October is buckwheat harvest time in the distant highlands of Dolpo. In the village of Tso, Namdak Sangmo watches other women from her village fling their sickles, stoop over to sling the sheaves on their shoulders, and bring the crop in.
Sangmo, 68, does not have her own crop to harvest because she does not have any land anymore. Her riverside terraces were washed away by a flash flood in 2012, and another one in 2019 destroyed what was left, leaving a barren boulder-strewn slope.
“It was a raging torrent, and it came down suddenly and swept everything in its path, I do not have any land left to farm,” says Sangmo. She is not the only one, almost half the villagers in Tso lost their standing crop and fields when a wall of mud and boulders raced down from the slopes of the 6,883m high Mt Kanjiroba that towers over the district.
Scientists have not drawn a direct correlation between the climate crisis and extreme weather events like this, but they say there is evidence that droughts, record downpours, and erratic monsoons in the Himalaya are a result of a hotter atmosphere. This year’s monsoon has seen freak downpours and unprecedented rainfall in the trans-Himalayan regions of Nepal. Unseasonal rains this week unleashed deadly floods and landslides, especially in western Nepal.
The Himalayan mountains are warming between 0.3-0.7°C faster than the global average, causing glaciers to shrink, snowlines to recede, and increasing the danger of floods when expanding glacial lakes burst.