Leh-Ladakh has evolved into one of the most popular travel destinations for Indian tourists, attracting thousands of backpackers, bikers, trekkers from different walks of life and diverse age groups. The picturesque landscape of Leh-Ladakh and its high motorable passes have opened a box of adventures for many, converting it into an achievable bucket list item for many in their youth. [caption id="attachment_4336" align="aligncenter" width="710"] Image Courtesy : nyainswe.wordpress.com[/caption] This sudden boost in tourist activity has brought out the economy of this Himalayan region out of a slumber, providing numerous work opportunities for the locals. However, there is also a downside to it. The Himalayan terrain, which is considered to be extremely fragile, now faces pressure of increased human activity and the subsequent changes to support this. While the environmental aspect is quite apparent, many claim that it is impacting the lives of Ladakhis in ways beyond that. Vinod Sreedhar, founder of environmental conservation organisation and eco tour agency Journeys with Meaning, says, “While they are earning more, there has also been a huge increase in the amount of waste generated. This non-biodegradable waste builds up massively, and since there are either no or limited options available for recycling this waste, it just stays there leaching toxins into the groundwater and water sources. Another issue is the loss of traditional earth-friendly practices that are constantly being replaced by urban practices that are not suitable for the these regions and their ecosystems.”
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Travelling to Leh-Ladakh? Be Respectable
So, what can we do?The onus of ensuring that our footprint is minimised and the negative impact on the environment and ecology of the region is reduced lies with the travellers. There are a number of ways that it can be done. Let’s list out a few easy ones:
First and most important, do not litter![caption id="attachment_4337" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Image Courtesy : ladakhescapes[/caption] Yes, the biggest issue tourists tend to bring with them is the waste they produce, especially plastic. Local gurest house owners and travel guides have complaint that a number of tourists usually leave all their waste scattered near popular travel destinations which is a cause of concern. “Some places are clearly being spoilt by tourism alone, for example, the areas around the lakes that are popular with tourists. Those lakes are heavily affected by blown trash, and more importantly nitrogen-rich effluent seeping through the ground from all the flush toilets installed to serve tourists,” says Rebecca Norman, volunteer coordinator at the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh. The mention of flush toilets brings us to our next point.
Choose compost toilets[caption id="attachment_4338" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Image Courtesy : eco-solutions.org[/caption] Ladakh is a high-altitude desert region and water is a precious and scarce resource for the locals. The Ladakhi people are accustomed to using compost toilets, which conserves water. Tourists, however, prefer flush toilets which not only lead to wastage of water in large quantities but also produces a nitrogen-rich waste. “Earlier, when only the foreign tourists used to visit Ladakh, they would adopt our ways of living. But the local tourists demand luxurious facilities like good rooms, attached toilets and constant water supply,” says Disket L, a guest house owner in Leh.
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