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Mapping Knowledge Systems in Changthang:
Studying Socio-Economic, Cultural, Ecological Landscape and Impacts of Change

September 2019 – September 2021

Changthang has historically been a complex natural, cultural and economic landscape. Over several generations, the Changpas have developed an intricate body of traditional knowledge systems that have enabled them to live here, manage resources and negotiate the unpredictability of the climate. This project mapped the Changpas local knowledge systems with an emphasis on their socio-economic, cultural and environmental landscape, and documented the impact of change on their lives and the Changthang. It covered all four administrative blocks: Nyoma, Durbuk, Rupsho [Rupshu] and Rong-Chumathang, as well as Gya-Miru. The project methodology involved the use of extensive questionnaires, field-based interviews and participatory research, and looked at existing literature.

As Changthang receives greater emphasis and the pace of change is accelerating, it becomes imperative to understand the local knowledge systems at play here and their importance to the context of the region. The research and documentation carried out for this project showed that it has become urgent to study the ecological and cultural forces in the area as well as the economic and developmental ones, along with the changes taking place in the area and the impact of these on the environment and the lives of the people who reside here. And that any implementation strategies made here should make relevant interventions in the lives of all stakeholders living in these areas, as well as for the continued sustainability of Changthang and Gya-Miru. Most will need careful consideration as well as further exploration with stakeholders, administrative agencies working in Changthang, and the government of Ladakh. Eventually, it is hoped that together they will make life on the Changthang more sustainable both for its residents and the landscape they inhabit.

The project is supported by the United Nations Development Programme.

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