When screened at UN Cop 21 Paris, Jungwa: The Broken Balance, directed by Stanzin Dorjai Gya and Christiane Mordelet, not only won viewers’ accolades but more importantly made them sit up and think hard. “Everybody was surprised. Appreciating the film, the audience became very emotional and were curious to know more,” recalls Stanzin.
Hardly surprising because shot without any deliberate attempt to showcase cinematic frills, the simple tale documents the suffering of Ladakhis because of mudslides in 2010 and its aftermath bringing into sharp focus the global climate change and its effect on the region. Stanzin uses the archival footage with a telling effect. “The scale of devastation and loss of lives compelled me to make ‘Jungwa….” The film’s title is derived from the Buddhist concept of harmonious living with nature and other beings. Highlighting this ancient wisdom, priest Thupstan Paldan, shows paintings dating back to 1000 years which reflect the harmony between different elements of nature. Using it, the directors seem to drive home the point that environmental conservation is not a new but is as old as human civilisation itself.
The desert and barren mountains of Ladakh representing a fragile ecosystem is profoundly affected by global warming leading to retreating glaciers, reduced snowfall and loss of green cover. This makes life tough for the residents . With the help of weather data from 1973 to 2008, Tundup Angmo, a climatology expert, reveals that temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees while snowfall decreased by 50 per cent with mudslides becoming more frequent .
Higher incidence of mudslides is one aspect of the problem confronting Ladakhis as they face lack of fresh water for drinking and irrigation and pastures are diminishing. Several shepherds voice their concern. “In the past we produced enough for the family but now it does not suffice one person,” says Tsering Morup Sasoma. Phuntsok Tsering adds that snow no longer falls when needed.
For me, besides the environmental condition of the area, the film convincingly conveyed Ladakhis’ implicit faith in the Almighty and their resilience. Ascribing their hardships to bad karma they join hands helping and comforting each other. Praying for the dead and forgiveness, a large secular congregation with lit candles gathered a week after the 2010 tragedy. Similarly, during the first holy month of the Tibetan calendar, droves of faithful – men, women, children, old and young alike – pray and prostrate in heavy snowfall for the departed souls hoping the living to lead a life of love and compassion.
Do not misconstrue it as fatalism as the inhabitants are striving hard to adapt to the changing scenario. Efforts are on to harness the solar energy for electrification and cooking to cut down on fossil fuel emission. Similarly to meet water scarcity in summer reservoirs are built for storing water during winters. “We cannot go against nature as everything is interdependent and interconnected. I think the success of these measures should serve as an example for others to follows,” comments Stanzin, hoping that instead of copying the West people will choose an alternative way of development which is sustainable. “We need to take responsibility for the benefits we enjoy. The need of the hour is to take the middle course to develop and modernise without harming nature and environment.”
Hope it doesn’t remain a forlorn voice hoping for restoration of Jungwa.