In the last five years, Ladakh has seen a rapid change in climatic conditions. With unprecedented rainfalls, melting glaciers and snowfall in the months that are usually considered summers, the problems of Ladakh doesn’t seem to end.
In 2019 itself, climate change knocked the doors of Ladakh region and started showing symptoms. Some of the issues that happened during this year’s summers were –
- Heavy rainfalls that have never been seen in this region, let alone in the months of June and July
- Snowfall didn’t end till mid July and while it was nice for the tourists to see snow up close, the life of locals were affected
- Late snowfall meant snow melting at an odd time of the year which flooded roads
- The danger of flash floods is way more than ever
- Landslides increased due to rainfall and snow fall
- The Khardungla Glacier has been melting due to uncontrolled tourism
Ladakh is a beautiful destination and after it was declared a Union Territory in August, the footfall of tourists is supposed to increase next year. In 2020, Zanskar region will start operating as a tourist hub as the road from Manali to Zanskar will start operating and soon it will see the same change that Leh saw in 2015.
As tourists, it is our responsibility to leave Ladakh the way we saw it. Here are a few ways in which this can be made possible –
Ladakh has seen a rise in homestay programs in the last 3 years. Since 2016, there are multiple organizations in different regions of Ladakh that have come up with various homestay programs. Sadly, these homestay only see a majority of guests from foreign countries and Indians are still more inclined towards hotels.
Staying locals mean that you’ll help in preserving the economy of a home and hence the family won’t migrate or switch to some other job. Many locals in the past have given their lands to hotels which led to the said establishment removing all the vegetations from the land to construct a new hotel. This is an issue that will ruin the local ecology if continues. Instead, promote the local homestays, eat local food and live like the locals while travelling here which will be more rewarding experience wise.
Don’t encourage plastic bottles
Ladakh is slowly moving away from plastic bottle culture even though you’ll still see them being sold in various shops. It is easy to spot water refilling spots in market of Leh and around other destinations. Most of the hotels and hostels also offer water refill facility.
Plastic accumulation has changed the topography of Ladakh. Plastic degrades and mixes in soil and never decomposes properly. It then mixes in water and in farms which then leads to future generations being born unhealthy.
Avoid plastic bottles and ensure that you are refilling your bottles for a safe future.
Use less water in hotels
Not many know but Ladakh is not lucky with water supply despite all the glaciers and rivers. Hotels on the other hand pull a major portion of water from the local supply for the guests. Just by controlling your use of water, you will help some more locals enjoy the part of water supply and prevent the region from getting dry.
Since homestays use dry toilets, the use of water consumption goes minimal which is a good thing for the local ecology. Many hotels have started using borewells which will soon reduce the water table if the tourists continue to stay there. Choose a local stayhome over hotels and you can be a part in the battle for water preservation.
Promoting local food in Ladakh is a great way to ensure that the ingredients are grown in the farms and nothing is sourced from outside. Anything that is not grown or prepared in Ladakh needs special arrangements to boil and cook. While this doesn’t sound like a big issue but local food is a major part of the local economy and unless tourists start encouraging the locals to concentrate on it, more locals will move away from farming and start sourcing materials that need special arrangements to be cooked.
Try to use shared vehicles as much as possible
While it is understandable that a group of more than 4 tourists will hire their own vehicle and it makes sense, it is not okay for solo travellers in Ladakh or even couples to choose a private vehicle and increase traffic around pristine locations of Pangong and Nubra. There are shared vehicles available in Leh that take you around a 3 day trip covering Pangong and Nubra. This is cheap and economical and gives you a chance to explore on your own.
Shared vehicles and buses are a great way to reduce pollution. May be, your efforts will slow down the melting of glaciers by a few years.
A small step will help in preserving this ancient dry desert and will prevent the locals from migrating.
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