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.
Synopsis: 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.
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.
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.
All the above pics. are from Waste Warriors Facebook Page.
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.
Above picture of trekkers cleaning drive in Kashmir trek by Varun K.
Synopsis: 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.