Ladakh: Ladakh-based engineer and innovator Sonam Wangchuk began a five-day climate fast on January 26, calling for government action on climate change in the region. Wangchuk, who is the director of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) and a recipient of the 2018 Magsaysay Award, originally planned to hold his fast at the 18,000-foot Khardungla pass, where temperatures can reach -40°C. However, due to heavy snowfall and reported concerns for his safety, he was forced to relocate his fast to the HIAL campus and is under house arrest.
Good morning world!
Starting 3rd day of #ClimateFast outdoors, under heavy police presence…
don't worry it's all for my 'safety'
Thanks for all ur support. #SaveLadakh @AmitShah @narendramodi @UNFCCC @UNEP @LeoDiCaprio pic.twitter.com/4HNxdI9TPq
— Sonam Wangchuk (@Wangchuk66) January 28, 2023
In a video message, Wangchuk expressed concern about the potential for corporate expansion in the union territory, which he said could exacerbate the already severe shortage of resources such as water and potentially cause glaciers to melt. He also highlighted the ongoing call by locals for inclusion of Ladakh under the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which would give the region more autonomy in decision-making and economic development.
Wangchuk, who inspired the fictional character of Phunsukh Wangdu in the 2009 film ‘3 Idiots’, has been known for his innovative work in education and sustainable development. He set up the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) in 1988, which runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting, or heating. He also designed low-cost solar-heated buildings made of mud to cope with Ladakh’s harsh winters and an eco-friendly solar-heated tent for use by the Indian army in extremely cold places like Siachen and Galwan valley.