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Unregulated Tourism In The Himalayas Could Have Adverse Effects

With its towering peaks, majestic landscapes, and rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Himalayas has attracted visitors and pilgrims from the subcontinent and across the world. The Himalayan region has attracted those who seek vistas, adventure, cooler climates in summer, sport, spiritual solace, peace and the many cultural assets of mountains – built to take advantage of the natural grandeur it manifests.

Tourism is being considered as the major engine driving the economy of Himalayan states. Himalayan states are behind other states when it comes to states’ share in total GDP, which is undoubtedly because of harsh terrain that  restricts infrastructure development. But tourism, over the last few years, has provided valuable economic and livelihood opportunities to the locals in the Himalayan states and revenue and profits for the state governments.

According to the 11th Five-Year Plan of India’s Planning Commission, “Tourism is the largest service industry in the country. Its importance lies in being an instrument for economic development and employment generation, particularly in remote and backward areas.” Tourism can stimulate faster, sustainable and inclusive growth.

As per the latest World Tourism Barometer of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (2017), international tourist arrivals touched 1.2 billion in 2016, 46 million more than in the previous year. Various initiatives have been taken by the Government to promote tourism. Recent measures include the introduction of the e-Visa facility under three categories – Tourist, Medical and Business, launch of Global Media Campaign for 2017-18 on various international TV channels, launch of ‘The Heritage Trail’ to promote the World Heritage Sites in India, launch of Swadesh Darshan and PRASAD (National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive) scheme and celebration of ‘Paryatan Parv’.

Apart from foreign tourists, the Himalayan states are receiving heavy flow of domestic tourists too as the per capita income of people rises and so does the rise in luxury and recreation time. As a result, traffic congestion and air and noise pollution, overbooked hotels, non-availability of parking places, and local water and energy security are becoming recurrent problems.

Waste Management In The Himalayan States

With the increasing trend in tourist footfall to the Himalayan states, it is likely that environmental and social trends along with standards will be subjected to change. Apparently, these developmental trends and activities in the Himalayan states have direct or indirect causes and effects such as pollution, over exploitation of natural resources, food insecurity, ill-planned urbanization, traffic congestion, loss of indigenous culture, natural disasters, increase in municipal sewage and so on are bound to impact the Himalayan ecology.

Sustainable tourism should primarily focus on waste disposal. Cold climate in the mountains also restricts faster decomposition of garbage, thus often leading to their draining into rivers, which contaminates aquatic life downstream and degrades the quality of the river water on which depends a large population, for multiple uses.

Himalayan states are becoming top destinations for tourists and given their fragility, efforts should be taken to deal with various types of pollution in there. Efforts of NGT in limiting the number of vehicles crossing Rohtang Pass in a day, banning stone crushers near water bodies in Himachal Pradesh and ordering the state government to take actions against illegal dumping of garbage should be some.

In Conclusion

Himalayas form one of the most fragile ecosystems, given the huge diversity of flora and fauna there and the threats around them, due to rising population and carbon footprint. Its eastern part is also one of the Ecological Hotspots in the world.

Increasing and unregulated tourist footfall, urbanization, haphazard infrastructure and construction without taking into account the ecological cost has already unleashed disaster in this region. Places like Shimla are already battling with water crisis and outbreak of water borne hepatitis because of improper sewage and garbage management.

Economic growth is necessary for boosting local employment and at the same time, population control in the near future is going to be difficult. Under such circumstances, efforts should be made to harmonize economic activities and ecological conservation. Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) should be done for every development project in such regions. Involvement of multi-level stakeholders especially villagers and youths in generating awareness can create better acceptance of the need of curbing pollution. Protecting Himalayas has also been prioritized under India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change.

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  1. Karan Khatri

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  2. Karan Khatri

    Interesting ??????

    1. LIGHTS Research Foundation

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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