Nepal’s historic buildings are under threat from climate change

In a 2012 article for The New York Times, journalist Edward Wong described the Nepalese district of Mustang as “a cauldron of myths”. Wong observed that “the stories people told had changed little over the centuries” and noted “the deep ravines, the biting wind, and the ancient cave houses” he saw in the area. The Mustang district is located in the northern part of Nepal, and Upper Mustang has only been open to foreign visitors since 1992. There is, to say the least, a lot of history to be found there.

And now, as with so many things, climate change has put some of it at risk.

Writing to Atlas Obscura, Tulsi Rauniyar documented the style of architecture found in the area and the threats it currently faces. A number of Buddhist monasteries in the region, which have existed for centuries, were built using adobe techniques. This style of building is exactly what its name suggests; it is considered highly durable and has also been used for thousands of years.

This is one of the benefits of rammed earth buildings – they are made with a technique that has worked for countless generations. The downside, however, has to do with the climate. If a region’s climate begins to experience rapid changes, buildings that have stood for centuries may begin to falter. And that’s exactly what many Mustang District residents are seeing when it comes to where they live and work.

Rauniyar writes that the Mustang district is experiencing higher temperatures and damaging rainfall, both of which have adverse effects on local structures. To complicate matters further, the use of cement to replace rammed earth buildings, given that it is also not an optimal building material for the regional climate. It’s a difficult situation with few easy answers.

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