English | Dzongkha Saturday, July 20, 2019

White winter becomes thing of past as Laya experiences declining snowfall

Sherub Dorji, Gasa
Apr 16, 2018

Lying at 3,800 metres above the sea level, Laya is one of the highest settlements in the country. In the past, the place used to be covered by a thick blanket of snow around this time of the year. The towering mountains surrounding Laya remained white with thick snow cover almost through the year. Not anymore.

Laya has been experiencing a decreasing snowfall by the year over the last few decades. White winter is already is a thing of past.

Just recently on March 30, it snowed the entire morning, but everything melted in a matter of few hours.

Fifty six-year-old Tshering reminisces the good old days when heavy snowfall painted Laya white. “If you look at the mountains here, the trees are clearly visible now. This was not the case when I was a child,” he recalls.

“During those days, you can hardly see the trees because it’s covered by thick snow, which melted only around May.”

The people of Laya think climate change is responsible for the decreasing snowfall. “The snow is still there but it is not as thick and I think it’s because of climate change,” Tshering said.

Tshering also shared how the three mountain ranges surrounding Laya has changed its colour over the decades.

“The Gang Chen Ta, when we were young, used to be completely white. Now, it has turned black. Only some portions are white. We have two other famous mountain ranges, the Masa Gang, and the Tshenden Gang, and their colours have changed too.”

Others in the village shared the same. “Before, it used to snow heavily in January, February and March months, but now we don’t receive much snowfall,” Pem Dechen said.

“When I was a child, it snowed a lot. Now, it doesn’t. Even if it snows, it does towards the evenings and at night,” Passang Dorji said.

The decreasing snowfall has Tshering worried.

“With climate change melting the snow on our mountains rapidly, I worry we might face water shortage in the future. We have never faced the problem so far, but the water level is slowly receding.”

For now, decreasing snowfall is not all bad because less snow allows them to work more in their fields.

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