More than half of the 16 families in Samjung and 22 families in Gheya village of Upper Mustang have migrated elsewhere because of climate change, said Bishnu Sharma, a journalist who has been conducting research in the region.
The village springs have dried out and grass has stopped growing in the grazing lands. Consequently, agriculture and livestock rearing have suffered. The villagers complain that with their main sources of livelihood in jeopardy, they had no option but to leave.
Kami Gurung of Gheya village had to descend to Jomsom after he was unable to grow buckwheat and potatoes in his fields. "After all this, staying back in the village is like waiting for death," he said.
With the rise in temperature, previously unheard of diseases are being reported in Upper Mustang. According to Narendra Lama, head of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, Lo Manthang, migration has been reported mainly from settlements above 3000 metres above sea level.
Niwa Gurung, an inhabitant of Upper Mustang, said that the government did not respond to their plea to move the village. Claiming that their village was no longer habitable, the locals had demanded that Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal relocate them when he visited Upper Mustang a year ago. The government promised a relief package, but nothing has been done so far.
Upper Mustang has a cold climate and arid topography. It receives less than 180 millilitres of rain annually. Since last year, meteorologists say, this has decreased to 150 millilitres.
The locals are concerned that even with the displacement of an entire village's inhabitants, the government remains unperturbed.