Himalaya! The name itself instills a surge of thrill and adventure in us. The snow and the winding roads crowned with the deodars and pine trees is the best sight of Himalayas we can all recall.
But, how long will such an image of Himalaya sustain? There has been incessant construction of new hotels and the number of tourists flocking to these pristine destinations has been on rampant increase. The domestic tourist inflow in Himachal Pradesh has more than doubled from 93 lakh in 2005-06 to 188 lakh in 2016-17. The number of adventure activities from paragliding to rafting to the new trekking routes has been swelling on a humongous scale. There existed almost no commercial trekking activity till 2005. But, as of 2018, nearly 10 lakh trekkers visit every year to spoil the unblemished routes with plastic wraps, bottles, etc.
The tourist vehicles plying in Himachal Pradesh have nearly tripled since 2008. Over 80% of these vehicles are diesel-run. The widening of the existing roads has led to severe landslides due to soil-erosion and cutting of mountains. Forest area is on decline thanks to government policies on Land Conversion from Forest to Commercial.
There used to be a lot of snowfall until 2010. Even the Mall Road in Manali used to receive a good amount of snow. But, since 2012, leave Mall Road, not even Rohtang Pass has seen the level of snow which it was famous for. Every tourist visiting Manali wants to go to Rohtang Pass. The heat generating from the vehicles has increased the overall temperature of the region, one of the prime reasons leading to scattered snowfall.
As a state with much of its economy based on tourism, it calls for huge responsibility to regulate and handle heightened tourism. But, No. There is no such regulation in place. No one even talks about it. States are more concerned about increasing the tourism even further. If we want to increase tourism, we’ll have to do it with a regulation. Below are some points that can help the Himalaya regain their glory.
1. Fully ban diesel operated vehicles
2. Restrict the number of tourists visiting the state – No, it will not harm employment. Once we have SOPs in place, other things start getting aligned.
3. Restrict trekking activities to fewer routes, restrict the no. of Trekkers allowed annually.
4. Restrict construction of new hotels.
This 4 points Fine-print needs to be deployed forthwith to address the menace called Unregulated Tourism.