3 most inspiring cleaning initiatives on the Himalayan Trails you should know

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Swachh Bharat initiative is as relevant for the Himalayan trails as it is for the rest of India. With a record number of people trekking, the waste management is the biggest mountain problem. But then again, mountains don’t create problems, people do.

The mountain waste mess can best be solved by “We the People”. While the Government takes its sweet time to formulate a strategy, it is heartening to see few success stories.

We share with you 3 most inspiring initiatives of this season. We hope these success stories would inspire people to help the cause.

for-volunteeringchopped-e1426754463636.jpgSynopsis: How 30 Waste Warriors handled waste generated by 30,000 tourists on Triund Trail this fall.

About Waste Warriors: Waste Warriors is a voluntary organization and a registered society committed to cleaning up India. With limited resources, they rely on the support of volunteers to run projects in Dharamsala and Dehradun.

The challenge: Triund and Bhagsu Waterfall is the most happening weekend destination for tourists and trekkers in Himachal Pradesh. Mcleod ganj has reported over 30,000 tourists headed to Triund in the past four months alone. With a lack of regard, tourists have towards the environment, the trails were in a mess. Littered with plastic, liquor bottles, paper bags, it was not a pretty site. Something needed to be done to manage such huge proportion of waste left by nonsensical tourists.

How it was done: Waste Warriors have been operating from Dharamshala for over six years. Using their past experience, the core team made frequent visits to Triund and Bhagsu waterfall clean-up on Thursdays . The regular clean up hike was done every Monday for Triund and Thursday for Bhagsu waterfall. Armed with trash pickup sticks, hand gloves, and a gunny bags, the warriors had a pertinent sense of purpose. On an average, the team collected over 35 sacks of garbage from the nine kilometer Triund Trail every week.

The team got great help from international volunteers from Mexico, Taiwan who did their bid to boost The resident Warriors with the manpower needed to bring the trash down.

A few notable mention must go to voluntary organizations such as FSL India who helped the cause by running the show in the month of November.

Read more about Waste Warriors and FSL mountain initiative here

The team targeted the Triund and Bhagsu waterfall trails in particular. Past understanding with the local cafe and guest house owners on the trail helped the team in waste collection. The Cafe Owners keep stock of the collected waste in bags that are inspected and transported down to the town via mules. On the way, the team collects waste like polyethylene and paper bags, empty beer and liquor bottles, old tents, food item sachets, and clothes.

The activity is started early in the morning so that the team can come back to base by the afternoon. The task of bringing the waste down is only half the days work. The volunteers painstakingly work to segregate the waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable lots. Once the bags have been sorted, they are sent for a recycling plant in Punjab.

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Looking at the amount of waste brought down by Waste Warriors we can firmly confirm that Triund is the most sorted trail in the Himalayas. Thanks to The watchful Warriors.

know how you can volunteer with Waste Warriors

All the above pics. are from Waste Warriors Facebook Page.

Varun (9) (1)Synopsis: How Indiahikes trekkers collected over 1,000 kg of waste from Kashmir Great Lakes Trek.

About Indiahikes: Indiahikes is the largest Trekking Organization in India. Looking at the number of people who trek with Indiahikes is staggering. Taking over 8,000 people annually to Himalayan treks is no joke. It also adds a huge burden of managing the waste on the trail.

While the Trekking fraternity may have a polarizing view about the Company, one cannot take away the good work they been doing in managing the waste on the treks they operate.

How it was done: Indiahikes has a Green Trails Project that it adheres to for all their commercial treks. As per the working design, the trekkers are encouraged to be the custodian of cleaning initiatives while trekking.

The trekkers of Great Lakes of Kashmir trek were asked to sign a Green Pledge. All the trekkers were given an Eco Bag that can be worn like a sling bag while trekking. The Trekkers used the bag to stash all the waste found on the trail. The waste then was emptied in a bigger gunny bags at each campsite. These bags were manned and brought down to the base camp by the Trek Leader of the batch. The collected waste was transported to Achan dumping grounds in Srinagar for a proper disposal.

What Indiahikes has shown is the correct model every trek organizing company should follow in managing mountain waste.

Read the complete report on what happened to the garbage collected in Kashmir trek by Indiahikes

Above picture of trekkers cleaning drive in Kashmir trek by Varun K.

Chandrataal wander the himalayas.inSynopsis: How two trekkers video blog story “Cleaning Chandrataal” demonstrate ways in keeping the lake litter free.

Himanshu Tomar and Lovish Tekwani went for a trekking tour to a 14,100 feet lake known as Chandrataal in September this year. What they saw was piles of garbage lying around local Cafe’s (Dhabbas) and the camping grounds. After interacting with local cafe owners, the shocking truth came out. The locals were burning all the waste at the end of the tourist season.

A recce around the lake and more unsanitary horrors of urban backpackers and tourists leftovers were seen.  Broken bottles, used sanitary pads, hair clips, crates of rotten eggs, cooking stove and empty chips packets, chocolate wrappers were left behind.

Himanshu engaged in a series of interactions with local cafe owner and camp organizers. What he found was that the garbage is rarely collected and brought down to Manali.

Himanshu and his friends decided to collect the waste around the lake themselves. They ended up bringing 22 sacks of waste back to Manali.

One suggestion Himanshu mentions is noteworthy. Every hired Jeep coming to Chandrataal with tourists should have a Gunny Bag. The tourists should collect and take their waste back to Manali. This is an excellent solution and can solve the problem of transportation of waste to the nearest town.

Picture of Chandrataal (Moon Lake), Photographer: Vaibhav Chauhan | Wander the Himalayas.

 

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15 thoughts on “3 most inspiring cleaning initiatives on the Himalayan Trails you should know

  1. Its nice to see such posts here. It would be great if agencies and even trekking companies come forward to clean the mountains. after all, they earn from these mountains and they are partly responsible for the clutter – they organize treks and therefore they are responsible for the garbage generated & piled on these mountains by these trekkers!

    It would be nice if the (trek) agencies organize the “clean the trail” campaigns (LIKE Indiahike) with help of volunteers. Volunteers work to clean the trail and they don’t have to pay for these treks – agencies can foot the cost for these clean ups. I’m sure trekkers who love mountains will support such initiatives.

    A lot needs to be done especially now that trek agencies are taking trekkers to mountains in huge numbers. Every years these numbers go up… It’s high time, we start thinking in this directions before its too late!

    Thanks for posting it here and bringing up the issue! keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. But a lot more needs to be done. And this cannot go on in isolation. The Government and local bodies need to monitor and drive it. This can happen if the Trekking trails are identified and developed. Setting infrastructure in place will make it easier to implement waste management solutions on the slopes. It is the negligence by the governing and civic bodies that makes the locals and trekkers not take cleanliness aspect seriously. Waste Warriors model is working. They have spent time in community mobilizing and education towards environmental practices. Like any social work, this takes time and efforts. People will only be moved when they see results.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can only agree with you. For anything to succeed we need bodies and people to share the responsibilities. Of late, I have started to think from a different perspective, as well! As an educated and responsible person, we have a responsibility towards mother nature. while Government and local bodies might be failing miserably, one cannot shy away from his own liability and responsibility. I’m sure that we alone are responsible for the waste we leave behind. Looking at those picture of heaps of trash that has been cleared, it was created by us in first place. Let’s do our bit, First! After reading your post, shot an email for volunteering in Mcleodganj area! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. sure I will…I will re blog your post on another blog of mine, which I need to work on, soon! happy to share it with travelers and fellow trekkers! 🙂
        keep posting interesting stories!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. nice info, the dedicated efforts of Waste Warriors are really worth many praises and needs more motivation, support and sharing.

    On IH, I do agree they do put effort, but I also know that they aren’t dedicated to actually solve the problem. They are just a show off. Rather the mentality and efforts of the trekkers participating in the cleaning activity ( very few ) and motivation of the trek leaders need to be appreciated. Just think, if 30 persons of WW can do so much, than how much can be done by the 8000 trekkers a year, and a rich organization like IH ?? It definitely shows how much they are dedicated towards cleaning n solving the problems of the mountains.

    We need more people like Himanshu in the mountains.. They are the real heroes.. There are many like them though.. just not highlighted..

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  3. now that is something every aspiring trekkers need not only to read but also to assimilate into their souls. Speaking of the Triund trail, since its one of the closest and easiest hiking spot from where i stay, i have been there quite a few times and i literally witnessed how the crowd (most of them, I must say, irresponsible tourists) and proportionately the waste materials kept on increasing over the last few years. Only for the last two times, I saw that even the cafes in between the trails have started to collect waste materials. They specifically asked hikers to keep the waste materials, if they are carrying any, in to the waste-bins they have placed. That time I did not know about the waste warriors. May be it was an initiative by them. But that’s truly needed keeping in mind the increasing number of irresponsible tourists. Like, seriously, while going up, if one can carry full bottles, why cant they carry it down when its empty!! Its really nice and inspiring to see people like Himanshu and Lovish. Will surely carry forward their noble initiative. Good that trek organizers like IH and youth hostel are also coming forward for this cause.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are absolutely right. Triund always remains in a mess, even after such good work. This is because the tourists who flock to Triund are serial offenders in littering. Most of them lack basic sense. Look at how ill prepared they come to trek. The clothes and footing they wear seem they come to a trek with a thought of going for a picnic. Making these tourists behave like civilized people is the next challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. seriously. i mean, okk, i get it, its an easy trek, but a trek nonetheless!! and yes, i agree when you say they think of it as a picnic spot. frustratingly and hopelessly sad. and they come with all possible wrong choice of clothing or footwear or gears. they do lack the common sense and thus the mountain suffers.

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  4. Hello Jodie here from Waste Warriors! I started the Triund waste collection service 7 years ago! Back then there were 10,000 people per year going up there, now it’s 10,000 per month. We spent nearly a lakh last year on mules alone for bringing the waste back down the mountain. The Dharamsala project has a 4 lakh deficit from last year as local people just don’t contribute and the chai shops don’t even pay for their own waste to go down. My boys over there and volunteers from across the world are working so hard to make the Triund and the other projects we run a success but it’s a never ending battle! Please donate or volunteer if you can. Thanks for spreading the word about our work! 🙂 http://www.wastewarriors.org

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jodie for your thoughts and corrections which have been made. I am hopeful about looping the authority in bringing regulations on Triund Trail. Do you think approaching National Green Tribunal can help? Maybe filing a Public Interest Litigation can bring a mechanism of making everyone accountable?

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  5. Also this is not true “Using their past experience, the core team upped their visits to Triund to two to three times a week.” Just so you know, we go to Triund on Monday and come back on Tuesday, Thursday is Bhagsu waterfall clean-up and Saturdays we do community clean-ups. Last Sunday of the month is an educational Children’s Event! We have been having meetings with the Deputy Commissioner and soon you are going to be seeing some big changes as it is soon to become manadatory for trekkers to bring their waste back down to Galu! WATCH THIS SPACE !

    Like

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