Komik(Himachal Pradesh): With a backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas stretched out across a vibrant blue sky, it is hard to dispute the sign as you enter Komik that declares it to be the world’s highest village with a road.
Others also boast the title – from Nepal’s Dho Tarap to Bolivia’s Santa Barbara. But at 4,587 metres (15,050 feet), this remote Buddhist hamlet near India’s border with Tibet is no doubt among the planet’s topmost motorable human settlements.
The region is a cold trans-Himalayan desert cut off from the rest of India for six months of the year when snowfall blocks mountain passes. Phone and internet connectivity is almost non-existent. Schools and clinics are a tough trek away.
But Spiti’s some 12,000 inhabitants, who eke out a living farming green peas and barley, have a much bigger concern: their main sources of water – streams, rivers, ponds – are drying up.
Decades of over-extraction of ground water, wasteful and inefficient irrigation practices, pollution of surface water like lakes and rivers, and erratic weather patterns attributed to climate change, have left many parts of the country thirsty.