Sustainable Development in the Himalaya: Turtuk, Ladakh, India. October 26-28, 2018
By Saqar ' M Al Zaabi, on 31 May 2019
Post written by Bindra Thusu
UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), UCL Humanitarian Institute and Institute of Energy Research and Training (IERT), Department of Geology, University of Jammu in India have been engaged since 2016 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals initiative showcasing collaborative research and outreach activities between the United Kingdom and India. Turtuk, a remote township in Ladakh, has been the focus of such engagement between IRDR-IERT research teams since July 2017.
Several workshops on flash floods in high altitude areas, safer schools and hospitals and a student outreach programme on Risk and Disaster reduction were conducted in Turtuk Town in July 2017. One of the flagship workshops focussed on developing a roadmap for safer and sustainable Turtuk Township, which would serve as a working model for sustainable development in a disaster prone part of Himalaya. The active participation of the local community residents with the IRDR-IERT research teams in the workshop was a landmark achievement resulting in the generation of a robust dataset which is now in the final stages of compilation at UCL for publication and dissemination to the workshop participants and residents in Turtuk.
The purpose of the October 2018 visit was twofold. Firstly, to appraise Turtuk workshop participants on the progress made in connection with the report on Turtuk Township model for safe and sustainable development and secondly, to donate medical supplies for patient care in the local hospital.
A formal meeting with the workshop delegates and local Namardars (local community leaders) took place on 27th October. A summary progress report was presented and discussed. The concern of the community representatives was that Turtuk is a remote and isolated township that received little attention from the state administration outside the Nubra Valley and that the onus lies on the community members to follow the guidelines recommended for project implementation. Isolation from Leh and the outside world for 4-5 months in a year adds to the challenges for the community for developing schemes for safe and sustainable development.
A collective suggestion was made to conduct a follow-up workshop in early July 2019 with the participation of workshop delegates from the 2017 session. The workshop would aim to present and discuss the proposed Turtuk Model and propose a workable road map for implementation and identify challenges for success. Namardars and the 2017 Turtuk workshop participants agreed to send a formal invitation letter to all stakeholders for participation in the workshop.
The much needed wheel chairs for patient mobility were presented to the hospital on behalf of IRDR/IERT and the Aash Foundation, an officially registered NGO in the Jammu and Kashmir State. The request for wheel chairs and the other medical items was made during 2017 visit.
It is pertinent to mention that in all isolated villages and towns in India, it is quite customary to receive requests for genuine medical needs or items related to medical and emergencies related to natural disasters. Many of these requests fall within the category of risk reduction in medical and other emergencies. In this regard the medical staff at Turtuk mentioned the lack of equipment for uric acid analysis, hydraulically controlled delivery table in the maternity ward and a dental chair with scaling and X-ray unit. Raised Uric Acid levels are common in Turtuk residents, especially in winter months when consumption of meat remains high due to non-availability of fresh produce. The nearest laboratory for blood analysis is in Diskit, which is about 120 Km from Turtuk and the road to Diskit is often blocked for travel due to frequent landslides in winter months.
Although attention on the above-mentioned issues are not directly related to our research mission or project purpose, it is difficult to separate the two. In an earlier workshop conducted by NERC on 4-5 September 2017 in London on Sustainable Development Goals Interactions, the role of NGOs was highlighted for the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Based on our engagement in Turtuk , the role of NGOs should be embedded with the high quality research that GCRF is expecting from academia. A charitable agency (NGO) from the UK with presence in India would be a desirable addition with the Turtuk project team from the very start of the current engagement. The NGO delegate would then have been better placed to handle assistance requests made to us for the patient care in the local hospital.
Namardars and workshop delegates expressed their appreciation and look forward to further interaction with the IRDR/IERT teams in 2019.
To address the aspirations of the Turtuk community for a follow-up workshop and outreach activities programme IRDR/IERT teams will be back in Turuk in July 2019.