Inhabitants of two villages in the mountain district of Mustang have abandoned their homes and migrated to lower regions, thanks to climate change.
With rapidly increasing temperatures in the region, sources of water have dried up in Samjung and Ghey villages of the district, compelling people to find a more inhabitable place down in the south.
Samjung and Ghey have been completely deserted as sources of fresh water vanished, said Ashok Subedi, a conservation officer at Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). Some of them have migrated to Kathmandu and Pokhara also.
If such changes persisted, Subedi said, more human settlements in the mountain region could be abandoned.
Preliminary research indicated that climate change is responsible for this, Subedi added. He, however, was of the opinion that a detailed research on global warming and effects of climate change was yet to be conducted in the region.
Other villages in Mustang and Manang have also been experiencing apparent effects of climate change including that in the weather patterns.
The two districts that lie on the other side of the mountains, now, witness rainfall, which was uncommon in the past, instead of wintry snow.
This has led to some visible changes in the architecture of houses in the region as galvanized zinc sheets have taken over the traditional mud-thatched roofs.
The latest census of 2011 showed that combinedly 19,990 people – 6,538 in Manang and 13,452 in Mustang –live in the districts.
According to the head of ACAP Lal Prasad Gurung, these districts have faced changes in the agricultural practices and yields also.
Apples that previously thrived at the altitude of 2000 metres can be now grown in the areas up to 3000 meters including in Chhusang. The taste of produce from Marpha and adjoining areas, however, has changed.
Also, the time to harvest crops after their plantation has also changed. While the villages had to wait for nearly a year to harvest a batch of crop, now they get the yields several times a year.
Locals reported that they could extraordinarily cultivate corn up to the altitude of 3700 metres.
Conservation officer Subedi stated that the local weather pattern ranges from extreme drought situations to extreme rainfall. The continued rainfall has increased the risk of flash floods and landslide in the region.
What is more, the melting snow in the mountains has led to the formation of colossal glacial lakes that were not in existence till 30 year ago.
The foothills of Mount Gangapurna in Manang, and Parche of Hugu VDC in Kaski now house humungous glacial lakes.
According to Subedi, at least six new glacial lakes have been reported in Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA).
ACA spreads out in five districts—Kaski, Myagdi, Lamjung, Manang and Mustang districts—of the Western Development Region, and covers an area of 7,629 square kilometre.
Experts claim that the present rate of formation of glacial regions could pose a serious threat to the settlements downstream.
Another indicator of the changing climate has been the migration of animals and wild life to the upper mountains from the lower regions.
Subedi remarked that only animals that adapted to the changing climate would survive up in the north while others would perish under new conditions.
According to recent government statistics, the temperature in the mountains in Nepal has been on the rise by 0.06 per cent compared to the 0.04 per cent in the southern plain.
Conflicts between wild animals and humans have increased in the region as the former have begun to venture into human settlements for food for effects of climate change have adversely affected their food sources.
Gurung opined that Nepal can face the challenges posed by climate change by minimising its effects of climate change.
Although Nepal Is not a major contributor of green house gases it remains most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
It is time for highly industrialised nations that are the major contributors of green house gases to seriously think about the problems caused by climate change, Gurung concluded.