9 Incidents That Impact Life and Adventure Tourism in Himalayas

The year of 2017 recorded a number of incidents that directly affected life and religious and secular adventure tourism in the Himalayas. Here is the lowdown on these:

1. Bilaspur-Leh-Manali Railway

RITES began location survey for 498-kilometer-long all-weather Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway track in the last week of June to connect strategically important and leading tourist destinations to the rest of the country.  The track will meander through Bilaspur, Sunder Nagar, Mandi, Manali, Tandi, Keylong, Koksar, Darcha, Upshi, Karu, and Leh. This railway line will have a number of good and bad effects:

Sectors
Good
Bad

Tourism
Increase many folds.

Initially, local economy will reap benefits.

Make these destinations overcrowded like Mussoorie, Shimla…

Litter and waste, especially non-biodegradable waste, will increase in new hill stations.

Traffic jams

Increase air and water pollution

Urbanization will kill unique cultures of the Himalayas.

Pressure on local resources, for example, shortage of water is common in popular hill stations during tourism season

Defense
Become more efficient

Simplify and speed up transportation of goods and  movement of personnel

 

2. Gulmarg: Gondola Accident 

One of the overgrown fir and quail trees fell on the Gondola covering five kilometer distance between Gulmarg and Kongdoori in the last week of June, leading to the death of seven persons.

3. A Section of Leh-Manali Highway Washed Away 

In the last week of June, landslides and landslips along the highway interrupted vehicular traffic and the visitors were forced to sleep in their vehicles. A section of highway near Keylong was also washed away, adding to the worries of the visitors.

4. Soil Pollution along Manali-Leh Highway  

The US geologists published a study in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology in March. The study, Organic and Inorganic Pollutant Concentrations Suggest Anthropogenic Contamination of Soils along the Manali-Leh Highway, Northwestern Himalaya, India, found excessive amount of sulphur (490-2033 ppm) in the soil along the highway. This high level of sulphur is ascribed to the emission from the scores of diesel vehicles, especially trucks, plying the highway. It is a cause of concern because consequent acidification of soil may make the soils unfit for cultivation. These levels of sulphur are neither good for animals nor for humans. However, the amount of ten heavy metals was low. Diesel used in India is rich in sulphur that is polluting the soils.

5. Permit for Ladakh 

Ladakh has reintroduced permit system for various parts of District Leh. Although cost of the permit is not very high, it creates psychological pressure and requires extra time. The permit system also shows subtle signs of increasing impact of the visitors on the land and its resources.

6. Permit for Rohtang Pass 

District Kullu also introduced a daily vehicle quota system for tourist vehicles visiting the Rohtang Pass to reduce environmental impact of mass tourism. The first casualty of the system was local taxi owners and drivers. The second casualty was tourists who felt their freedom to dash to the pass was snatched away. However, the Rohtang must be happy because air, noise, and water pollution will be somewhat less.

7. Blocking Nathu La for Kailash Mansarovar Lake Pilgrimage 

China suspended arrangements made for the official Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage group from India in June. The group was supposed to complete the pilgrimage via Nathu La (Sikkim) route because it is easier than the Lipulekh (Uttarakhand) route.

8. Gorkhland Agitation, Darjeeling

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) revived their agitation for a separate Gorkhaland, a state for Gorkhas, in June when the West Bengal government decided making Bengali compulsory in the schools.

One of the major setbacks was that the national highway connecting Sikkim to the rest of the world was affected.

9. Militants Attack Amarnath Pilgrims along Jammu-Srinagar Highway

In the second week of July, militants fired at vehicle carrying the pilgrims at Batengo, a small pit stop along the highway. Seven pilgrims died.

 

These incidents raise the same old questions:

  • Why cannot be militants controlled?
  • Why do we create substandard infrastructure?
  • Can Himalayas survive mass “gadi (vehicle)” tourism?
  • Cannot we have peaceful relationship with our neighbors?
  • Why do we want to divide our country in tiny administrative units based on language, religion, caste…?

But are we listening?

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