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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape