Residents of Lete Kalopani in Thasang Rural Municipality-3 of Mustang district organized a ‘snow puja’ at the nearby Salankuna forest this week, praying for snowfall. The village chief, Rabindra Tulachan, organized the event as the region is deprived of snow even at peak winter. Winter snow is essential for Mustang farmers. With no snowfall this season, the farmers are worried about their winter corps.
Farmers of apple, potato, bearberry, zucchini, maize and barley are worried by the delay in snowfall. Village chief Tulachan informs that the ritual was conducted as per the traditional belief pleased Gods send snow. Tulachan adds with concern that there should already have been snowfall in the first week of December. But Mustang is yet to see snow even as January comes to an end.
Narsingh Sherchan, a local, informs that a team of 15 priests from Thasang-3, Kalopani, took part in the ritual in which a white rooster was sacrificed. “As most farmers of Mustang are reliant on agriculture, lack of snowfall is highly concerning for us.”
The hills and mountains surrounding Mustang now wear a barren look. This season, there have been two partial snowfalls in upper Mustang but lower Mustang is yet to see snow. Local farmers are frustrated to see no snow in Gharapzhong, Waragung Muktichhetra and Thasang—the centers of apple production in Mustang. Climate change has depleted water resources in the area, and irrigation is irregular.
Agriculture and tourism are Mustang’s economic backbones. Every year, Mustang farmers produce millions of rupees worth of apples. Experts say the impact of climate change has started showing in high mountainous districts of Nepal. Snowfall in the region has been irregular in the past few years; one season there is heavy snow and the next season, nothing.
Uneven snowfall adversely affects agriculture, water resources, forests and biodiversity.
Mustang’s agriculture-dependent folks have in recent past been adversely affected by delayed monsoon, excessive snowfall followed by drought, all signs of climate change. According to locals, a decade ago, there used to be heavy snowfall in Mustang around January/December. But in recent years, snowfall has been irregular. Sometimes the locals have to pray for the snow to stop but this year, they are praying for some to drop from the high heavens.
During winter, when the ground is cold and damp, the snow that falls across the region seeps into the soil, benefitting agricultural production. Snowfall in favorable weather increases the fertility of the land and helps prevent various diseases that affect crops.