lubra mustang village

Changing Monsoon Threatens 12th Century Bon Village in the Himalayan Rain Shadow

Along the Panda khola in the Himalayan rain shadow district of Mustang, Nepal, is Ludak or Lubra, a 12th century village, home to 14 agrarian households. In recent years, the community, the only Bon religion-practising village in the country, has seen rising tourism too. Recent years, however, have also brought with them new and dangerous natural disasters to Lubra. The village has been experiencing significantly changed weather patterns that appear to fit the predicted effects of climate change, and appears to be consistent with what other parts of the country have been experiencing over the last decade. Increasing instances of flashfloods, landslides, and droughts are impacting livelihoods, locals told Onward Nepal.

“We have suffered continued drought for three years now. There is no water to irrigate the fields for our regular crops like buckwheat, wheat, and potato,” Ghirmi Gurung, 37, a Lubra local, said.

Mustang, a rain shadow area of Nepal, does not get much rain naturally, and remains mostly arid throughout the year.

A small farm in Lubra village, Mustang, Nepal, as seen in July 2017. 
Photo: Kashish Das Shrestha

A Changed Monsoon

“Earlier, we used to get gentle and regular rains during the monsoon. That was good for our crops,” Gurung said. “But these days, rainfall is erratic. It doesn’t rain when it should, and when it does rain, it is heavy enough to trigger flashflood.”

The flashfloods have a deep impact on the local community. “Every year, excessive rainfall over a short span of time erodes away agricultural land in the village,” says Chomba, 59, a local farmer, showing Onward Nepal parts of her field that were washed away by a flood, last year.

Flood Washes Away Chorten and Farmland

Last week, even though much rain was not recorded in the Jomsom area, a flood swept through the Panda river, and the iconic chorten (stupa) at the entrance of the village was borne away.

Above: The entrance to Lubra village with its 70-year-old chorten, on the banks of the Panda river, as photographed in July 2017.
Photos: Kashish Das Shrestha/ON

Below: The same location after a flood swept away the chorten, last week.
Photo: Yungdrung Tsewang Gurung

Locals have been demanding that authorities build embankments on the village side to control the erosion resulting from water-induced disasters, but nothing has been done so far. The flood last week didn’t just wash away the chorten. Almost six metres (approx. 19.6 feet) of farmlands with potato, apple, and maize were swept away too.

Above: Lubra village with the chorten at its entrance in July 2017.
Photo: Sudhir Bhandari /ON

Below: The chorten site after it was washed away by a flood in early August, 2017. Photo: Yungdrung Tsewang Gurung

Says Ghirmi, “Our future is uncertain. Climate change is making our life hard and if the current trend of increasing disasters continues, the existence of the village itself is threatened.”