Thousands of Pashmina goats perish in India after heaviest snowfall in decades

 

Delhi

Thousands of Pashmina goats, the source of famed shawls and blankets and a mainstay of the local Himalayan economy, have perished in northern India in the some of the heaviest snowfall in decades.

Reports say that as many as 25,000 of the animals, along with other livestock, have starved and frozen to death in the Ladakh region in conditions not seen for 50 years. Local officials have urged the state government of Jammu and Kashmir must do more to send in emergency supplies to prevent further losses.

“I have extensively toured the area for a week. There are still some areas where there is too much snow and they are out of reach,” local official Rigzin Spalbar, chairman of the Leh-based Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, told The Independent. “Where there are roads we are sending in fodder”

The snowfall has settled in the remote Changthang area in the southeast of the state, close to the border with China and Tibet. It is there that nomadic Drokba people raise the heavily-coated goats and gather their soft wool, six times finer than human hair, which is then sold on to producers of shawls, sweaters and blankets.

Mr Spalbar said last autumn officials had dropped off fodder for the winter as well as feed supplements, in an attempt to tackle any hardship. But with the herders unable to provide any fodder whatsoever, the feed supplements by themselves are making the animals suffer from diarrhoea.

Much of Jammu and Kashmir’s largely Buddhist Ladakh region is harsh, arid and forbidding. Most is located at more than 10,000ft and the winter temperature can drop to -35C.

The Changthang area, considered a dry desert, is located at 14,500ft and rarely sees rain. Most fodder collected by the nomads comes from natural vegetation. Their sparse harvests of wheat and barely require ingenious irrigation systems based on glacial meltwater.

Five years ago, thousands of the prized semi-feral goats died in winter weather that had not been seen for a generation. But local reports have suggested that the nomads have suffered a double blow this year; not only were the winter snows even worse than in 2007/8, but last year’s summer was even more dry than usual, meaning the available vegetation was even more scant.

Dr P Angchok, a retired official who formerly had oversight for sheep rearing in the region, said parts of the Changthang were up to 16,000ft high. “This winter the temperature was as low as -25C. Even during the day time the temperatures does not get above freezing,” he said.

The shawls and garments produced from the wool of the Changthangi goats may have have been prized for more than 1,000 years. Wall paintings in the 11th-century Alchi Monastery, to the west of Leh on the road to Srinagar, portray people wearing intricately-embroidered shawls. They were once the preserve of Kashmiri and Ladakhi royalty.

The word pashmina comes from the Persian word pashm, or wool, and refers to the finest undercoat of the goats. A regular shawl requires the wool of three animals.

For the nomadic community, the huge freeze and the subsequent deaths of the goats are expected to have grave consequences. Padma Tashi of the Young Drokba Association, a Buddhist group, said the herders relied entirely on the goats for their livelihoods. It is unclear to what extent it will impact production of pashmina products.

“It’s like 100 per cent,” he said. “For them this is a nightmare. This is going to be like losing their job or something.”

Officials in Leh, the district capital, say they have contacted the provincial government asking for air-drops of fodder. No-one from the provincial government, which has its winter capital in the city of Jammu, responded to queries. Mr Spalbar said: “I have written to the state government asking them to send planes for air drops. I have not yet received a response.”

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam