FaithWorld

Climatic cracks of doom threaten monastic fortress in Bhutan

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong monastic fortress in Bhutan, 28 June 2009/Singye Wangchuk

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.”

Read the full story here.
bhutan mural

Mural in Punakha Dzong monastic fortress, 19 April 2007/Desmond Boylan

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from Environment Forum:

Holy water!

Aletsch glacier, the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps is seen on August 18, 2007. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Are the residents of Fiesch and Fischertal in Switzerland particularly pious, desperate or both? I wonder after learning that villagers there want Pope Benedict's blessing to stop the melting of Europe's longest glacier. That, after hundreds of years of praying for it to stop growing. Researchers predict winter temperatures in the Swiss Alps will rise by 1.8 degrees Celsius in winter and 2.7 degrees Celsius in the summer by 2050.

You can track the fate of the Aletsch glacier here, but don't expect to see a repeat of Spencer Tunick's 2007 naked photoshoot.

Undoubtedly, Switzerland's tourism industry has suffered this summer, with 148,000 fewer foreign visitors bunking at chalets and the like in June compared to the same month last year. Of course it's not clear if the decline was due to melting glaciers or the credit crisis.