By Tenzin Sangmo
Local Futures' Global-to-Local’ Workshop for Operation Groundswell in Ladakh, July 2018. Photo courtesy- localfutures.org
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 19: The International Economics of Happiness Conference is set to take place in Ladakh on from September 20 to 21 as the region gears to meet the challenges of more development to come with its Union Territory status.
Local Futures, the non-profit organization behind the conference, had been working in Ladakh since 1978 with ‘The Ladakh Project’ to provide a much-needed counterbalance to the one-sided, romanticized picture of “western life” spread by the media, advertising and tourism.
The conference organized in partnership with Julay Ladakh, the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies(CIBS), the Himalayan Film House and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council(LAHDC) is set to explore different strategies to counter the onslaught of the corporate-led global economy in India and abroad.
“There will be a strong focus on pinpointing strategies that can strengthen and renew Ladakh´s local economy and food systems, and address some of Ladakh´s problems of climate, waste, health, traditional farming systems and the increased dependence on imported industrial foods.
Since the region opened for the outside world in 1974, the tourists' footfall increased from 500 in the initial year to 3,20000 in 2018.
Ladakh, receiving only about 100 mm rainfall is dependent on melting glacier for water and is experiencing the depletion of groundwater due to widespread constructions of submersible pumps to meet the increased need for water.
Each tourist in Ladakh consumes an estimate of 75 litres per day against 21 litres by locals. The use of flash toilets in place of the traditional compost toilets is a major cause of water depletion.
The local food industry has also suffered with over 400 guest houses, as per 2013 survey, and innumerable restaurants selling Non-Ladakhi foods leading to the fall in demand for organic local produce.
The unbridled use of packaged consumer goods and bottled water have caused unprecedented mounds of garbage that the region is not equipped to recycle or treat.
The conference seeks to educate and equip the local people and key actors to seek a balance as the development continues to pick pace in the region.
Local Futures launched its 68-minute film ‘The Economics of Happiness’ in 2011 and had hosted the eponymous conference 20 times across the globe in the last eight years.
The non-profit with headquarters in the US and the UK collaborates extensively with Ladakhi indigenous organizations like the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG), the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, the Amchi Association, and the Ladakh Environment and Health Organisation (LEHO).