Conserving Chitkul: Why the ‘last village of India’ cannot be allowed to drown in plastic

Source: This post is based on the article “Conserving Chitkul: Why the ‘last village of India’ cannot be allowed to drown in plastic” published in Down to Earth on 31st August 2021.

What is the news?

Plastic waste is making its way to even remote locations in the mountainous regions such as “Chitkul (in Himachal Pradesh)” affecting the ecology of the region. This calls for the following principles of sustainable tourism to mitigate the impacts of pollution. 

Chitkul village

Chitkul in Kinnaur district is home to ancient mountain culture, high mountains and beautiful forests.

Chitkul: The Village on the Edge of India : Live History India

  • It is also an important religious site as the resident deity of the village, Goddess Mathi Devi, is revered across Sangla valley.
  • Scores of her devotees and those of Lord Badrinath, Nag Devta and Shamshare Devta visit the village each year.
  • The village is difficult to reach, yet, in 2018, the hamlet received most of the district’s 250,000 tourists, who bring plastic waste of every kind.

Unsustainable tourism of this kind poses a massive threat to the ecology of the mountainous region, which is vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation.

What steps can be taken?

Adopting the principles of sustainable tourism offers an opportunity to mitigate the issue.

  • First, vehicles should not only pay user-fee for tourism development but also be vigorously checked for plastic wrappers, bottles and non-biodegradable material. 
  • Second, a carrying capacity assessment to fix a limit of tourist visitation should be undertaken.
  • Third, ecologically responsible construction should be adopted that restricts unsustainably built high rises, even by locals. New construction permits should be restricted and allowed under strictly agreed guidelines.
  • Fourth, activities such as loud music and campfires should be disallowed.
  • Finally, waste management should be adopted as a priority to ensure that the menace of plastic is addressed.
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