DEHRADUN: Littering in such pure places is a problem that needs to be tackled quickly. The otherwise pristine meadow has turned ugly due to excessive littering, majorly during the New Year as there was a high influx of tourists during this time.
The government has spent nearly Rs 200 crore to generate snow in the artificial skiing lake in Auli. This man-made lake has already turned into a dump yard. This is a part where we should get angry and blame ourselves rather than the government. The empty plastic and liquor bottles can be seen strewn across it.
Chandrakant Purohit, a tourist from Doon who recently visited the town, hoping to find a snow-covered expanse, was disappointed when he came across a gorgeous valley full of trash.
According to him, “It was not a great sight; the rink was filled with plastic and glass bottles.”
Purohit said that while tourists often litter the hills, the administration is also to blame for not placing enough trash bins. “In our trek of nearly 4km from the base to the hilltop, there was not a single dustbin to be found. Also, on our way, we found people drinking alcohol in the open,” he said.
“While a team visits the town regularly during peak tourist season, cleaning has been on halt due to heavy snowfall.” Said Shailender Panwar, president of Joshimath municipal council, under which Auli falls. This clears the fact that an area like Auli is also hard to maintain due to natural circumstances. People should always be more cautious at such remote places. How hard is it to keep the trash in their bags?
“Our vehicles cannot go up to the town due to snowfall but tourists also must not litter the mountains. The tourism department must ensure the cleanliness of the town,” he said. During the off-season, municipal council staff visit every 15 days and collect the town’s garbage, which usually weighs up to 1 quintal. “During the peak tourist season, when several thousand people visit the town, trash generation surges and we try to clear it regularly so it doesn’t accumulate.”
“However, there are challenges. The snow blocks roads and the ropeway which we use to reach the town is occupied by tourists. Therefore, tourists should do their bit by behaving responsibly,” Panwar added.
The effect of littering worsens when it’s not limited to the problem of looking at the trash. When The snow melts, the garbage flows downriver streams. The melted snow passes through tiger reserves. Wild animals in these protected areas, including tigers, leopards, and elephants often end up consuming plastic and other pollutants from these rivers.
In the meantime, the idea of imposing a “green tax” on tourists, which was proposed by the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board in 2019, seems to have died down for now.
Villagers feel that tourists do not care for the mountains they flock to. “Tourists should not come with the mindset of leaving behind a trail of trash for locals to clear,” said Shanta Devi, 43, a resident of Joshimath.