This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by vishal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Climate Change: The Death Of Himalayan Butterflies Will Lead To Food Shortage

More from vishal

WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Climate change and the increasing average temperature of the earth are continuously impacting the Himalayan region of India. Now, even the butterflies of this region are also affected by it. The rising average temperature in the Himalayan region has forced about 18 species of butterflies living on the mountains to go to higher altitudes. There is a difference of more than 1,000 meters between their current and previously recorded average place elevation.

Climate change in the Himalayan regions are forcing butterflies to seek higher altitudes.

Seven species are now living more than 2,000 meters higher compared to the previous location. These include the Trachea Eriplinae (Noctuidae), Actias Windbrechlini (Saturniidae), and Diphtherosome Fasciata (Noctuidae) of insect species with elevations of 2,800 meters, 2,684 meters, and 2,280 meters, respectively.

Tailless Bushblue butterflies were earlier found at an altitude of 2,500 meters while now they are found at an altitude of 3,577 meters at the Ascot Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand. Indian Red Admiral Butterfly was found at 3,900 meters till now in Ladakh, now it is being found at 4,853 meters. During the research, 484 species of butterflies have been reported to change habitat in all major Indian Himalayan regions such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Why Are Butterflies Changing Their Habitat?

Butterflies are considered environmental indicators. It means that if they chose to use their habitat in the lower places, then the climate of that place is favorable to them and the air is clean and the temperature is good for them. When I asked the biologist of Delhi Biodiversity Park, Dr. Faiyaaz Mudassar about this, he told me that petrol contains heavy metals and when vehicles are moving, there is heavy metal pollution. They accumulate on the stems of nectar-bearing plants producing heavy metal juices and cause heavy damage to them. It has a direct effect on the number of butterflies because they depend on those plants.

Dr. Fayaaz says that India has been suffering from climate change for a long time and now its effect has reached the Himalayan regions of the country. Haze & Smoke are (Haze is a reduction of transparency of a clear gas or liquid while Smoke is the visible vapor, gases, and fine particles given off by burning or smoldering material) fatal for butterflies and whenever there is haze and smoke, the time of development of larvae increases. The death rate of caterpillars also increases so the healthy butterflies do not flourish.

Referring to the complete lockdown of last year, Dr. Fayyaz said that there were quite positive results due to the reduction of smoke and haze. During that time the impact of climate change had reduced to a great extent. Blue Jay, Blue Moorman, South Birdwing, Tree Nymph, and Andaman Crow which were not seen also started appearing at that time.

As earlier mentioned, butterflies are environmental indicators and are helpful in pollination (the act of transferring essential elements from plant to plant). As much lower the temperature of their habitat, the easier the process of pollination will take place. The above process is directly affected by climate change in the Himalayan region.

 Food Chain Effect: Food Will Be Finished!

Butterflies act as ‘coordinators’ of the food chain, having an important role in pollination. But, butterflies are constantly shifting their habitat at higher altitudes. When I asked about it, Dr. Ayesha Sultana, a scientist working on butterflies in Aravali Biodiversity Park, said that butterflies are even more important than tigers for the environment. They have an important contribution in advancing the trees, and plants. If there will be no butterflies, then within five years the food from nature will cease to exist. Because butterflies make food chains. They form such a foundation for the whole nature so that the whole food chain evolves around that.

Dr. Sultana says that even with the legal angle, the first schedule of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, made for the protection of wildlife, mentions many such species of butterflies which are in danger today. Species such as Blue Mormon, Danned Egg Fly, Great Egg Fly, Black Raja are a few which are listed under the category of ‘Critically Endangered’.

Butterflies are important in many natural activities. Butterflies are more useful than bees in the pollination of plants. Bees pollinate only a few plants while butterflies are attracted to many host plants such as Rand, Grapes, Lemon, Nectar plant, plants like Putus, Ixora, Marigold.

 Potential Solutions: At The Personal And Professional level

Biodiversity is an important factor for the protection of butterflies whose five pillars are – crops, trees, animals, micro-organisms, and birds. They all contribute to farming and are important parts of nature. The more diversity there is, the more fertile power of the land grows. It is mandatory to cover all the points of the food chain.

Dr. Jagbir, Zoologist

Dr. Jagbir Singh is an expert on zoology and has researched butterflies for the last 35 years.

Dr. Jagbir Singh, Retd. dean of the Department of Zoology, Punjabi University, who has researched butterflies for the past 35 years and published more than 300 research papers on them, said that “I have experienced over the years that due to the rising temperatures, species of butterflies found in the lower Himalayan regions are now being found even in areas like Bharmour and Dalhousie. The butterflies are ectothermic ie cold-blooded and their habitat is determined by the ambient temperature. That’s why butterflies are effecting by climate change consequences and if we have to stop it, forest cover will have to be increased in our Himalayan states at any cost.

Habitat change of butterflies will also have disastrous consequences”. If the range expansion (the process of changing habitat) continues in this proportion, change in flowering season will occur in all areas of the Himalayan region. These changes will ruin the entire food chain and cause food loss,” added Dr. Jagbir.

Many Himalayan areas are also beginning to undergo worrisome changes. The Forest Department of Uttarakhand has found in a survey that 4 major plants of the state are growing 4 months ahead of the season. These include the state fruit of Uttarakhand, Kaafal (Saussurea Obvallata).

 What Are Possible Solutions?

When I spoke to Ankit Ranjan Pathak working for butterfly conservation, he gave some suggestions which are as follows –

  1. Butterflies are pests, so the use of pesticides within the periphery of their dense habitat should be banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, there is a risk of death and extinction due to the use of pesticides.
  2. Plantation of wild plant and flower colored plants should be encouraged, as compared to hybrid plants, it attracts butterflies at one place in the group.
  3. Do not try to clean it if there are insects on the leaves of the plants, these may be the initial form of butterflies to be caterpillars.
  4. We should be careful about the maintenance of plants. Often the pupa of invisible butterflies is destroyed during pruning.

Vishal produced this story under a fellowship supported by TERI and Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

Feature Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

You must be to comment.

More from vishal

Similar Posts

By Satyaprakash

By Amar Saeed

By Ilma Mujeeb

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below