Our majestic mountains are in trouble as tourism is picking up. Tourism is important for the local economy but sustainable tourism is the need of the hour. As more people troop into the hills with the idea of having a good time and enjoying the weather the important thing they forget is to respect the place that has welcomed them to their home.
Parts of North Sikkim especially Lachung has a no plastic bottle policy, they strictly enforce it with regular checks in vehicles. They also have a no open defecation policy in place and I actually witnessed a local person pull up a tourist who was urinating near a waterfall with a toilet accessible right there. Change happens only when people own it and this was especially noticeable in North Sikkim.
However, they need the support of everyone who visits Lachung as there are still plastic wrappers and other plastic bottles that are negligently thrown out and mar the beautiful and spectacular mountains. This holds true for other mountain areas as well as hill stations that are currently groaning with the influx of tourists and their limited resources.
Organisations that closely work with the mountains such as India Hikes have instituted programs such as Green Trails wherein trekkers go with the mandate to collect trash on their way and bring it back to base where it is then sent for recycling. Companies that believe in sustainable tourism such as F5Escapes encourage their travelers to use their own bottles and refill them at intervals instead of buying water bottles on the way which is then discarded.
Same goes for chips and other such snacks that are junk foods in anycase. A better alternative would be to carry nuts from home or eat healthier snacks such as fruits they are much better for the environment as well as for your health. It is not possible to completely eliminate your footprint but it is definitely possible to reduce it and give back to the people who open up their homes and businesses to you each year as people from the cities flock to the hills every summer.
Another small change all of us can routinely do is to carry a small trash bag when traveling so that we are not littering. At the end of the day, it can be emptied in a trash can. Sikkim like many Northeast states has bamboo trash receptacles at intervals which can be used. If you think that a small plastic wrapper is not going to make a difference or that one more bottle being thrown on the way does not matter take a look around. In the same way every wrapper you pick up or don’t litter and every plastic bottle you don’t use, helps.
The hills need you to come and explore but they also need you to respect them and ensure that you don’t harm them. Sustainable tourism is the answer and we all have to do our part in it.
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