Mass Tourism Poses A Threat To Lahaul Valleys Environment

Manali: Sheltered for millennia from influx of large human populations, opening up of Rohtang Tunnel has suddenly exposed pristine Lahaul valley to mass tourism, bringing with the problems of environmental degradation, pollution and related crimes.

Rohtang Tunnel thrown open for public use by PM Modi on 3 October

After Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, on October 3, opened Atal Tunnel, for tourism. The visitors have brought a brandish of pollution to the ecologically sensitive and culturally distinct area. In the last few days, tourists have tormented the area. Empty water and liquor bottles and packets of chips and packed food were dumped anywhere and everywhere with ease. Moreover, a few incidents of eve-teasing of Lahaul women and thefts by tourists also have been reported.

River Chandra flowing through Lahaul valley

“We have conveyed all our apprehensions of things turning a bit ugly if not stopped and checked in time. Lahaul society is a very gentle and hospitable section. We want tourists to visit but don’t want nuisance or breaking of the laws, and especially Swacchta must not be compromised,” Prem Singh, a member of a local social action group, told Hill Post.

Dr Chander Mohan Parsheera at Himachal Pradesh University, who has often evinced that Lahaul valleys should get prepared to deal with tourist influx, said that tourism strategies should be developed so as to ensure that conflict doesn’t arise between locals and visitors. He advocated for the involvement of local communities in hosting tourists.

Chander Mohan Parsheera added that, “The residents of Lahaul had been urging the government for the last eight years to develop the basic infrastructure for the promotion of tourism, but no government paid heed to it. Despite knowing the facts that after the opening of the tunnel, the tourist influx would increase, the government has not taken any step in this direction.”

A village in Lahaul

Meanwhile, Save Lahaul Society is planning to put up hoardings in the region to appeal to tourists to be “responsible citizens” and “not destroy the ecology” of the valley.

Activists, meanwhile, highlighted that there is a shortage of garbage bins in the area, and therefore, trash ends up in Chandra River.

Rigzin Haiyappa, Chairman of Lahaul Spiti Tourism Society said the process to create proper amenities for tourists is underway.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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