The Changthang Area of Ladakh in the Indian Trans-Himalaya has a very complicated environment, as the climatic conditions are very harsh and unyielding. People of the location are but warm and acquiescent.

They rear a variety of animals that are adapted to this austere environment. Pashmina or cashmere wool, a soft natural fibre created by a local breed of goat, is the primary source of income of the people known as Changpas. Traditionally, they bartered Pashmina for barley and dried apricots from western Ladakh. However presently they are being dragged into the vortex of globalization, and also the economy is being transformed fast into a cash-based market economy.

. Lush meadows with multi-colored mountains in the background are visual feasts to the covetous eye lids of visitors. The people are largely nomadic, moving from pasture to pasture,. They have high cultural and religious affinities toward Tibet. Their diet consists largely of milk items and meat,. Their apparel commonly have inner linings of animal skin for warmth. Changpas are commonly happy people and commonly indulge in cultural extravaganzas, performing a unique dance called Zhabro.

Changthang is as well house to a wide variety of wild animals that include charismatic species like the Tibetan antelope, Tibetan argali and Tibetan gazelle. These animals are currently threatened with extinction and conservation measures are undermined by the increasing wants and aspirations of the people. Recognising the need to conserve the threatened animals of Changthang, the Government constituted the

Changthang Wildife Sanctuary in 1987 below the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act. However the effectiveness of this protected region is marred by growing uncertainty amongst the local people about the authorities’ intentions.

The sanctuary is distribute over an area of over 15000 km squared, and livestock grazing is pervasive in the whole position. One of the major flaws in the establishment of the protected place was that it was constituted without consulting the local communities as sanctuaries during those days could be enacted without settling the land rights of the people living inside protected areas. Recently, a Pandora’s Box was opened when the authorities issued a fresh notification for the settlement of the statutory rights of the people living inside the protected areas. The Changpas are up in arms against the fresh directives. They are concerned that they will lose their standard livelihood alternatives, and will be evicted from their ancestral lands.

Given this quagmire,. These are species like the Tibetan gazelle, which has small populations commonly numbering less than 100 individuals. The Tibetan argali is another species that is inching towards extinction in India. Only related to 350 animals are remaining in Ladakh, and the population is declining further due to competition with the increasing livestock population. If the people additionally, the conservation authorities do not resolve their issues, and conservation measures are not taken well in time, species like gazelle and argali can soon leap on to the list of extinct species in India.

One of the primary concerns of the Changpas is that establishing the protected spot will compromise Pashmina production, the mainstay of their economy. Pashmina is taken to Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls. Traditionally the Changpas sold the raw fibre to middlemen from Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, and also from Kashmir at very low price. But the government is making a concerted effort to scrap the role of the middlemen and add value to the fibre therefore that the Changpas fetch a better price for their produce.

The raw fibre needs to be dehaired, which was historically done by Kashmiri workers. But recently the local authorities installed a dehainring plant at Leh, and a cooperative society was formed, which ensures that the plant gets Pashmina in bulk. In 2006, 18000 kg of Pashmina was dehaired by the machine, however , the capacity is 30, 000 kg. However ,, the climate of Ladakh is not optimal for its efficient functioning. For instance, due to cold in winter, it may run only for 7-8 hours. Furthermore, there’s no refrigerator for storing the fibre, for that reason they cannot acquire more than what they may dehair immediately, for the reason that the fibre gets rotten if not stored properly. However once the infrastructure is improved plus the machine becomes more efficient, there would be further pressure on Changpas to increase Pashmina production.

It is however , important for people and the government to realize that they cannot keep on increasing the livestock population without compromising the health of the rangelands. Moreover, increasing livestock number doesn’t necessarily translates into higher Pashmina production, for the reason that increasing livestock population gives rise to fodder crisis and consequently affects animals’ health negatively, thus compromising Pashmina production both in terms quality and quantity. Therefore people need to gaze for option sources of income while optimising the Pashmina production. Besides, it always helps in the mountains with uncertain environmental conditions to have a variety of income sources as a risk minimizing strategy. Wildlife of Ladakh is special and is attracting lots of nature enthusiasts each year; thus people need to capitalize on this by keeping healthy wildlife populations in their surroundings and organising eco-tours to enhance their incomes.

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