For centuries the Punakha Dzong monastic fortress in Bhutan’s Himalayas has sheltered ancient Buddhist relics and scriptures from earthquakes, fires and Tibetan invasions. Now the lamas here may have met their match — global warming.
At least 53 million cubic metres of glacier melt is threatening to break the banks of a lake upstream in the Himalayan peaks and spark a “mountain tsunami” in Punakha valley.
The government is pressing the lamas, so far unsuccessfully, to transport relics to a nearby hilltop for safekeeping. Massive flooding could inundate these valleys, which hold about a tenth of Bhutan’s population, by 2015.
“Pollution has disturbed our deities,” Leki Dorji, a red-robed lama, said in a courtyard as monks chanted mantras. “It’s for that the rains have not come on time, that we have not had snow for five years.”