Civilisation, as it progresses brings along with it the hazards of environmental degradation. From melting Arctic ice to desertification of vast land areas bear testimony to this unpleasant but stark truth. The Himalayas are no exception. Years of human activity, intervention in unexplored areas, unregulated tourism and pilgrimage, ever increasing population, deforestation etc. have all taken a cumulative toll on this pristine highland. We as nature lovers therefore need to act before the damage is irreversible.
A synoptic response to the question – “What is the nature of this perceived crisis?”-can be compiled from numerous reports in the news media, internal reports of development and aid agencies and countless published papers available in abundance.
We at Himalaya Trekkers (HT) would focus mainly on the aspect of “Sustainable Trekking” thereby causing minimal damage to the environment.
‘Trekking’, to us is more than a walk in the mountains or a spine chilling adventure up above the clouds, dotted with mesmerizing views. Trekking infact is like a solace, a peace of mind brought along by the virgin nature, the tranquil settings, the fresh unadulterated air, the simplicity of the hill folks and above all the feeling of being in harmony with nature. It is this philosophy of ours which causes us pain to find out the state of the Himalayas as it is being gradually degenerated today.
Beyond serving as a nature-lover’s paradise, The Himalayas are a lifeline to India. The glacial system give birth to innumerable streams which dance down the hills and cover vast areas of the Indian plain thereby making it one of the most fertile cultivable tracts. It is the same Himalayas which act as a barrier to the South West Monsoon originating from the seas thereby causing rainfall to a large part of India and stand tall to protect from the northern cold wind. In a nutshell, it is the lifeline for India. Given its geographical and economic importance, it is shocking to find the level of ignorance on our part to protect this natural treasure along with its multifarious biodiversity of flora and fauna.
Years of human exploitation and government inaction has thereby resulted in deforestation leading to frequent landslides, destruction of natural habitat for many birds and animals. On top of it, global climatic change has started taking its toll. This is pretty evident from the receding of Himalayan glaciers. This in turn has been has had its impact felt on the weather in the region. Thus, we are experiencing abrupt and sudden rainfalls, flash floods, irregular snowfalls and sudden fluctuations in temperatures. All these are directing to the overall climatic change that the world is currently experiencing and has been caused by unregulated human activities.
While people living in the Himalayas have traditionally depended on the mountain for their living, with an upsurge in economic activities we are seeing corporate venturing into the area, be it in the tourism sector or in construction of large dams. While there is no special reason to be wary of these initiatives, what is of concern is the fact that it has actually perpetrated a wrong culture of economic and environmental exploitation in the area. The lure of easy money in this already poverty stricken region has led people to shun their traditional ways of conducting business and exploit Himalayas to the fullest extent possible. This has led to unsustainbility. While road constructions have enhanced communication, they have damaged the basic fabric of the socio- economic life of the people in the region by making remote areas easily accessible and thereby increasing tourist footfall. While this may have resulted in some quick bucks, what it has damaged is irreversible. Traditional culture has been sacrificed at the behest of earning foreign revenues. Moreover; lure of making money from tourism has actually attracted people from various parts of India to set up resorts etc. in the hills and in most of the cases the “sons of the soil” have been reduced to seeking employment as stewards in these glitzy looking places. Keeping aside the cost of environmental degradation, this has actually taken the “pride” away from the local people and resulted in farther economic disparity.
However, like very dark cloud, there is also a silver lining here. The whole affair can be managed and executed in a more sustainable way through measures which help everyone conduct business fruitfully, yet conserving the nature and its people. We, Himalaya Trekkers (HT) strongly act towards the goal in two aspects. One, to educate and ensure maximum community participation and involvement of the indigenous people that the Himalaya remains steady and long term income source in sustainable exploitation. Two, by practicing some basic rules like abandoning plastics on hills, discouraging firewood, depending on local food while on a hiking expedition and carrying back all the non-bio degradable waste back from the trekking trip may sound simple, but go a long way in keeping the environment pristine and clean.
We request all the trekking and mountaineering communities, agencies and individual nature lovers to protect and keep Himalaya clean that this natural magnificence keeps mesmerising the visitors in the years to come and remains as the lifeline to India.