls even during the peak winter season.

Photo of two women looking at the ruins of their houses blown away by the recent hurricane in Bahamas. Image source: BBC.com.

The weather patterns are fast changing due to the rising seas and warming oceans. The entire global community is currently battling with devastating droughts, raging cyclones, deadly flashfloods and crippling snowstorms. Even in Bhutan, we are not spared from such disasters. Every year, the uneven distribution of rainfall and calamities like flashfloods and windstorms are taking a toll on human lives and properties. The summers and winters are becoming more brutal over the recent years. The ever rising temperature in Thimphu itself is a reminder that the Earth is heating up now. This could be one of the reasons for strange creatures such as army worms in Thimphu and African Giant Snails in Mongar to surface from underground a couple of years ago. Another visible indication of global warming could be the sighting of house-crows in Thimphu. These crows are usually found in warmer places but the fact that they are now migrating to places like Thimphu means that the temperature in the south is becoming unbearable. All these strange phenomena that are emerging with time tell us that climate change is a reality and that we can no longer afford to be complacent.

Photo of Thothormi Lake. Image taken in June 2019 by National Center for Hydrology and Metereology.

No matter what conscious efforts we take to protect our forests in Bhutan, the sad reality is that global warming is affecting lives everywhere. The recent threat from Thothormi Lake in Lunana is a reminder that our glaciers are melting fast, making our glacial lakes more vulnerable and dangerous for the communities down the valleys. The outburst of one such lake, Lugge Tsho, on the morning of 7th October 1994 had caused devastating flashflood in Punakha valley, killing about 20 people and damaging properties worth millions of Ngultrum. We have over 2700 such glacial lakes lurking in the high mountains and if the Earth’s temperature continues to rise, Bhutan will definitely have to pay a huge prize.

Photo of ice boulders being washed away from Thothormi Lake. Image taken in June 2019 by National Center for Hydrology and Metereology.

One of the most effective solutions for fighting climate change could be to reduce human activities. The ever thriving commercial industries coupled with poor management of natural resources are found to be one of the biggest causes of global warming. Sathguru Jaggi Vasudev has said “If all the insects on Earth die today, none of us will survive. But if all the human beings die today, this planet will flourish from tomorrow”. This means that we are actually the root cause of all the problems the world is facing today. If we know how to produce and consume responsibly, we can definitely make this planet more beautiful and liveable for all.

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