This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Down To Earth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

A Mesmerising Time In The Himalayas Soon Turned Into A ‘Rude Shock’ For Me

More from Down To Earth

By Abhishek Bhati

Note: This article was originally published on Down To Earth

On my journey to Chandertal Lake in Himachal Pradesh this summer, I found how the pristine beauty of the Himalayas was marred by pollution and heaps of garbage.

The lake, which is situated at a height of 4,200 metres from the sea level, is a popular trekking destination. My first stopover was at the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation’s (HPTDC) hotel in Swarghat.

Though the stay was comfortable and I got hot water for bathing, it was disappointing to find the use of plastic water bottles at the place. Just behind the hotel, garbage mixed with rainwater was making its way towards the Sutlej river.

himalayas mountains hills

Despite my initial disappointment, I continued on my journey to Chandertal via Manali. After spending a night there, I tried to get a permit to cross the Rohtang Pass.

The recent law passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) allows only 1,000 vehicles to cross the Pass daily. Though it is a welcome step designed to protect the fragile environment, the current process is cumbersome and time-consuming.

One has to stand in a queue for hours at the sub-divisional magistrate’s (SDM) office to get the permit. The bureaucratic red tape can be smoothened by introducing e-permission.

If the process of getting permission to visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan is so efficient, I don’t see why the permission to cross the Rohtang Pass is still based on archaic procedures of submitting documents a day before to obtain the permit.

The entire process is not only inefficient and frustrating, but also opens up the possibility of corruption and harassment of tourists by middlemen.

As I crossed the Rohtang Pass to go to Gramphu (a point of diversion for going to Keylong Valley and Lahaul/Spiti Valley), potholes on the road greeted me. I had to climb out of the vehicle several times so that it can easily pass along the places dotted by waterfalls.

Finally, after a tiresome journey of around 150 kilometres (12 hours), I reached the meadow of Chandertal. Initially, I was glad to hear that nobody was allowed to camp near the Chandertal Lake for fear of polluting the environment.

Having trekked to Roopkund Lake two years ago where I witnessed environmental damages due to over-commercialisation of trekking (read Wrong Trek), I was surprised to see clear blue water and no sign of plastics in and around the lake.

After spending some time in the lake area, I climbed a small hill and saw the peaks of the mesmerising Chandra Bhaga mountain range in the distance.

Though at that moment, I felt it was “worth it” to come to Chandertal, I got a rude shock when I decided to head back towards the meadow.

When I reached there, the number of tents and vehicles parked at the site disturbed me. There were at least 40 tents erected in an area of only four square kilometres and around 100 people camped there at night.

It would take years for the human excreta of these tourists to decompose at such a high altitude. Further, it will contaminate the nearby water sources and spread water-borne diseases among the locals.

As food was being prepared in the tent around 6.30 pm in the evening, I heard loud music in the meadow. The tranquility of the place was broken and it seemed like a marriage ceremony with a DJ playing Bacchanalian songs.

chandertal lake himachal pradesh
Image source: vijay_v82/Flickr

The anchor was shouting at the top of his voice, “Aaj ki raat, Chandertal ke naam” (Let us dedicate the night to Chandertal).

As if loud music was not enough, some of the tourists expected food similar to the kind served in a Punjabi dhaba. The expectation of having a similar kind food served in the plains in high altitude areas also gradually leads to environmental damage.

Instead of cooking, tourists should be encouraged to eat processed food so that the amount of cargo carried from plains to the hills can be reduced.

The music continued till midnight and disturbed the tranquility of the place. I wondered how disturbing high decibels can be to animals living in the meadow or whether they have all gone deaf!

As more and more I trek in the Himalayas, I think about how tourists can enjoy the beauty of the mountains while at the same time preserving the fragile environment.

Obviously, restricting trekking or travelling in not a solution. Rather, I think the answer lies in restricting the use of vehicles and promoting trekking on foot.

On my way to Chandertal, I noticed several taxis carrying only two to three passengers. If the vehicles carry five to six tourists, it will reduce the number of cars plying in the area.

When it comes to fees, it should be charged per person rather than per car and foreign tourists should pay at least three times higher than Indian citizens as they have higher purchasing power than Indians.

When it comes to Indians, many do not keep the environment clean and spreading awareness about environmental degradation, especially in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, becomes important.

Coming back to fees, whatever is collected should be handed over to environmental groups so that they can ensure the protection of the environment.

While entering Manali, tourists have to pay green tax, but there is no clarity on how the money is used. Tourists, who visit the higher reaches of the Himalayas, will be ready to pay higher amounts if they know that their money will be used for a right cause.

The Himachal Pradesh government can set up an online monitoring system and ensure transparency regarding what happens to the so-called green tax. To tackle noise pollution, a complete ban should be announced on the use of loudspeakers in the higher regions and meadows.

The government should announce a helpline number where tourists can complain if other visitors or tent owners break the rules.

Local taxi drivers and tent owners should be educated how in long run commercialisation of trekking routes will be detrimental to their growth, as they are the ones who depend on the beautiful mountains to earn their livelihood.

You must be to comment.
  1. Srinivas

    The first article on Youth Ki Awaaz that I agree and empathize with, simply for the reason it’s non-political (read,
    non-leftist Communist nonsense)
    It would be great if you can supplement your article with photographs and/or video. I don’t agree that “foreigners”
    should be charged thrice because their alleged purchasing power is more. There are more backpackers who save for six
    months, struggling their butt off, in the “foreigner” gang than the affluent Indians who go on these expensive
    high altitude trekking, no blue collar Indian can afford such excursions.

  2. issacthomas3

    An eye opener….hope the mainstream media highlights this issue…

  3. Hruday

    Good info. Thank u for sharing you experiance.
    Trek in himalayan is a wonderful experiance. But the restrictions at those places is very high because of environmental problems.

More from Down To Earth

Similar Posts

By Abhishek Padiyar

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below