Buddhist prayer flags are strong in the snow-covered Changthang plateau. (Jayanta Roy) The road to Changthang before reaching snowy areas: At a height of 4,000 to 5,000 meters, it is one of the most remote places on the Indian subcontinent. (Jayanta Roy)
Photographer Jayanta Roy was first inspired to pick up a camera as a teenager after he became interested in nature. Although he didn’t become serious about photography until around 2006, it was a visit to the Himalayas in 1999 that sparked an intensity that grew into a full-fledged obsession. Roy told In Sight that during that first visit, he became spellbound by the magnificent beauty and might of the mountain range. He has been photographing in the region ever since.
Roy’s obsession with nature and the Himalayas eventually led him to his current project, “Silent loneliness of Changthang,” about the Changthang plateau in Ladakh, India. The area is part of the vast Tibetan Plateau, sometimes referred to as the “roof of the world.”
Roy told In Sight that the project is “an exploration of India’s last wildness, located in Ladakh’s Changthang plateau . . . a high altitude desert at 14,000 feet, cold, dry and lonely.” The area is uninhabited by people, only populated by a few high-altitude animals and birds. Although tourists visit the area in the summer, Roy chose to pursue his project during the unforgivable winter months to “capture the silence” of the place.
“I have been visiting the Himalayan region for many years, and I feel that this region is most vulnerable and fragile to global warming,” Roy said. “I chose Changthang, as this region is the origin of many important rivers, which are the main source of water for the vast north Indian subcontinent . . . which is home to a billion people. India is already one of the biggest polluters in the world; massive carbon emissions generated from the growing economy have dangerous effects on the eco systems of this region.”
Roy told In Sight that the Indian government recently made plans to build railway lines to Ladakh from Delhi, which will bring more infrastructure, tourists and pollution that potentially could lead to ecological disaster. With this photo project, Roy hopes to show people “what is at stake and what we need to protect.”
On the vast plains that rise 5,000 meters above sea level, silence is a constant companion. (Jayanta Roy) Changthang plateau (Jayanta Roy) After China took over Tibet, many Tibetans permanently settled in the Ladakh region. Here is a Buddhist religious site in a remote location inside Changthang. (Jayanta Roy) As a high-altitude desert, the area has very little vegetation. A tree is a rare sight. (Jayanta Roy) On the road to Changthang, which is covered with snow for seven months of the year. (Jayanta Roy) Shyok River — “Shyok” means “The River of Death.” It is one of the main rivers of Ladakh, flowing through India and Pakistan. (Jayanta Roy) Near Tso Moriri, which, at a height of 4,500 meters, is one of the largest of the high-altitude lakes and a major source of water in Ladakh. Tso means lake in Tibetan. (Jayanta Roy) Ladakh lies on a side of the Himalayas that sees little rain. Thus, the barren landscape. (Jayanta Roy) During winter it is possible to drive cars over the frozen Tso Moriri. But in the last few years the lake ice has become less dense and more fragile due to global warming. (Jayanta Roy) The heavy influx of tourists in the Ladakh region has dramatically increased pollution in the area in the last decade. Plastic is becoming a common site in very remote places. (Jayanta Roy) Utility poles carrying electricity dot the snow-covered fields. (Jayanta Roy) The natural ecosystem of the Ladakh wilderness is threatened by climate change. (Jayanta Roy) An abandoned tube well juts out from the snow. Drinking water is scarce in the remoteness of Changthang, and sometimes the nearest village is many miles away. (Jayanta Roy) A frozen creek carves the barren land. (Jayanta Roy) In peak winter, Tso Moriri is frozen, and temperatures near the lake become unbearably cold. (Jayanta Roy) The region is a major collision point between India, Pakistan and China. The Indian government has made plans to build railway lines to Ladakh from Delhi, which will likely bring more infrastructure, tourists and pollution. (Jayanta Roy)
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