As the weather is getting warmer in the Himalayas,the trips organising companies are coming up with different packages and plans for tourists and adventure seekers to visit the beautiful Ladakh.Everytime I browse through my social media account,I often see different events being created by these companies with their travel dates and packages.Each event from every company is flooded with likes and comments from people across the country. Many people are asking for more details and customized trips specially planned for them.I see many of my friends interested in road and biking trips from Delhi-Chandigarh to Ladakh. I have started getting lots of promotion mails from these travel companies asking me about my travel plans to Ladakh and how they can assist me.I smile and think “Thats my home”.When I browse through the details, their itinerary mandatorily includes the beautiful Pangong lake and Khardong-La, the highest motorable road in the world.With curiosity, I often read their itineraries till the end to see if they include some awareness among their tourists to save Ladakh from irresponsible tourism only to be disappointed.I often comment on those posts about how traveling responsibly can save Ladakh.Deep down I feel, even if few people read it and travels responsibly, that will be an achievement for me.Being a daughter of Ladakh,I feel its my responsibility to let people know how sad it is for us to see the dreadful changes irresponsible tourism brings to this place of fragile and sensitive ecosystem.
It was more than two decades ago when I came to Leh to start my formal education, from a village more than 100 kms from Leh.I was fascinated to be in Leh, was happy to see so many buses, cars, houses, new school and new friends.In village we used to be happy to see the only daily bus from Leh reaching our village and all of us would rush to see that bus and people coming from Leh. Time went by and with passage of every month and year I started missing the peace and purity of my village.As soon as I would get few days of summer holiday, I would rush to my village and there was no bigger happiness than being there.So fresh air, pure water and of course the serenity.Today when I look back to that time and compare it with today’s Leh, I would say Leh was really serene and peaceful at that time.I now wonder how I found it noisy.
Over the last few years,there was a drastic change.Number of vehicles increased, too many shops, restaurants and hotels are coming up in the heart of Ladakh to cater to the increasing number of tourists from across the country and the world. I am not against development but yes, development at this pace sometimes looks scary.It’s scary because it doesn’t seem to be sustainable.It’s bringing in so many things which this place of sensitive ecosystem cannot really take .I haven’t been to Khardong-La or Pangong lake yet or haven’t done the Chadar trek.Now I yearn to visit these places as soon as I am home because these places might cease to exist in the years to come. I am scared that few years from now I may not be able to see the beauty with which nature has bestowed upon these places.I might miss a lot of things,I might see heaps of garbages rotting, I might see people pissing around,I might find irresponsible crowd,I might find these places noisy.I have heard from many of my friends that there are heaps of garbages already near Khardong-La and Pangong.
There was no wrong in 3-Idiots showing the beauty of this place to the world but little had we expected that it would really bring in bunch of fools who doesn’t know how to respect the place and leave just their footprints behind rather than heaps of trash.No doubt,the local administration has a big role to play to maintain these places but we as humans,the most intelligent of all beings are to be blamed first for being insensitive and irresponsible.Not only Ladakh,I have been to many places across the country and it is equally saddening to see how people are turning the beautiful places into heaps of trash.And thats the reason I want to visit as many places as I can before the beauty of these places cease to exist.
As the tourist season is around the corner and many people might have already planned their travel to Ladakh. Personally I feel changing our ways of travel can turn out to be a blessing to these places.
1.I always prefer staying in homestays as it gives us a local touch and its a great way to learn the local traditions, culture and language too.And you may not want to miss tasting a local cuisine by staying in a hotel with all modern amenities. Ladakh also offers homestays even in the remotest of the villages and you cannot expect luxury there but you will surely be surprised to see the hospitality of these simple people.This will surely be a once in a lifetime experience.
2.While traveling I often avoid buying packaged water bottles( I take my own bottle filled from home) and if I buy packaged eatables, I make sure that the wrappers reach back home with me.In Leh, few years back use of plastic bags were banned and it was a huge success but now it looks like things have gone out of control.But we can make sure that we avoid using plastic bags ,bottles and wrappers and avoid throwing.
3.Ladakh has many beautiful lakes. Pangong and Tsomo-riri being the most pristine and heavenly.Many people in Leh consider visit to these lakes as holy and we never take bath in such places but as more and more people started flooding this place, people started having bath and started washing their vehicle and spilled oil.If things remained like this,the day is not far when we would have to start campaigns to “Clean Pangong” and I would never want to see that.
4.Though Leh is a cold desert but it has varied flora and fauna and Leh has some endagered wild life species like Urial, Snow leopard, black necked crane etc. Few people were booked for chasing the wild animals.Though the local bodies are creating awareness about importance of protecting these wildlife species but its important for us to help them safeguard it.
5.During my travel across the country, I often meet people who ask me if they can do camping in villages without any charge.Yes, I have seen many people do camping even at a place nearby my village and the villagers doesn’t say anything considering they are guests and travelled from far off places.But to their utter disappointed they find their land littered. People use their place and doesn’t bother to clean it while leaving.As a token of gratitude, if we are not paying we can atleast clean the place before leaving.
6.Ladakh has some of the oldest monastries.Thiksey, Shey,Stakna, Hemis, Lamayuru, Liker, Alchi monastery in Leh and Phugtal monastery in Zansakr to name a few.Monastries are epitome of Peace.Removing shoes,maintaining silence and avoiding wearing anything on your head are some of the basic etiquettes.
It is a sincere request to my fellow travellers or the tourists visiting Ladakh to be kind to my place, to be a little responsible and help us in keeping Ladakh beautiful and heavenly for the generations to come.
We would love to welcome your Grandchildren to this Heavenly Place!!
Feel free to contact me for suggestions on your trip to Ladakh.I would surely try my best to help provided you will leave only your Footprints there.
Note:I do not claim copyright of the pictures used in this post.Source of all above image is google.I haven’t been to above places yet and I would surely replace it with my own captures once I am there.