Massive militarisation is destroying Changthang, a high altitude plateau with vast highlands and giant lakes in southeasternLadakh, said independent researcher, Monisha Ahmed, whose work focuses on art practices and material culture in Ladakh.
“Due to massive militarisation in Changthang, the Kiang cannot run across the fields there,” she said delivering a lecture on ‘The Kashmir Shawl – Nomadic livelihoods, trade and craftsmanship’.
Numbering about 2500, the Kiang or the Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang.
“Militarisation is destroying Changthang,” said Ahmed, whose doctoral degree from Oxford University developed into the book Living Fabric: Weaving among the Nomads of Ladakh Himalaya (2002), which received the Textile Society of America’s R L Shep award in 2003 for best book in the field of ethnic textile studies.
From eastern Ladakh, the Changthang, The home to the Changpa, a nomadic Tibetan people, stretches around 1600 km east into Tibet.
Explaining her concerns for the area, she said the grass meant for nomadic livelihood used to grow on the excreta of the Kiang.
“The cattle of nomads would feed on this grass but the massive militarisation is destroying Changthang,” said Ahmed, who has published several articles on textile arts of the western Himalayan world, co-edited Ladakh – Culture at the Crossroads (2005), and collaborated on Pashmina – The Kashmir Shawl and Beyond (2009 and 2017).
Painting a grim picture for the area, besides militarisation, she blamed the tourism department for the mess saying, “This is unplanned tourism.”
Ahmed, the co-founder and Executive Director of the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation, Ladakh, also blamed the tourists for generating a lot of garbage in the area.
Formerly Associate Editor of Marg Publications, she more recently published a chapter on textiles for The Arts and Interiors of RashtrapatiBhavan – Lutyens and Beyond (2016), and the catalogue Woven Treasures – Textiles from the JasleenDhamija Collection (2016).