Some 150,000 rare Himalayan goats that provide fine wool for Kashmir's famous Pashmina shawls are facing death because of heavy snow in Changthang, the land of nomads on Indo-Chinese border, this winter.
The goats' pastures, spread over the mountains of the Changthang area of the Ladakh region, have been covered by unusually deep snow and farmers are fast running out of fodder.
Severe chilly conditions have reduced the mortality rate of goat babies to 4 to 5 per cent. The grasslands are covered by snow and the mountain grazing has become impossible.
The government has rushed survey teams and fodder supplies to save the species, which produces expensive wool. “More than 100 quintals of fodder was supplied on Wednesday itself and more is being sent,” Minister for Sheep and Animal Husbandry Taj-Mohi-ud-Din said.
“The severe chill has resulted in higher mortality rate this year,” confirmed Tsering Punchok, District Animal and Sheep Husbandry officer, Leh.
The problem of fodder shortage is acute in Korzok and Kharnak areas, where nomads rear 36,000 of Pashmina goats.
“We have taken note of the problem. The state government has rushed the fodder from its farms to the nomads rearing the animals in Korzok and other places in Changthang area. More than 100 quintals of fodder has been dispatched,” Taj said.
The Animal and Sheep Husbandry department has its own farms in Changthang and Nubra areas in Ladakh.
“It is from there that we have rushed the supplies to help the farmers. We will be sending more as and when required,” the minister said. Another 600 quintals of fodder and feed would be sent in the next three days, he added.
“Though it is the duty of the farmers to keep sufficient stocks which lasts the whole winter, in view of the extraordinary situation caused by heavy snowfall, we have responded to the situation,” Taj said while taking stock of the situation.
“It is the highest snowfall in decades in Changthang,” Deputy Commissioner, Leh, MK Bhandari told the Hindustan Times by phone. Changthang is a cold desert area at the height of 14,600 feet above sea level, it does not experience snowfall because there is hardly any precipitation. “But this time there is more than two feet of snow,” he added.
Ladakh produces 30,000 kg of Pashmina every year and each goat on an average produces 250 grams of the precious wool.