Chewang Motup Goba
WILDLIFE SERVICE AWARD
Chewang Motup Goba
Explorer. Mountaineer. Entrepreneur. Climate change activist.
Photo Courtesy: Motub Goba.
It’s difficult to slot Motup Goba. He grew up on the banks of the Nubra river, in the shadow of the subcontinent’s largest and most troubled glacier – Siachen. Imbued with the spirit of adventure, at 13 he climbed his first mountain and at 19, he badgered his family and friends for funds to climb Mount Everest. He never crested the famed peak, but took to ferrying loads across the perilous Khumbu Ice Fall on support and rescue missions. His raw talent and bravery caught the attention of an army colonel, who in 1986 recruited Motup to be a part of the first team to traverse the not-yet-fully-militarised Siachen glacier. The vast expanse of ice and the stark beauty of Siachen stole Goba’s heart. When he returned to Siachen in 2002, the glacier of his dreams had turned into a nightmare. Militarisation and climate change had wreaked havoc on the pristine ice. The glacier had shrunk dramatically and was strewn with plastic, tins, toxic chemicals and fuel drums.
Spurred by his love for the mountains, Motup became an advocate for sustainability, reaching out to the armed forces and locals without whose help, he says, nothing could hope to be accomplished. To sustain his work, he started an eco-adventure company called Rimo Expeditions and pioneered ‘Leave No Trace’ camping in India. Motup’s team organises clean ups of camping sites, constructs toilets along popular trekking routes, holds medical camps across remote Ladakhi villages and in 2013, they carried down an astounding four tonnes of garbage from Mt. Everest! Rimo Expeditions’ guides collectively rescued hundreds of people when the climate-change-triggered disasters struck first Ladakh, then Uttarakhand and, most recently, Kashmir. Motup’s strategy of empowering local youth through sustainable job opportunities is working. Young Ladakhis are learning to play ice hockey and they participate in the annual Ladakh marathon that he started to draw attention to their fragile land. The slow devastation of Siachen weighs heavily on Motup. He asks for the declaration of Siachen as an International Peace Park, and improbable as it may sound in these days of chest-beating and war drums, he says he and his people will scale that mountain too.
For this, we honour him.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 6, December 2014.