At Eco-Traveler, we always welcome travelers to come, travel and contribute in their own special way to the local communities that we work with. To our luck we had Dr. Apoorva Raghavan who traveler with us to Spiti all the way from Chennai. She will always remain one of the most special travelers for Eco-Traveler. Apoorva came with a pile of medicines from Chennai to Delhi to Manali to Spiti and we were successfully able to pull of a medical camp for the villagers of Dhankar Village in Spiti. We had an overwhelming response, Appoorva checked close to 80 patients in the village.

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Here is what she had to say about her experience:

Spiti, the middle land, has always been a place that evoked wonder and longing within me. Being a volunteer for the environment and conservation, I always look to travel for a cause. It was providence that brought me to Tanya Roy of Eco-Traveler. The name speaks for itself as her company embodies everything that I am passionate about- the eco (system/eco-friendly ) and travel. Booked a seat for myself on a Spiti Valley road trip, to learn first-hand, what eco-tourism is all about. First leg of the journey felt the longest; from Chennai to Delhi and then to Manali, I couldn’t wait to soak in the beauty of the Desert Mountains. In Manali, we stayed in a quaint but utterly charming village homestay with breathtaking views of the green clad slopes. From Manali, we started early the next morning to Kibber. The rising altitude brought along with it spectacular images of mountains with crowns made of clouds, the clearest, bluest sky and vast valleys. At Kibber, the homestay was thronging with tourists, but managed to provide us with a hot bath, owing to the solar water heater. Who needs electricity when we have the sun?  From Kibber, we went onto Dhankar, the cliff village with a high altitude lake- the Dhankar Lake which is a short trek away. The homestay at Dhankar had dry toilets i.e. the waste is covered with a lawyer of cowdung and used as manure. Not even water is wasted here. We had a small, modest medical camp there as the locals don’t have easy access to medicines. It helped us in getting to know the people there, their needs, health status and the problems they face. Next, it was onto Langza, going to the highest village in the world connected by road- Komik. The Langza homestay

(with dry toilets and solar power)

was most memorable;  the boisterous, iron willed, witty granny, my poor hindi, helping her in prepping for dinner, crying as I chopped onions only to leave her cackling with laughter. Now that is what travel is all about. Our final day took us to Chandra-tal, the moon lake. We chose to trek there instead of going by road. The 4 hour trek, surrounded by towering giant mountains on all sides, capped with snow, left us feeling utterly insignificant and our troubles, more so. Nearing the lake, we could see the path strewn with bottles and trash left behind by campers. Naturally, we started picking up and embarked on a clean up around Chandra-tal, it was a privilege! The campsite we stayed in, does its part for the environment too. The trash was segregated, loaded up onto trucks and taken back to Manali for recycling.

Travel- the word has become all the rage nowadays. Social media is choc a bloc with blogs, photos and videos, claiming “To Travel is to Live” and everyone feels compelled to travel, its more peer pressure than inspiration.

Yes, travelling is good, when done right. We have a beautiful planet waiting to be explored and most of all, cherished and protected. Going on a travel-rampage, leaving a footprint of trash, just to post photos on Instagram isn’t going to help preserve whats left of nature. Travel at the grassroots level with someone who knows, understands and strives to help the local ecosystem. Get to know the people of the region, share stories, make memories, learn how people in various corners of the earth live, their local trade and livelihood. By doing so, you will learn that you are a small but important gear in the machinery of the universe. Even you, as a single human bring, can turn a few wheels; all it takes is some care towards Mother Nature.  Swanky hotels ain’t gonna give u that. For me, Eco-Traveler is the only way to travel from now on.

 

Nestled between the snow-capped mountains of Himachal Pradesh, Kheer Ganga offers travellers a picturesque view of the Himalayan stronghold and hosts hot water springs that can ease away any qualm or pain. The once pristine forests might have been an isolated sanctuary for the diverse Himalayan wildlife at one point of time, but it has since evolved into a go-to holiday destination brimming with our urban bourgeoisie. Long gone are the days when it used to be a peaceful trek through the pristine forest; now the trek bustles with delusional hippies and Café music.

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During my recent visit there, I was on a mission. I, along with a handful of nature lovers, environmentalists and concerned citizens had volunteered for a Cleanliness drive of the hippie trail organized by Eco-traveller. The event aimed to raise awareness about the looming threats the valley faces due to the unceasing inflow of trash each year. An unabridged trail of plastic waste now lines the walking path; ignored by most like a mere overgrown verge. The problem was that it wasn’t a problem at all.

While rummaging through the seemingly endless sea of plastic, we deliberated on effective solutions to dispose of the collected waste. We had already assumed that trying to reduce the generated trash was a banal attempt and our solutions should rather focus on its efficient management.

We willingly plunged ourselves into the filth, hand knitted jute garbage bags around our waists, and picked up as much trash as one could with unimpeded enthusiasm. The initiative was a great success and yet again proved the power of people to bring about change.

Volunteers scoping the valley for more trash as they struggle to hold on to the overflowing garbage bags
Volunteers scoping the valley for more trash as they struggle to hold on to the overflowing garbage bags

Well intentioned, no doubt, but does this initiative provides the end solution to the problem of the continuously increasing waste in Kheerganga, or anywhere else for that matter?

To a lot of people’s displeasure, the answer would be no. It might be a mitigating intervention but waste management alone cannot provide us the luxury to turn a blind eye to our much more significant problem of waste generation.

To tackle this problem of waste, one first needs to understand it. Only when we peel through the façade of convention, the root cause behind waste generation becomes clearer. And this cause; which is often missing from our common perception of waste; is much needed to be debated on. We do not have to look for solutions from our authorities or experts. Their solutions mostly buy us some more time before we eventually start feeling the inevitable repercussions of our continued ignorance. The policies treat us as a hopeless generation of consumers and undermine your ability to change. Or is it that they don’t want you to change?

But I haven’t lost faith in you yet. That’s why I am talking to you now. In hope you will understand and acknowledge the solutions that have always been within you.

So let’s talk about waste and how can we minimise it.

As a species, we can well agree to the fact that ‘waste’ is everywhere. It is the omnipresent god of modern century. Reincarnating itself into the plethora of everyday products as soon as we flush it down our rivers. This is the waste that is a waste since its inception. This is the waste that we consume and then wait to be taken away from our sights. You need to identify this waste first.

Multitudes of Waste wait patiently in Cafés of Kheerganga for tired unsuspecting travellers
Multitudes of Waste wait patiently in Cafés of Kheerganga for tired unsuspecting travellers

The countless number of plastic bottles and wrappers collected from the Kheerganga trail give testimony of the waste we are persuaded to buy. You have been conditioned to forget the costs that we actually incur to create these marketable waste.

Why would the palm oil companies willingly tell you about the thousands of acres of rainforests they have burned down in South Asia? As things stand, the burden of justifying this massive destruction sadly lies on you.

Corporations may simply work on concerns over profit and loss. But you are not an organization. You are no machine. We are people. And you can afford to think twice before making that purchase.

Try it. It’s free! ~ Sad consumer joke~

In the witch hunt for resources to satiate our never ending desires; we are mining away our landscapes, cutting down our forests, hunting down our wildlife, polluting our rivers and changing our climate.

It won’t stop until you do.

It is time to address the basic issues with your lifestyle and wants.

Our landfills will eventually overflow, water bodies would choke and there would be nothing left to dig out from the Earth. This is the future our current model of consumption is leading us to. The perceived growth of our civilization runs on our expertise of resource consumption. It’s something that has been engrained in your mind since childhood. You are led to believe that you need that burger, that bag, that I phone.

The constant fear of crippling our invisible growth makes us comply and play our part in the market economy. Allowing corporations to pillage our Earth and create waste.   

Yes, I agree it’s not easy to give up all the pleasures that our economic rise may provide you in the long run. But in the end, our decisions as a species should also consider the limits of our Planet.

Acceptance is the first and hardest part. The road from there is easier and fulfilling. From one manufactured consumer to other.   

We should also not forget that while dealing with our own direct waste, our concerns for its effective management should immediately follow our retrospection.

Do remember – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle; for a hopeful future.

A thought etched out somewhere in Kheerganga
A thought etched out somewhere in Kheerganga

Eco-traveller is a sustainable adventure travel company working towards conservation & sustainability through experiential travel. ECO- Environment, Communities & Outdoors.

Come join in to bring the change. Visit their Facebook page to know more, and support –  https://www.facebook.com/ecotraveler.in1404/?fref=ts

 

DISCLAIMER – The article doesn’t aims to provide one-stop solutions but simply puts forth an alternate way of perceiving the problem. The idea is to provoke thoughts and debates among readers rather than preaching. The readers are also advised to do their own research and then take decisions

Priyanshu Thapliyal