Business as Usual or Systematic Destruction of the Himalayas?
By Munish Dube
How far will we go before we realise that we are here because of Mother Earth and not the other way around, unfortunately this doesn’t apply to a lot of folks. When your greed commands your needs you loose the sight of right or wrong and walk recklessly with no thought of consequences. But nature has a way to tell us her thoughts, her warnings are one shot and consequences are severe.
In recent years a relatively untouched and highly specialized segment of tourism got a boom, ‘Trekking’ became very popular. A segment which traditionally was competitive on the basis of services offered became competitive on the basis of prices. Soon a load of folks jumped into the fray to satisfy their wanderlust. Then started the dooms day clock of the mountains. Corporations set their eyes on the mountains and systematic destruction of the mountains begun in the name of affordable adventure activities. Adventure has always and is an expensive sport around the globe and there is a reason behind it. The Disclaimer signed by the client is not a permission to put clients in danger its just an understanding that the client too acknowledges the risks involved in the activity he is taking up. The safety of trekkers always used to be first priority for all operators, many have lost their lives to ensure the safety of the group. However it now has converted into a disclaimer and zero accountability in the name of so called affordable adventure activities. When the prices of such activities goes down safety is the 1st aspect that is compromised to make profits.
Unfortunately the quest for being number one drove a price based competition and soon came up new methods to bring the prices down.
Remote Himalayan Regions which hardly used to see a footfall of 100 or so trekkers became permanent settlement of 1000’s of trekkers. The carrying capacity went off the roof and monetization of the mountains started. Fixed camps are set up along the trails, big septic tanks are dug at over 10000 Feet at multiple campsites, tents are kept pitched for months all together, the grass in the meadows has the scars of the human activity. With some organisations even advocating these ugly practices as being nature friendly. Such exploitation of the mountains was never seen in the history and the reason is ‘US THE HUMANS’. The hew and cry around this issue is creating ruckus and lots of associations, government and organizations are coming together to stop such mindless acts.
In such an effort Adventure Tour Operators Association, Kullu Manali under the Leadership of Mr Ravi Thakur the current president of the Association who is an adventure sports enthusiast & is working in this industry for almost 3 decades with guidance and support of all the other members who have been in this industry since last 4 decades have recently collaborated with the Authorities and the concerned Government departments to have better regulations to curb such activities and good outcomes are coming.
ATOA Kullu Manali is setting an example in the region and is inspiring all the operators across the Himalayas to better regulate adventure before its too late, another initiative that has been taken is to include adventure and allied sports in eco-tourism’s guidelines so that all the operations related with such activities benefit the local community. We wants to work in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner, conserving the nature and benefiting the local communities, we hope one day not only adventure sports but all segments of tourism in the region come under Eco Tourism’s guidelines making the industry an eco-friendly one. We will appreciate if more like minded folks will join the cause to ensure a better future. But the garbage strewn for years can’t be cleaned in few days. It’s urgent that we realize these mountains were there before us and will be there after us, we are not the last of the humans to walk this planet. We have to leave something behind for our future generations and if we don’t stop these reckless activities our future generations will have no sustenance.
Its time that we all come together and put a stop to unsustainable practices in our respective regions and share our ideas, thoughts and resources to shape a better future. “NO MEANS NO” Save The Himalayas from Mass Trekking, the Land of Gods is under threat and we have to get together.
PS: Special Thanks to every Member of ATOA Kullu Manali. The above thoughts are not of an individual’s but of the whole team’s, which is dedicated for the cause & is trying to communicate the message to all that sustainability is the only way forward.