Sonam Wangchuk joins People for Himalayas campaign

Climate activist aims to highlight the disasters in the Himalayas caused "in the name of development and growth"

Sonam Wangchuk will also participate in 'border march' on 7 April (photo: National Herald archives)
Sonam Wangchuk will also participate in 'border march' on 7 April (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

After surviving on salt and water for 21 days during his 'climate fast' in the freezing open air of Ladakh, climate activist and educationist Sonam Wangchuk is back in the news as he joins the 'People for Himalayas' campaign, a loose collective of over 50 climate activism groups from the country's Himalayan regions.

Wangchuk's latest move is part of his own campaign to demand protection for Ladakh’s ecologically fragile ecosystem from industrial and mining lobbies.

Days after announcing a "border march" to highlight ground realities in Ladakh, including alleged encroachments by China, the climate activist has joined the larger campaign to highlight disasters in the Himalayas caused "in the name of development and growth".

During an online press conference on 29 March, the campaign released a "five-point demand" charter listing out the demands of people living across the Himalayan regions.

In a post on X, Manshi Asher, founder of Himdhara Collective who is also associated with the campaign, said, "Emotions ran high at the online press con as activists & leaders of peoples’ organizations from across various states in Himalayas spoke about the concerns their regions face due to destructive development across the Himalaya, which has been enabled by govts."

On 27 March, Wangchuk announced that the agitation to demand statehood for Ladakh will be intensified and a 'border march' will be held on 7 April in the eastern part of the Union territory to highlight ground realities, including alleged encroachments by China.

According to the media reports, the main demands put forward in the People for Himalayas campaign's five-point charter are: strengthening communities through governance, knowledge sharing and increased transparency, building a resilient Himalayan ecosystem, a mechanism for robust disaster reaction, and systematic planning and strong regulations.

Several activists have also raised concerns about the impact of man-made disasters on the people in the region. In March, People for Himalayas issued a joint declaration stating that climate disasters are systemic and policy-induced, resulting from governance failures at various levels.

The declaration criticised "mindless infrastructure" such as mega dams, highways, railway projects, and commercial tourism, and blamed decades of development-driven greed for unprecedented land use changes and damage to rivers, forests, grasslands, and mountains.

Wangchuk's main concern is not just Ladakh’s fragile ecosystem, but also the innocent people there who still hope that their government will stand by them and keep its promises of statehood for Ladakh, which will give it greater autonomy in deciding whether to allow 'development' within the area.

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