Climate change the villain for late cherry blossoms


From CK Nayak

NEW DELHI: In this season of elections in Meghalaya, cherry blossoms bloomed late leading to controversies over the state government’s much hyped festival and leaving Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, whose brainchild was the celebrations, red-faced.
But the question remains why did the blossoms come late?
The late blooms can be a warning signal for climate change that is taking place at a faster rate.
“Cherry blossom flowering has now emerged as an indicator for climate change in India, especially in North East,” said Dr Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of Imphal-based Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), which pioneered this year’s festival, on Monday.
According to Sahoo, the mass flowering time has been substantially delayed in the state. The bud bursting of cherry blossom usually happens during the first week of November.
But this year it has started at the end of the second week as the chilling factor was missing, Sahoo said. This is happening not only in Meghalaya but also in other growing areas, like Manipur and Nagaland, too as winter is late.
Reports at the recently concluded climate conference at Bonn said both the abode of snows (Himalayas) and the abode of clouds (Meghalaya) will see a rising temperature projected to be over one degree between 2021 and 2050, which will be higher than the global average.
The average global temperature from January to September this year was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era, it noted. While mountain communities are the worst hit, the impact is also being felt in other regions and similar projections have been made for other states in the Indian Himalayan region, the report had said.
Taking a cue from Meghalaya, the first Manipur Cherry Blossom Festival was supposed to be organised on November 16-18. But because of late flowering, the festival will be held from November 25. “The cherry story is the same in other parts of the North East and the Himalayan region,” Sahoo said.
In India, cherry blossom is an attraction in the Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim and Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, the northern districts of West Bengal, besides the North East.
Temple towns like Kalpa, Sarahan, Chitkul, Sangla and Narkanda are notable for their wild cherry blossom during spring covering Himalayan foothills.
But in contrast, in Japan, especially in Tokyo that is famous for the beautiful flowers, the cherry blossom timing is getting preponed to March, that is towards more winter timing. “This again is for the climate change,” Sahoo said.
“Despite the late budding of the flowers this year, the India International Cherry Blossom Festival saw a tourist turnout of more than 1 lakh people and making a business turnover of more than 200-300% at different levels,” Sahoo said.
“As a student of climate change I think the late cherry blossom flowering has given us enough hints and warning for climate change. This unique bio-resource has come out as a common man climate change indicator,” he added.