GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) - Tribal people in India’s remote northeast plan to honour former U.S. Vice President Al Gore with an award for promoting awareness on climate change that they say will have a devastating impact on their homeland.
Members of the Khasi tribe in the state of Meghalaya said honouring Gore -- who became a climate crusader after losing a presidential race against George W. Bush -- would help highlight the problems their tiny region faces as a result of global warming.
“We are hoping that the association with Gore would bring global attention to the predicament facing the people of this remote corner of earth,” said Robert Kharshiing, a member of parliament representing the tribals.
The chieftains have invited Gore to their remote village for the award ceremony on Oct 6 where they expect 300,000 local people to attend. The award will consist of some traditional gifts and a “small amount of money”.
A spokeswoman for Gore said he was “very humbled” to hear of the award but did not know whether he would be able to attend the ceremony.
Meghalaya -- meaning ‘Abode of the Clouds’ in Hindi -- is home to the towns of Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, which are credited with being the wettest places in the world due to their high rainfall.
But environmentalists said these areas are now witnessing less rain due to climate change and this was affecting the livelihoods of thousands of villagers who cultivate paddy and maize. Some areas are also facing water shortages.
“Meghalaya will lose the very meaning of its name because of global warming,” said Peter Lyngdoh, a local environmentalist.
Villagers are also concerned that rising sea levels will submerge neighbouring low-lying Bangladesh, resulting in an influx of refugees into Meghalaya -- which has few resources to handle such a situation.
Al Gore’s Oscar winning 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” illustrated the dramatic change to the environment due to human activities.