We all love the Himalayas, but its our moral responsibility to keep it safe and as beautiful for our future generations. Not just that. Safety is an important factor as well !! With recent uprise in the amount of trekkers trekking in the Himalayas, it has becomes very important that we trek in a smaller group. But how does it help at all ? And firstly, why at all is it necessary ?
Impact Of Trekking On The Environment
Venturing deep into the Himalayas give you a memorable experience for lifetime, but it comes at a cost, not just your time and money, but also at the cost of our fragile nature which is the root of our very own existence !! Listed below are few of the impact of trekking on the environment which we could think of.. perhaps there are lot more
Here I am just listing out the points. Read the detailed article on this link. Impact Of Trekking On The Environment
- Pressure on natural resources.
- Soil erosion.
- Widening of trail and destruction of plants due to trampling.
- Non-Biodegradable waste.
- Chemical contamination of food and water consumed by wild animals disturb their mental health.
- Frequent sighting of humans by wild animals disturbs their natural instincts.
- Faecal contamination of soil and water bodies.
- Cascading effects.
How Do The Group Size Matter At All ?
Lets just take few examples:
Phalut is a small remote campsite on the Sandakphu Phalut Trek in Singalila National Park. It has a single trekker's hut built by the Government and a SSB camp to guard the border. The hut can just accommodate 18 trekkers. There is also a West Bengal Forest Hut and it can accommodate 4 odd trekkers, but not generally open to public trekkers. The kitchen of Phalut is run on Firewood Stoves. This place is accessible by motor-able road as well and hence not just trekkers, but also other tourists visit this place, as it offers great views of 4 of the top 5 peaks in the Himalayas Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Kachenjunga and Mt. Makalu. It offers a panorama of peaks of more than 26 peaks of Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. Some of India's biggest trek operators bring about more than 20 trekkers in a single batch, just a single operator. Now add on other small operators and tourists. The quantity of trekkers hit 35 - 40 at times when trekkers even sleep on floor. Imagine the pressure on the kitchen which is run on firewood. How much firewood is required to cook 3 meals for the tourists ?
Roopkund is perhaps one of the best treks to do in the Himalayas. Until recently, it was peaceful with few odd trekkers trekking in self organized small groups. Now the scenario is such that in the pre-monsoon season of May-Jun, atleast 100 trekkers camp on each campsite there..Few of the bigger operators bring the bulk and then there lots of other operators who get their groups too, and then the self organized groups.. leave aside the local resources, mules, etc which accompany the groups. Besides, the trekker's hut meant for the trekkers are permanently occupied by bigger companies to cook. What kind of push is it on the Nature to accommodate that huge rush ?? I have no imaginations for it, hence I leave it upto the readers.
There are lots of example treks like Kedarkantha, Kashmir Lakes, Rupin Pass, etc.. With this rate, all the moderate treks will soon become a victim if not regulated, as these are easier to organize for the operators.
Its not just about the local resource like firewood. Think about the noise made by a large group in a place which is not used to it, continuously for a season. A place which are dwelling space for wild animals now see almost a permanent settlements in form of tents and trekkers. The impact is such that a huge colony of tents in the Roopkund trek are seen distinctly on Google Earth Satellite view . What about the waste management system ? Where are the human faeces going. How many are correctly practicing proper disposal techniques ? Are all the nature's elements kept intact. How many trekkers ensure that they do not pluck a wild flower or disturb a wild animal. When the groups size is more, everything starts falling apart. I am not mentioning a disaster situation here..
Bigger group means the problem is multiplied. More Noise, More Water, More Food, More Local Staffs, More Mules,
More Waste, More Contamination... everything on a higher scale
What Should A Responsible Trekker Do ?
Firstly, A responsible trekker should avoid these treks which are already on heavy duty and chose an equally better trek in other region. Secondly, he should chose to trek in smaller groups and do away from crowding. Third, he should follow minimal impact trekking rules, and make his operator too follow it increasing awareness amongst the local guides, villagers and his co-trekkers as much as possible.
Crowding a place does help. It does not give a better experience of the trek as well. The ambience of a trek is spoilt. Trekking is about solitude, freedom, quietness, serenity, enjoying nature, friendship, bonding, self realization, nature... I wonder how does crowding at all makes things interesting and beautiful. If you are going to the mountains to feel it, to experience it, to live it, then crowding is not for you. If for some thing else, like socializing then may be yes - A High Altitude Socializing Party, at the cost of nature. Perhaps its for that reason, I have seen trekkers with trek counts of more than 5 -6 treks, but has not even learnt basic rules of the mountains. Some even do not know how to pack and carry their rucksack as he has always been offloading his bags !!
What if you still want to do the same high traffic trek, as often the most beautiful treks are in demand and becomes a high traffic trek !!
Well, in that case, chose your time appropriately. Mostly you can get the information from the internet about the traffic on your preferred time as most of the major companies will have this information on their websites. Use that to plan your dates accordingly. After seeing a crowded place, DO NOT camp in a new place, as that will be the opening ceremony of a new campsite. Chose a season which is less crowded. Form your own small group and trek within it, as it allows you to properly follow the ethical way of travelling. Follow the Leave No Trace policies on your trek.
What Is A Good Team Size And Composition?
A good team size is about 10 - 12 members. Remember that local staffs like guide and porters would add to it. So if its a porter driven trek, then the number should further decrease to may be 8. The team should be well balanced with experienced and non-experienced members with designated roles like Trek Leader, Guide, Cook, Trail Sweepers, etc.
You should focus on Minimal Impact Trekking, if you want to keep trekking and want to pass it on to your children too !!
IT IS difficult to maintain all the rules of nature and trek, but aren't mountaineers and trekkers meant to be strong ?? Isn't love for the mountains and nature the first thing for which they are there ?? So why we not follow it ?
Leave No Trace - Camp Eco Friendly - Camping Etiquettes
Making A Low Impact Camp Fire In Your Himalayan Treks
Clean The Himalayas - Planning, Effort, Progress, Success Stories