From 1 – 31 October 2022, Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, a well-known filmmaker, actor and climate activist in Bhutan, cycled from Pemagatshel in eastern Bhutan to Thimphu in the west. With his campaign, he wants to contribute to a greater awareness of the effects of climate change in Bhutan and call for the protection of the country’s environment and cultural assets. On his tour through 14 districts of Bhutan, he stopped at schools and colleges to also talk about how everyone can contribute to responsible, climate-sensitive action. The Friends of Bhutan Association supported the climate campaign financially together with the Swiss Bhutan Society and the German Bhutan Himalaya Society.
Travelling with water from the glacial lake
Jamyang’s climate tour started in Lunana, at 4,428 m above sea level, at the glacier lake Lake Thorthomi. There, he filled a used plastic bottle found along the way with the water from the glacial lake and carried it with him throughout his tour as a symbol of the dangers of climate change. The glaciers in northern Bhutan retreat by about 30 m every year due to rising temperatures. The melting of the glaciers is one of the biggest dangers. When the water level of the glacial lakes rises and the moraine dams break, debris and water rush into the valleys where much of Bhutan’s population lives.
Bhutan’s climate challenges
Bhutan is located in the fragile ecosystem of the Eastern Himalayas…. Climate change poses not only an environmental challenge to the country, but a threat to the country’s overall sustainable development. Bhutan’s development is largely dependent on climate-sensitive sectors: agriculture, hydropower and forestry.
Extreme weather conditions can already be observed; on the one hand, water sources dry up, but in summer, heavy rainfall increases, which the soil cannot absorb. Flash floods and landslides are the result. And although Bhutan’s forests still absorb more CO2 than is emitted in the country, Bhutan also has a responsibility to ensure that this positive climate balance is not reversed.
After all, Bhutan’s society also engages in climate-damaging behaviour. The increasing import of fossil-fuelled vehicles, the increasing sealing of land in the cities, the destruction of biodiversity through large hydropower projects, the enormous growth of waste and the unresolved problem of its disposal, the waste of energy and the lack of energy efficiency in the construction sector are just a few areas where Bhutan has a lot of catching up to do in terms of climate-conscious action.
The three key messages
- Prevent deforestation, plant trees, reforest old forests
- Rapidly switch to renewable energy
- Introduce climate education in the school curriculum
With the campaign, Jamyang aims to motivate young people and adults to actively participate in environmental and climate protection measures. This is the only way Bhutan can maintain and consolidate its status as a CO2 neutral country.
14 stations – 14 short documentaries
Jamyang was accompanied by a small film crew in an electric car. Apart from his visits to schools, each of his 14 stops was filmed on a climate-relevant topic. For example, about a witness to the glacial lake outburst in Punakha in 1994, about the Yak herders’ experiences with climate change in Haa and about the first wind mill and the solar farm in Wangdue. One episode will also be dedicated to the waste problem in Thimphu. The footage will be used to produce 14 short documentaries as well as an overall documentary of the climate tour.
The filmmaker and climate activist
Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk is a well-known actor and director in Bhutan. He became known in 1997 at a young age in the role of the young Dalai Lama in the film “Seven Years in Tibet”. After his training at the Busan Asian Film School in South Korea, he also became known in Bhutan with his own feature films. Jamyang was a guest in Austria in 2014 on the occasion of the Bhutan Film Festival with his feature film “Gyalsey: Legacy of a Prince”.
Project name: The Messenger. Ride for Action
Funding: Friends of Bhutan Austria 3.000 Euro (thereof 2.000 Euro PaN project support)
Project partner: Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk
Project duration: 1. Oktober – 31. Oktober 2022
Thematic focus: Climate Change
SDG Tracker: SDG 13 Climate Action