Saving Jibhi – One cleanup at a time

Jibhi Tirthan Valley

Casual travellers are like a bunch of locusts. They move in packs and then destroy the ambience and aura of a place and then move to another destination. With the tourism boom in North India, several villages closer to Delhi and Chandigarh fell in the trap of offbeat travel and slowly lost their ecology thanks to the SUVs and luxury hotels running here. Himachal Pradesh being the most accessible has suffered the most thanks to this tourism boom. Places like Mcleodganj, villages around Kasol and Kullu valley have suffered the most because of people craving to explore more offbeat.

Disclaimer: The locals are equally responsible for the destruction of ecology of a place as much as the tourists are

As a new victim of booming tourism Industry, travellers have decided to skip Manali for Tirthan Valley. For the last few years, this gateway to Great Himalayan National Park was an unexplored sanctuary only known between a few travel enthusiasts. Today Gushaini and even places beyond Jibhi are being discovered and being exploited by tourism industry and travel sector. In last three years, the villages outside GNHP have accumulated heaps of plastic bags and the reason why some bright minds decided to take an initiative and remove this plight from Jibhi before it takes shape of a huge epidemic like it has happened in Manali, Shimla and Kasol.

Jibhi tirthan valley 2

Lalit Kumar is the founder of Jibhi Cleanup program and runs a lovely homestay in the town by the name of Leena Palace. In the summers of 2017, he invited some volunteers to take part in a small cleanup drive around a few of the developing tourist spots of the region.

For any cleanup drive, it is more important to spread the message of the value of keeping the place clean than a group of volunteers simply going and removing the garbage. If the later happens then it will result in two things; first, the villagers will start depending on these strangers to come up and cleaning the place and second, once these volunteers leave, there will be no one to take care of the garbage and the situation will revert to the previous condition.

Tirthan Valley cleanup

The idea behind the Jibhi clean-up drive was simple; to make the locals aware about the value of keeping their village clean. One the first day of the cleanup, we went to Balunag temple. This small temple is located at a small trek of 2 kilometres. When we started the cleanup we found that the route was filled with packets of chips, mineral water and cold drinks. It took us more than 4 hours to remove the heaps of plastic garbage from the region.

Tirthan valley

Later we had a meet and greet session with the villagers with whom we discussed the reasons why their village needs to be clean and what harm would plastic waste bring to their village in the long run. The conclusion is that the villagers are never made aware about the harmful effects of garbage and more importantly, they don’t know anything about the segregation process and fear that if they ask their guests to dump the garbage properly, it will only result in their stay home getting a bad name and people will stop coming in the future.

Tirthan Valley jibhi

Next morning we asked the villagers, who participated in the discussion, to join us for another cleanup drive. Jibhi waterfall is a beautiful cascade where the sunlight forms a rainbow when it passes through it. This waterfall was discovered a few years ago and soon campsites started emerging around the trail. Today when you walk on the trail you’ll not only find packets of wafers but beer and alcohol bottles as well.

The effect of last night’s discussion was so powerful that the youth from the village joined us to help us remove the plastic waste. Soon there were 20 more volunteers helping us out. The enthusiasm was so high that while we had only planned to clean the trek trail, the volunteers decided to bring more sacks and clean the entire road leading to the trail itself.

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While we were leaving the waterfall, a group of tourists came up with a huge sound system, laptop and crates of beer. We knew that our hard work was not going to be appreciated by these visitors but then that was not the mission in the first place. The idea of educating the locals to understand the value of keeping their village clean will prove useful in the long run.

Jibhi is an emerging tourist destination. We cannot stop people from coming here, but with a little awareness, it will be easier to see less plastic in the region in the coming times. If you want to be a part of next cleanup drive then subscribe to my blog and Instagram for regular updates.

70 thoughts on “Saving Jibhi – One cleanup at a time

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  1. This “Jibli Cleanup Program” seems like a massive cleaning mission. Lalit kumar has taken a great initiative in creating awareness among the general public.

  2. Wow, this topic is depressing and encouraging all at once. I’m so glad to hear not only about the cleanup efforts, but also about the education efforts. I hope it will have a positive impact, as it’s such a shame to think of pristine nature being so negatively impacted by plastic garbage. I’ve never been to Jibhi, but I do hope to travel there someday — in an ecologically friendly manner! Thank you for sharing!

  3. First of I agree that tourists can be very disrespectful of their environment but I also want to say that often they adopt the sentiment of the locals. I spent a month throughout the entire west coast of india and there were plenty of villages that werent tourist spots that were very polluted.
    With that said, I love Lalit Kumar has taken up the reigns of the Jibhi clean up program. Of course this is great for tourists to get involved. But in reality is hopefully will inspire the locals to take pride in their local environment. When that pride and initiative is enhanced, the visitors will then see and sense this and thus hopefully will learn to respect that area as well.
    We need Lalit Kumar to come to New Orleans next and help me clean some of these neighborhoods.

  4. I haven’t travelled to India before but I completely understand the situation, being a long-term traveler who spends a lot of time in every country I have traveled to I have seen the impact tourists passing through can have on ‘off the beaten track’ places and you’re about some tourists causing devastation and then moving on – I have recently come back from the Sahara Desert and it made me sick to see the amount of waste (plastic bottles, bags, cans) left lying around – I even called some people out for littering. I’m a smoker but I keep my butts until I find a trash can to dispose of them and I think we need to make a concentrated effort to keep these wonderful places we visit clean. However in saying that, it’s not just tourists, sometimes the locals are as much as fault as travelers. Getting back to your post, I’m very pleased to read that when you guys had the talk with locals that they joined in with the volunteers, that they also realised the importance keeping the place clean is to the environment and to the wildlife. – You have written a Fantastic post here.

    1. Thanks a lot for your views. I have heard about commercialization of Sahara Desert and someone needs to help that place too. I totally agree that locals are casual about garbage collection until someone steps in.

  5. It is such a shame that people do not understand how important it is for everybody to preserve our Mother Earth! 😦 I applaud you for being part of this initiative! Have courage and strength to continue it!

  6. Wow this is awesome. It sucks that you have to do this and people treat the villages like this, it makes me so mad. But at the same time its really cool you and others take the time to do this. The ‘Leave No Trace’ methodology should really be law for tourist areas, in my opinion

  7. Hats off to you. This is an initiative that I wish would spread to more parts of our country and the world. It’s highly unfortunate that not all tourists are responsible enough, and it takes a lot to motivate locals to participate in clean ups. Well done! Your post needs to be spread and we’ll do our bit by sharing it on twitter too.

  8. This issue is quite prevalent nowadays, especially among newly-discovered places. They are unable to handle the influx of tourists. Both the local community and the visitors are at fault, I must say. But I’m just glad that something as small as a cleanup is taking place.

  9. wow, this is an amazing initiative my Mr Lalit and I am sure it must be a very proud feeling to be a part of such a campaign. I will also seek more details on this and put it on my wish list

  10. Lots of beautiful places in the world are getting destroyed by tourists and too may travelers trashing the place. It’s such a shame. But having clean up programs in place can help us save mother earth and allow us to be more eco-conscious and sustainable travlers.

  11. What an amazing project the Jibhi Cleanup program is… It’s saddening how tourism can also be a cause for nature destruction at some point. Glad to know that the locals have shown enthusiasm on participating with the clean-up. Hope it is sustained and eventually become a part of their everyday living (educating and engaging not only the younger generation but also the travelers visiting the area).

  12. Its so sad to think that the human race has become so selfish and egocentric with their travels that they completely ruin the cities that they visit. The trash and waste, to the inconsiderate ways they dress or act. It’s just ridiculous. But, my faith in humanity is restored by seeing clean up projects like this.

  13. I love that you are part of this cleanup initiative. It is so sad that tourism can bring such a negative aspect to an area when those are the people that should appreciate it even more. We went on an 80 day road trip to 13 national parks last summer and you wouldn’t believe how many people I saw leave trash (plastic bottles, bags, etc.) in the park. I couldn’t believe it! We are all there to appreciate the beauty and here they are trashing it! Keep up the good work!

  14. This makes me so sad 😦 I hate seeing people destroy such beautiful places. This is an amazing project you are doing! It is so important to keep Mother Earth clean! Thank you!

  15. Polluting is lack of manners and there is no excuse for it. Period.
    Now as for travelers (including me) the solution is to throw nothing and pick one piece of garbage from the ground (just one). A plastic bottle, a tin can, anything. This way we can only have positive influence to the places and communities we travel to.

  16. I so hate when people litter and don’t take care of the area. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s wonderful that people volunteer to clean.

  17. It always surprises me that the very people who visit these places because of their natural beauty will so callously leave their waste in it. So sad, too, that the locals think they can’t tell their visitors to clean up after themselves. I love that this project is educating the locals while helping them clean up. That will, indeed, be a valuable skill for them.

  18. Oh gosh this is so sad to see. It is so sad that people don’t respect the earth as much as they could be they locals or tourists. It is great some of you are teaming up to clean up what people can’t take away with them.

  19. I’ve been very excited to observe the rise in travel throughout India but have only been focused on the ‘positives’ as it relates to increased arrivals, revenue etc. But there really is two sides to every coin and it breaks my heart to note that there is definitely an unfortunate downside when you take into consideration that there are so many inconsiderate travelers and so many of these communities just aren’t ready to responsibly take on the influx of visitors.

  20. What an amazing initiative! It is what makes travel more than an opportunity to post fancy selfies from the top of the mountains! I hope more and more people are learning what should be done, and especially not, when going out of their house. Sometimes I really wonder if those people do the same when they are at home, hence they just don’t realize that spreading garbage all over the place is so idiotic!

  21. Wow! That is a really beautiful location. Like many of the recent tourists, I also enjoy going places that are off the beaten path. This is where many of the gems are hiding. With that written, let me applaud you for capturing this very important message. A message that is not only for those in India but also for those around the world. Keep up the good work.

  22. The location is stunning! Nature is so fragile! I think it is great people are involved in trying to improve the situation and clean the forest!

  23. We really need to improve the whole tourism experience in India. And, I believe there are a lot of things going on! We got to do our bit! 🙂

  24. We do have a similar problem here in Indonesia especially for the mountains. Fortunately, there are many nature enthusiasts that start to encourage people to care of the environment. We should take part in taking care of the environment. 🙂

  25. That’s awesome that you were successfully able to educate. Cleanup is a big deal, if everyone is pitching in what a difference it can make.

  26. Jibhi seems like a good place to save! There are a lot of good trees. I think it all starts with us. the locals must have discipline to put their trash in the designated bin. Good advocacy!

  27. Wow! What a great initiative for the cleanliness of this beautiful place?! It’s really hard to understand why visitors can’t really think about the importance of our nature to us. Great job to this group though.

  28. I think locals should also keep an eye out for littering tourists and caution them whenever they litter. Maybe take photos and put them up doing those activities near the place.

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