It may not be a surprise to know that plastics and rubbish are a curse in most parts of the world, and the Himalayas is no exception. It is especially shocking to trek to remote and far off places in the high mountains to find that someone has been there before, and has left their trash to prove it! This is becoming an increasingly tragic occurance, with the Everest region being particularly hard hit by inconsiderate climbing teams lugging all their garbage up to high altitude, only to leave it all behind in a fit of laziness and lack of care.
The trashing of the Himalayas is becoming a big issue these days, finally, as national papers in India have brought it to front page attention over the last few weeks. This is good… but not as good as actually doing something about it.
We’re a small travel company with deep roots in the Indian Himalayas, having spent over 20 years exploring the nooks and crannies of this wonderful Himalayan region, particularly the valleys around the Indo-Tibetan border and the cultures that inhabit these remote and wild regions.
We have always had a responsible attitude to packing our trash, and refuse to leave anything behind. In the early days, we trained our teams that it was not good enough to dig holes to bury it, or to burn off the plastics, and that we need to bring it all back to base. After that it gets tricky, as there is no proper waste management plan in India, and certainly not in the Kullu-Manali region where we are based. As such, most of the waste is still poorly managed, but at least it is not left on pristine high mountain pastures and camps.
Unfortunately, not everyone has this approach to accessing the mountains, and in particular since the increase of domestic tourism in the region, the trash issue has exploded.
As a result we have identified a four prong strategy for the long term that needs to be implemented in stages, as quickly as possible.
- Minimise the amount of non compostable rubbish in the first place
- Implement a waste management system in Manali that includes recycling programs
- Educate locals and tourists about the importance of using this system
- Clean up the mess that has already been made in the region.
In order to address this fourth point, we at Yak Trak, inspired by Tanzin Bodh’s passion for the subject, are implementing our own Eco Warrior Trekking program where we encourage people to trek with us at at subsidised rates in exchange for an hour a day of clean work on the route and at the campsites.
See more about that here: http://yaktrak.com/package/eco-warrior-trekking/