Leh (Ladakh) [India], Februray 1 (ANI): Thousands of people from all over Ladakh joined education reformist and innovator Sonam Wangchuk in support as he completed his five-day hunger strike demanding the inclusion of the Union Territory (UT) in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
A video on the reformist's private YouTube channel showed scores of locals joining his protest site.
Wangchuk, whose remarkable life story inspired the blockbuster '3 Idiots', has, on his personal Twitter handle, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the safety and protection of Ladakh, citing studies that have forewarned the extinction of nearly two-thirds of the glaciers in the Union Territory.
"FINALLY, MY ClimateFast ENDS... It was to SaveLadakh under SixthShedule. I was joined by 100s of people in prayers, from all over Ladakh in snowy polar conditions," tweeted Wangchuk.
Wangchuk sat on a hunger strike to draw the attention of the central government and the world to the environmental hazards that the UT was faced with, and seek safeguards for an eco-fragile Ladakh.
"ALL IS NOT WELL in Ladakh! In my latest video, I appeal to @narendramodi ji to intervene and give safeguards to eco-fragile Ladakh. To draw the attention of Govt and the world I plan to sit on a 5-day ClimateFast from 26 Jan at Khardungla pass at 18000ft -40C," tweeted Wangchuk.
Speaking to ANI on Sunday, Wangchuk said if the authorities concerned continue to turn a blind eye to the needs of Ladakh and if the UT isn't provided protection and safeguards from industries, the glaciers there will be extinct, leading to enormous water scarcity and other hazards for the country and its neighbourhood.
"If necessary measures are not taken, industries, tourism, and commerce will continue to flourish in Ladakh and will eventually ruin it. According to recent studies from Kashmir University and other research organisations, Ladakh may lose two-thirds of its glaciers if they are not properly taken care of. A study by Kashmir University has found that the glaciers surrounded by highways and human activities are melting at an alarming rate," Wangchuk said.
"Global warming due to America and Europe alone is not responsible for this climate change. Localised pollution and emissions are equally responsible for it. In areas like Ladakh, there should be minimal human activities so that there is no harm to the glaciers," he added.
Stressing the need for the adoption of sustainable development, the engineer-turned-education reformer appealed to Prime Minister Modi to ensure the protection of Ladakh and other Himalayan regions from 'industrial exploitation'. It will help safeguard the lives and employment of the people, he added.
"It is my appeal to PM Modi to provide protection to Ladakh and other Himalayan regions from this industrial exploitation, as it will impact and safeguard the lives and jobs of the people. However, I believe that besides the government, the people should also be equally concerned about climate change and look for measures to mitigate it," he said, emphasizing on the need to adapt to a sustainable mode of living, ensuring that resources, while being used to meet the development goals, are alsopreserved for the coming generations.
He also urged children to avoid wastage of food and clothes as it harms the environment in the long run.
In a 13-minute long video shared by Wangchuk on his YouTube channel, he 'urgently' appealed to his countrymen and the world to help protect the 'environmentally sensitive' region of Ladakh. He has also urged PM Modi to intervene and safeguard the ecosystem of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
"This is an urgent appeal from Sonam Wangchuk in Ladakh (in the Indian Himalayas) to the people of India and the world to help protect the environmentally sensitive region of Ladakh. He appeals to the Prime Minister of India to intervene and safeguard this fragile ecosystem under the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution," read the description column for his Youtube video.
Born in 1966, Wangchuk, a mechanical engineer and director of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL), was a recipient of the Magsaysay Award in 2018.
Wangchuk inspired the fictional character of Phunsukh Wangdu essayed by Aamir Khan in '3 Idiots', which released in 2009.
The Ladakh-based engineer is known for setting up his innovative school, the Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), whose campus runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting, or heating.
He set up the SECMOL in 1988 with the aim of supporting Ladakhi children and youth and training the students whom the system termed as failures.
In 1994, Wangchuk launched Operation New Hope to bring reforms to the government school system. (ANI)