Leh is the one of the two capitals of the Union Territory of Ladakh, located in the upper north of India. Around 31,000 people live in this city, and the territory is disputed between India, Pakistan, and China. Many inhabitants of Leh are ethnic Tibetan, and, as they try to make a life for themselves in exile, they also face climate change. Children are most vulnerable to these difficult living conditions.
Since 1975, Tibetan Children’s Villages (an independent charity which is partly supported through SOS Children’s Villages sponsorships) has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Leh-Ladakh.
Leh is located in the montainous Himalayas. In the last forty years, there has been an average temperature increase of 3°C, causing less snowfall and faster melting. The excessive glacier melt in the area influences 80% of farmers in the region. The water of the glacier is their primary source of water, which they use for irrigation. Furthermore, the melting of the glaciers creates floods, which has devastating consequences for people in the city, destroying hundreds of lives and homes. In one of those floods, in 2010, around 300 people were killed. Children are especially vulnerable to these floods, having to survive in the chaos that follows.
After the first emigration in 1959, two generations of Tibetans have been born and raised in exile in India today. In addition, new refugees continue to arrive from Tibet, the autonomous region of China. They have often suffered repression and brutality, which led them to flee to India. The scars of these experiences remain. About 6,700 Tibetan refugees live in exile in Leh. Dharamsala is the seat of the Central Tibetan Administration and the 14th Dalai Lama. Many Tibetan children are sent to Dharamsala by their parents because they see it as the only opportunity for their child to receive a Tibetan education.