If there’s one lesson to learn from Ladakh, it’s ecological sensitivity
As travel experts, we are often asked to define a destination in one word or a phrase by people who seek our advice. The truth is, we don’t have a definitive answer. Nobody, even the most experienced travellers, can define what a particular place is all about in just one word or phrase. It will be doing gross injustice if one were to confine the essence of a particular destination in one word. Primarily because a place is an amalgamation of culture, economy, society, politics and many other factors.
We visited Leh-Ladakh a week back and we’ve come home with captivating stories. Like all others, the history of Ladakh is not influenced by culture or society or economy alone. It’s a mix of all of these and much more. Ladakh’s character has been shaped by economy, politics, society, culture, and more importantly, it’s neighbours – with Tibet in the east, Kashmir in the west, China in the north, Pakistan in the northwest and Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh in the south. It’s the mixture of all these factors that have shaped Ladakh in the present day.
Surrounded by mystical snow-capped mountains, with fluttering Tibetan prayer flags whispering a silent prayer to the bohemian mountain breeze, Ladakh is what dreams are made of. Cotton clouds, rocky outcrops merging with perfectly white-washed stupas against the dramatic mountains present an imposing picture of a landscape that as mysterious as it is honest.
The traditional, well-balanced Ladakhi society has much to teach other societies about ecological awareness. When we asked a local person why all stupas and prominent places like palaces are built atop mountains and not on plains, he said, “Being a desert area, there’s a shortage of arable land in Leh-Ladakh. To conserve and eventually increase arable land coverage, Ladakhi people preferred to build palaces and gompas (monasteries) on top of mountains.”
It’s interesting to note that while Ladakhis in general aren’t cash-rich, they are largely self sufficient in terms of dairy products, and organic vegetable which they usually grow in their own backyard. Since they have limited resources available, given the shortage of arable land and short cultivating season, they make sure to utilise and channelise precious water supply from glacial mountain streams in the most effective way possible.
If there’s one big lesson to learn from Ladakhis its ecological sensitivity. It might just be the solution to global warming.