There are chances one may come across valuables like Maggi wrappers, Pepsi can, empty whiskey bottles, human feces, plastics, old torn muddy underwears and those half used wet-wipes you surely don’t want to come across. And undoubtedly, credits to the ‘adventurous’ city dwellers who do all they can with all their might to keep the Himalayas as ‘clean’ as they could — only if I could be any more sarcastic.
A plastic bag holding chips will be termed as waste once consumed, a pair of socks or shoes that are worn out completely is termed as waste. In short, anything and everything left behind which is taken up there for your personal use is a waste, whether you’re a Trekker or just a tourist.
“A Man is known for what he creates and leaves behind,” believes Pradeep Sangwan, the founder of Healing Himalayas Foundation. And so, remember this golden rule: The most a man should leave behind in the mountains has to be only, and only, footprints!
And also, according to him, the locals need to be equally blamed for the fading of the place’s tranquility.
“With an increase in the number of visitors, the local population got the exposure of the world outside which certainly boosted their financial situation, but just to welcome it, they forgot to conserve what was really and truly theirs.”
True to it, the locals either burn the trash or it’s just left here and there which disrupts flora and fauna of the surrounding.
— HEALING THE HIMALAYAS! —
Pradeep Sangwan, an environmentalist by heart, moved to Manali in 2009 and has since then considered Himachal and its trails his home. And as they say, ‘A clean home is a happy home,’ Pradeep thus makes an effort to keep the vicinity as garbage free as he can.
“And that’s how Healing Himalayas Foundation took birth,” he said. The Healing Himalayas Foundation has adopted three villages near Manali, taking care of their solid waste. Educating how to reduce the carbon footprint and teaching kids how to recycle and upcycle in the school are their major points of focus. They also conduct regular cleaning drives in villages with an aim to maintain the serenity of the place.
— GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL ADMINISTRATION FAILURE —
It’s estimated that about 1000 tourists leave approximately one cubic meter of garbage annually. There are no waste bins located on tourist paths, and consequently they leave the trash everywhere on their way. Now, this points out at how well the Government’s Swach Bharat Abhiyan has been a failure, at least in the non-metropolitan areas. And according to the Swachh Survekshan 2017 report which had the Swachh Bharat rankings of 434 cities, one of the most visited destinations of India — Leh, ranked last in the list of Top 100 cleanest Indian cities.
“We are charged near about 2000 rupees for Chadar Trek — one of the very popular trails among the trekkers — by the local administration or the authority as an environmental fee. The Bikers are charged with green tax, and there are various other ways the tourists are looted. And yet, Leh is one of the dirtiest Indian cities?” questions Pranav Rawat, an avid Mountaineer.
According to the article published by BuzzFeed, Leh wasn’t the most popular destination among the tourist. But since 2008, a year before the Bollywood hit ‘3 Idiots’ release, 400,000 Indian tourists visited Ladakh — already a sizeable figure for a region that is home to about 200,000 people. Three years later, those figures were almost quadrupled. A decade ago, garbage trucks came eight times a day to unload waste. They now make 20 trips per day.
“See, it doesn’t matter how drastically there has been a rise in Leh’s tourism, whatever may be the reason. In fact, ‘3 Idiots’ boosted tourism which is economically good. I question the Government as to why Leh is one of the dirtiest cities though there are n numbers of taxes and fees charged by the authorities to keep the place clean. It’s the duty of the local body and the government to look after the cleanliness of the area,” added Pranav.
— TREK INDEPENDENTLY, TOUR RESPONSIBLY —
Pranav on a personal level conducts Mountain self-sufficiency program where he educates the people about independent trekking which is economically and ecologically beneficial. Economical, as Pranav believes independent trekking is less expensive, and ecological as you don’t have the porters, cook, or mules along with you, which leads to fewer footprints on the mountains.
Sharing his personal experience from one of his expeditions, “I have encountered so many places with garbage left behind by fellow trekkers — the Hampta Pass Trail, Roopkund Trail, Rupin Trail, Stok Kangri Trail. That’s because Trekking agencies only care about the money, and no cleanliness expeditions post the trek is conducted. And that’s the reason why I promote independent trekking,” said the 32-year old.
Everyone has to be equally blamed for the ecological mess of the beautiful Himalayas. Be it the tourist, or the locals, or the government. However, this piece of heaven on earth could be still be preserved.
We believe, ‘It’s never too late!’ … So, let’s heal and clean together! When there is still time.
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