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Tenzing Chozom threshes barley at her family farm in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. A severe water shortage in 2003 resulting from climate change forced villagers to sell off much of their livestock. They now cultivate just a third of their land and have to loan yaks to each other during the growing season in order to sow and harvest fields.    

Tenzing Chozom threshes barley at her family farm in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. A severe water shortage in 2003 resulting from climate change forced villagers to sell off much of their livestock. They now cultivate just a third of their land and have to loan yaks to each other during the growing season in order to sow and harvest fields.

 

 

At 12,500 feet, on the “Roof of the World,” 35 families fight to survive climate change in Kumik, a village so tiny it doesn’t appear on government maps of India. Although the villagers do not understand how or why the glacier that is their sole source of water is disappearing, they do know that that their traditional life of self-sustenance is in peril and that they must adapt in order to survive. Since 2015, I have returned to Kumik thrice and lived with the Thinleys, a local family, to document life in Kumik amidst a decade-long water crisis. I am always struck by the unfair irony that this village, with its small carbon footprint, was forced to suffer the consequences of climate change. For over a millennium, the Kumikpas - the people of Kumik - have made a living by farming the high-glacial valley in the Zanskar Range. The Zanskar region, formerly a part of western Tibet, is a remote mountainous area in Indian-administered Kashmir that remains isolated from the world except in summer. The only winter ‘“road” into and out of the valley is the frozen Zanskar River. Villagers must trek over 100 km on the frozen Zanskar River, in sub-zero temperatures, to get medical attention or to trade.  The village of Kumik, as well as its pastures and farms, sit below the fast-receding Sultan Largo glacier. In recent years, many men and teenage boys in the village have moved away for employment or education. In summer, women and children fetch water from the village’s one trickling Kumikthu stream, and are able to irrigate only a portion of their farmland. A severe drought in 2003 forced many villagers to sell most of their livestock. And rising winter temperatures means the Zanskar River - the winter “road” - no longer freezes solid and has become treacherous to cross. In 2001, after an earlier drought, the Kumikpas made a decision to relocate near the Tsarap River. By 2014, seven families had relocated to the new village and begun farming. Creating a new village was a herculean feat. Villagers manually built houses, created new fields and dug canals while also tending to their animals and farms in the old village. But a devastating flood in 2015 destroyed the water canals and farmland, leaving the new village without a source of water or food. Global warming is changing the Himalayas faster than any other region of the world outside the polar caps. Reporting this story is critical because in the near future, countless women across the Himalayan watersheds will face the challenges women in Kumik face. Traditionally, climate change reporting has used journalistic frames such as “Arctic melt,” “endangered natural world” and “blue planet,” to name a few. I hope to advance those frames by bringing attention on the impact of climate change on women in a politically unstable part of the developing world. In doing so, it will also bring attention to the impending climate refugee crisis in the Himalayan watersheds across in Asia in which women and children are likely to be impacted the most. In 2015, this body of work began as a two phase project ­– researching the journalistic framing of climate change in the US media and documenting the impact of climate change on a region significantly impacted by climate change outside the two poles. The Correspondents’ Reporting Grant, Richard Oliver Scholarship, and O. O. McIntyre Fellowship awarded by the Missouri School of Journalism funded this project.

At 12,500 feet, on the “Roof of the World,” 35 families fight to survive climate change in Kumik, a village so tiny it doesn’t appear on government maps of India. Although the villagers do not understand how or why the glacier that is their sole source of water is disappearing, they do know that that their traditional life of self-sustenance is in peril and that they must adapt in order to survive.

Since 2015, I have returned to Kumik thrice and lived with the Thinleys, a local family, to document life in Kumik amidst a decade-long water crisis. I am always struck by the unfair irony that this village, with its small carbon footprint, was forced to suffer the consequences of climate change. For over a millennium, the Kumikpas - the people of Kumik - have made a living by farming the high-glacial valley in the Zanskar Range. The Zanskar region, formerly a part of western Tibet, is a remote mountainous area in Indian-administered Kashmir that remains isolated from the world except in summer. The only winter ‘“road” into and out of the valley is the frozen Zanskar River. Villagers must trek over 100 km on the frozen Zanskar River, in sub-zero temperatures, to get medical attention or to trade. 

The village of Kumik, as well as its pastures and farms, sit below the fast-receding Sultan Largo glacier. In recent years, many men and teenage boys in the village have moved away for employment or education. In summer, women and children fetch water from the village’s one trickling Kumikthu stream, and are able to irrigate only a portion of their farmland. A severe drought in 2003 forced many villagers to sell most of their livestock. And rising winter temperatures means the Zanskar River - the winter “road” - no longer freezes solid and has become treacherous to cross.

In 2001, after an earlier drought, the Kumikpas made a decision to relocate near the Tsarap River. By 2014, seven families had relocated to the new village and begun farming. Creating a new village was a herculean feat. Villagers manually built houses, created new fields and dug canals while also tending to their animals and farms in the old village. But a devastating flood in 2015 destroyed the water canals and farmland, leaving the new village without a source of water or food.

Global warming is changing the Himalayas faster than any other region of the world outside the polar caps. Reporting this story is critical because in the near future, countless women across the Himalayan watersheds will face the challenges women in Kumik face.

Traditionally, climate change reporting has used journalistic frames such as “Arctic melt,” “endangered natural world” and “blue planet,” to name a few. I hope to advance those frames by bringing attention on the impact of climate change on women in a politically unstable part of the developing world. In doing so, it will also bring attention to the impending climate refugee crisis in the Himalayan watersheds across in Asia in which women and children are likely to be impacted the most.

In 2015, this body of work began as a two phase project ­– researching the journalistic framing of climate change in the US media and documenting the impact of climate change on a region significantly impacted by climate change outside the two poles. The Correspondents’ Reporting Grant, Richard Oliver Scholarship, and O. O. McIntyre Fellowship awarded by the Missouri School of Journalism funded this project.

The village of Kumik as well as its pastures and farms, sit below the fast- receding Sultan Largo glacier. Located in the remote Zanskar region of India administered Kashmir, the tiny village of Kumik, comprised of 35 families, now finds itself and its centuries-old way of life threatened by the melting glaciers of the Himalayas. Particularly serious threats derive from the diminishing snowfields and the thawing Sultan Largo glacier, which, together, have led to a scarcity of the water that for over a millennium the village has depended on to sustain life.  

The village of Kumik as well as its pastures and farms, sit below the fast- receding Sultan Largo glacier. Located in the remote Zanskar region of India administered Kashmir, the tiny village of Kumik, comprised of 35 families, now finds itself and its centuries-old way of life threatened by the melting glaciers of the Himalayas. Particularly serious threats derive from the diminishing snowfields and the thawing Sultan Largo glacier, which, together, have led to a scarcity of the water that for over a millennium the village has depended on to sustain life.

 

 A view of Sultan Largo Glacier in summer time from the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. The glacier is Kumik’s sole source of water and is receding at an alarming rate due to global warming. The Himalayan glaciers contain the largest store of water outside the polar ice caps and feed seven large Asian rivers supporting 1.5 billion people across China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. Data and understanding of impact of climate change on the Himalayan Glaciers is limited due to lack of studies.  

 A view of Sultan Largo Glacier in summer time from the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. The glacier is Kumik’s sole source of water and is receding at an alarming rate due to global warming. The Himalayan glaciers contain the largest store of water outside the polar ice caps and feed seven large Asian rivers supporting 1.5 billion people across China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. Data and understanding of impact of climate change on the Himalayan Glaciers is limited due to lack of studies.

 

Tenzing Idhun (right), a teenager from Kumik washes clothes under a trickle of stream water. Warmer spring now melts snows too fast. In summer, the women and children fill their water buckets and wash from a small trickle of water and they can no longer plant on 2/3’s of their land. A family in Kumik uses approximately 5-8 gallons of water a day.    

Tenzing Idhun (right), a teenager from Kumik washes clothes under a trickle of stream water. Warmer spring now melts snows too fast. In summer, the women and children fill their water buckets and wash from a small trickle of water and they can no longer plant on 2/3’s of their land. A family in Kumik uses approximately 5-8 gallons of water a day.

 

 

Stanzin Dasal (right) and Sonam Dolma share a towel after taking a wash by the stream in the village of Kumik. Dasal and Dolma are originally from Piptcha village but moved in with their extended families in Kumik to enroll in first grade at the Lamdon Model School. They walk approximately 4-miles each day to attend school and spend their evenings fetching water and running chores for their host families.    

Stanzin Dasal (right) and Sonam Dolma share a towel after taking a wash by the stream in the village of Kumik. Dasal and Dolma are originally from Piptcha village but moved in with their extended families in Kumik to enroll in first grade at the Lamdon Model School. They walk approximately 4-miles each day to attend school and spend their evenings fetching water and running chores for their host families.

 

 

Sonam Tantar gathers sheep from all the homes in Kumik and herds them for grazing. Each day, one family takes the responsibility to herd all the sheep from the village. Although families have their own homes and fields, the tasks of planting, harvesting, irrigation and animal husbandry are accomplished through complex labor and resource-sharing methods. Due to a short growing season, these methods have been developed over centuries to counter resource and time scarcity.    

Sonam Tantar gathers sheep from all the homes in Kumik and herds them for grazing. Each day, one family takes the responsibility to herd all the sheep from the village. Although families have their own homes and fields, the tasks of planting, harvesting, irrigation and animal husbandry are accomplished through complex labor and resource-sharing methods. Due to a short growing season, these methods have been developed over centuries to counter resource and time scarcity.

 

 

Soman Chasdon shears wool off a sheep using a manual shear in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. A severe water shortage in 2003 due to climate change forced villagers to sell off much of their livestock. Villagers have always relied on sheep wool to weave “Gonchas”. Gonchas are traditional Tibetan wool coats used to keep warm through long winters when temperatures drop below zero.    

Soman Chasdon shears wool off a sheep using a manual shear in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. A severe water shortage in 2003 due to climate change forced villagers to sell off much of their livestock. Villagers have always relied on sheep wool to weave “Gonchas”. Gonchas are traditional Tibetan wool coats used to keep warm through long winters when temperatures drop below zero.

 

 

Stanzin Dayskon brooms the kitchen in her parent’s home in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. Communities affected by climate change are often forced to move away from their traditional lands, putting their “tangible” and “intangible” heritage in danger. Teenage boys and men in Kumik are increasingly moving elsewhere for education and employment, leaving the girls and women behind to bear the burden of farming, livestock rearing and raising their families.    

Stanzin Dayskon brooms the kitchen in her parent’s home in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. Communities affected by climate change are often forced to move away from their traditional lands, putting their “tangible” and “intangible” heritage in danger. Teenage boys and men in Kumik are increasingly moving elsewhere for education and employment, leaving the girls and women behind to bear the burden of farming, livestock rearing and raising their families.

 

 

Lobzan Tsamo (left) serves school sponsored mid day meal to students from the Village of Kumik Elementary School. Tsamo dropped out of middle school and now helps at her family farm. She also works in road construction during summer. Her brothers have left the village to pursue education, while Tsamo has taken on most of the responsibilities associated with farming.  

Lobzan Tsamo (left) serves school sponsored mid day meal to students from the Village of Kumik Elementary School. Tsamo dropped out of middle school and now helps at her family farm. She also works in road construction during summer. Her brothers have left the village to pursue education, while Tsamo has taken on most of the responsibilities associated with farming.

 

Soman Chasdon (left) and her daughter Lobzan Tsamo make traditional flat bread on a dung-fired stove. Many homes, including Chasdon's, have adapted CNG gas stove. But as temperatures get cooler in fall and winter most households use the traditional dung-fired stoves because they can be used both in cooking and warming the home. While carbon dioxide is considered as the biggest contributor to global warming, soot also known as black carbon released from traditional dung stoves contributes to global warming as well. Soot particles released from dung-fired stoves also pose health risk to women and children.  

Soman Chasdon (left) and her daughter Lobzan Tsamo make traditional flat bread on a dung-fired stove. Many homes, including Chasdon's, have adapted CNG gas stove. But as temperatures get cooler in fall and winter most households use the traditional dung-fired stoves because they can be used both in cooking and warming the home. While carbon dioxide is considered as the biggest contributor to global warming, soot also known as black carbon released from traditional dung stoves contributes to global warming as well. Soot particles released from dung-fired stoves also pose health risk to women and children.

 

During harvest season, Soman Chasdon (center) and her daughter Lobzang Tsamo take a power nap in their home in Kumik while Chasdon's grandson Stanzon Stobgaoi plays by himself.  The family has to sometimes hire Nepalese migrant workers to help with farm chores because there aren’t enough people in the household to help. Two of Chasdon's older sons have left the village to pursue college education while her youngest son is a lama at the Stongde Monastery.  Chasdon along with her husband and her three daughters now bear the responsibility to farm and raise the livestock.  

During harvest season, Soman Chasdon (center) and her daughter Lobzang Tsamo take a power nap in their home in Kumik while Chasdon's grandson Stanzon Stobgaoi plays by himself.  The family has to sometimes hire Nepalese migrant workers to help with farm chores because there aren’t enough people in the household to help. Two of Chasdon's older sons have left the village to pursue college education while her youngest son is a lama at the Stongde Monastery.  Chasdon along with her husband and her three daughters now bear the responsibility to farm and raise the livestock.

 

 Padma Tolkar serves traditional Tibetan tea to the Buddhist Monks offering prayers at the village Gompa in Kumik. The prayers are offered annually as a thanksgiving for the harvest. Some families in Kumik that could not afford to educate their sons have sent them off to become monks.  

 Padma Tolkar serves traditional Tibetan tea to the Buddhist Monks offering prayers at the village Gompa in Kumik. The prayers are offered annually as a thanksgiving for the harvest. Some families in Kumik that could not afford to educate their sons have sent them off to become monks.

 

Tsewang (right) and Thinley Choton, stock dried barley to manually thresh it. The growing season for barley, wheat and other staple crops as well as collecting fuels is limited to three months. Once winter sets in temperatures drop to sub zeros and the Zanskar valley becomes inaccessible by road. Due to rising temperatures, Zanskar is experiencing pest infestation. Traditionally, farmers in the region farmed without fertilizers and pesticides but are now being forced to use pesticides.  

Tsewang (right) and Thinley Choton, stock dried barley to manually thresh it. The growing season for barley, wheat and other staple crops as well as collecting fuels is limited to three months. Once winter sets in temperatures drop to sub zeros and the Zanskar valley becomes inaccessible by road. Due to rising temperatures, Zanskar is experiencing pest infestation. Traditionally, farmers in the region farmed without fertilizers and pesticides but are now being forced to use pesticides.

 

Thinley Choton winnows barley at her family farm in Kumik. Winnowing is a manual and labor-intensive technique that uses air current to separate the chaff and the barley. With lack of manpower in the village, many families are abandoning the old method and renting machines to process their grain. In the years to come, this traditional farming method is likely to go extinct.  

Thinley Choton winnows barley at her family farm in Kumik. Winnowing is a manual and labor-intensive technique that uses air current to separate the chaff and the barley. With lack of manpower in the village, many families are abandoning the old method and renting machines to process their grain. In the years to come, this traditional farming method is likely to go extinct.

 

Stanzin Dayskon walks past a dried up water-harvesting pond, carrying over 75 lbs of cattle fodder up the mountain, in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. Kumik sits below the receding Sultan Largo glacier, it’s sole source of water. The village is amid more than a decade long water crisis due to global warming. Teenage boys and men are increasingly moving elsewhere for education and employment, leaving the girls and women behind to bear the burden of farming, livestock rearing and raising their families. Finding a bride has become a challenge for young men in the village that have chosen to stay back.  

Stanzin Dayskon walks past a dried up water-harvesting pond, carrying over 75 lbs of cattle fodder up the mountain, in the village of Kumik in India administered Kashmir. Kumik sits below the receding Sultan Largo glacier, it’s sole source of water. The village is amid more than a decade long water crisis due to global warming. Teenage boys and men are increasingly moving elsewhere for education and employment, leaving the girls and women behind to bear the burden of farming, livestock rearing and raising their families. Finding a bride has become a challenge for young men in the village that have chosen to stay back.

 

Lobzang Rinchen, a climate refugee works outside his newly constructed home in Ghepeling village near the Tsarap River in India Administered Kashmir. Rinchen works for the Indian Army patrolling the Siachen Glacier. The Tsarap is a tributary of the Indus River. The Indus River, irrigates about three quarters of Pakistan’s farmland, but has its source in the India controlled Siachen Glacier. India and Pakistan continue to fight intermittently at an elevation of 20,000 feet to retain control over the Siachen Glacier making it the highest battleground on the earth.  

Lobzang Rinchen, a climate refugee works outside his newly constructed home in Ghepeling village near the Tsarap River in India Administered Kashmir. Rinchen works for the Indian Army patrolling the Siachen Glacier. The Tsarap is a tributary of the Indus River. The Indus River, irrigates about three quarters of Pakistan’s farmland, but has its source in the India controlled Siachen Glacier. India and Pakistan continue to fight intermittently at an elevation of 20,000 feet to retain control over the Siachen Glacier making it the highest battleground on the earth.

 

Lobzang Rinchen and his 6-year-old son gather and stack up wood in the front yard of their home in Ghepeling village.  Since trees are sparse in the region, dung cakes are mostly used in cooking and heating. The 2015 flash flood washed down a lot of driftwood down the river. “We found a lot of wood this year that was brought down by the flood”, said Rinchen.  

Lobzang Rinchen and his 6-year-old son gather and stack up wood in the front yard of their home in Ghepeling village.  Since trees are sparse in the region, dung cakes are mostly used in cooking and heating. The 2015 flash flood washed down a lot of driftwood down the river. “We found a lot of wood this year that was brought down by the flood”, said Rinchen.

 

Tenzing Yangdol gets her twin daughters Tenzing Stanzin (right) and Tenzing Yandon ready for school while her 1-year old daughter Tenzing Edzax plays next to them in the new village of Ghepeling. Yangdol gave home birth to all her children including her twin daughters. The remoteness of the villages in the Zanskar region makes it challenging for women seeking medical help through pregnancy. The region remains connected to the outside only through summer. The only winter "road" out of the valley is the frozen Tsarap River. Villagers have to trek 100 miles on the frozen Tsarap River in sub-zero temperatures at 11,000 feet to seek medical attention or to trade. The road has become treacherous because it no longer freezes solid, due to rising winter temperatures.  

Tenzing Yangdol gets her twin daughters Tenzing Stanzin (right) and Tenzing Yandon ready for school while her 1-year old daughter Tenzing Edzax plays next to them in the new village of Ghepeling. Yangdol gave home birth to all her children including her twin daughters. The remoteness of the villages in the Zanskar region makes it challenging for women seeking medical help through pregnancy. The region remains connected to the outside only through summer. The only winter "road" out of the valley is the frozen Tsarap River. Villagers have to trek 100 miles on the frozen Tsarap River in sub-zero temperatures at 11,000 feet to seek medical attention or to trade. The road has become treacherous because it no longer freezes solid, due to rising winter temperatures.

 

Tenzing Dolma, a climate refugee, stands near a newly built home in the village of Ghepeling in India Administered Kashmir. In 2001, after an earlier long drought due to fast melting glaciers and snowfield, Kumik-pas made a decision to relocate near the Tsarap River and built a new village named Kumik Martang. By 2014, seven of the 35 families relocated to the new village and begun farming. But a devastating flood in Spring 2015 destroyed the manually developed farmland and water canals, leaving the new village without a source of water in summer and fall. This setback has created fear and confusion in the village. They now face the decision to abandon both villages and move to a city, leaving behind their millennium old village, culture and heritage. Moreover, their subsistence in a city would be challenging due to lack of education and skills needed to survive in a contemporary society.  

Tenzing Dolma, a climate refugee, stands near a newly built home in the village of Ghepeling in India Administered Kashmir. In 2001, after an earlier long drought due to fast melting glaciers and snowfield, Kumik-pas made a decision to relocate near the Tsarap River and built a new village named Kumik Martang. By 2014, seven of the 35 families relocated to the new village and begun farming. But a devastating flood in Spring 2015 destroyed the manually developed farmland and water canals, leaving the new village without a source of water in summer and fall. This setback has created fear and confusion in the village. They now face the decision to abandon both villages and move to a city, leaving behind their millennium old village, culture and heritage. Moreover, their subsistence in a city would be challenging due to lack of education and skills needed to survive in a contemporary society.