First came the shock.
Then, a steady trickle of photographs that showed people evidently appalled. It happened in a jiffy, as the world watched in horror. The Himalayas, which seemed like, perhaps, the most sheltering, comforting aspect of life in the hills of India, had turned their back on humanity. More or less. While cloudbursts are a normal occurrence in the hills, mountains are the obvious saviours. But not this time, when Uttarakhand, Nepal and Himachal Pradesh saw the mountains at their furious best.
Debates have been raging, and will rage on for some more months, for the devastation has been widespread, irreparable. But while the groans of the stricken people have found a voice, at least for now, there’s a faint murmur that still lingers.
Yes, it’s the Himalayas talking. In a faint murmur of disapproval, lashing at one and all in their own way. One of the youngest mountain ranges in the world, it has seen degradation, scaringly fast.
Blasted and ripped right through the heart to accommodate urbanisation, it’s finally found a vent. The glaciers in the upper reaches of the range are melting; at a rate that’s fast enough to make you sit up and take notice. To add to it, there’s the timber mafia, ruthlessly chopping trees in the ecologically fragile region, making it frail than ever before. Plus, a complete lack of awareness. A perfect recipe for another disaster.
Thankfully, we, the travellers, still have some time. Some efforts, awareness and a sense of empathy on the part of hordes of travellers that descend towards the Himalayas every year, might reverse the clock needles to some extent.
Here are some easy to follow steps that you, as an individual, can take to save the young mountain range that we so proudly refer to as the Himalayas.
REPORT MOUNTAIN FIRES
A major cause of the increasing fragility, forest fires seem to be a major cause. These have been on an increase ever since the felling of trees was banned in the Himalayas belt. Knowingly or otherwise, people in the hills found a way out. Via forest fires. Planned and executed in a way that it looks natural, these fires help them get the wood, adding to the rapid erosion. So the next time you see that streak of leaping orange of a forest fire, do not forget to alert the local authorities. For all that you may know, it might be a man-made one.
SAY NO TO ENCROACHMENT
Staying at some super exclusive resort right in the middle of the Himalayas might sound like a dream vacation. But before you pick one, read the land policy of the region. It might be an illegal property, located in the “off human” area of the range. Do not hesitate in reporting such a case. And, of course, do not stay at one of these. Remember the first economics chapter you had that said supply exists because of the demand?
Okay. It indeed is a great idea to trek up a peak in the Himalayas, pitch a tent, have a beer and read a book up there. But what clearly is not a great idea is all the litter that you leave behind. Yes, we are talking of things as little as a plastic bottle and a toffee wrapper. Most of this stuff is not degradable, lodging itself as another polluting element in the hills. Go by the saying – “Leave nothing but footprints.”
STAY AWARE, TURN SPY
Take a close look at the log that’s burning for that happy bonfire that you so ardently enjoy. In all probability, it’s a freshly chopped limb of a pine or some such tree. Felled before it had gone dry. All in a bid to set a new standard of hospitality by the resort staff. To start off with, CONFRONT and if that doesn’t help REPORT. There’s nothing like a voice raised.
PRACTICE AND PREACH
Though we agree that it’s great to make efforts as an individual, you, as a tourist, can pitch in with more. When it comes to ecology, we suggest you follow the adage of “Practice and Preach.” While you obviously won’t be littering on the hills, pick the empty cans, polybags, and such stuff. Haul it up and dump it at a recycle plant. It’s a commendable feat if you end up changing one person at a time.
While we hope that these easy to follow steps and suggestion will set you thinking, we’re open to more ideas. For any suggestion that you think should have a platform like ours, pitch in with a comment. We’ll be happy to hear.
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