Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Bhutan has forests covering 70 percent of its land, which absorb nearly three times more climate-changing emissions than it produces in a year.

Twenty-nine runners have set off on a rare high-altitude race in Bhutan to highlight the dangers of climate change to the Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters.

Bhutan, roughly the size of Switzerland, has forests covering 70 percent of its land, which absorb nearly three times more climate-changing emissions than the country produces a year.

“The race is designed to raise awareness about climate change and its risks to our economy and the livelihood of the people,” Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji told Reuters news agency on Thursday by telephone after flagging off the race in the northwestern town of Gasa.

Organisers said the runners would take five days to complete the 203km (126 miles) Snowman Race from Gasa to the northeastern town of Chamkhar along a trail that normally takes trekkers up to 20 days.

South Asia’s only carbon-negative country, with a population of fewer than 800,000 people, is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which is speeding up the melting of its glaciers and causing floods and unpredictable weather patterns.

Pakistan, at the western end of the Himalayas, has this year been hit by unprecedented flooding caused by unusually heavy rain and faster run-off from its glaciers. Its government and the United Nations have blamed climate change.

The racers from 11 countries, including the United States, Germany, Japan, Tanzania and Bhutan, will run at an average altitude of 4,500 metres (14,800 feet), with a high point of 5,470 metres (17,946 feet).

The route will take them through diverse terrain from sub-tropical jungles to fragile, high-altitude ecosystems, with diverse flora and fauna, as well as people and cultures.

“I’ve probably completed maybe around 30 ultramarathons, but never like this,” American runner Sarah Keyes told the state-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service.

“It will be somewhat of an unknown going to that high of an altitude, but I do feel good overall, physically,” Keyes said.

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By Joy

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