Responsible travel in Leh Ladakh and why you should be concerned

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.

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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 –

Stay local

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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.

Eat Local

LAdakh Food (5)

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

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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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24 thoughts on “Responsible travel in Leh Ladakh and why you should be concerned

Add yours

  1. It is really interesting to know how people are being aware of responsible tourism. We surely should not be wasting food and water, or not be using single use plastic, or taking shared vehicles. In addition to these, responsible tourism is also about benefiting the economy of local people, improving working conditions and access to the industry, making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, being culturally sensitive and encouraging respect between tourists and hosts – we need more of these. I feel glad to stumble upon a blog like this.

    1. Hi Shreya,

      I still feel that there is a great difference between talkers and doers. While many are able to understand the importance of responsible tourism, the fail to do something substantial by themselves.
      I find your pointers really helpful. I hope more people understand the importance of responsible travel.

  2. What an awesome post! It’s really important to be a responsible tourist who respect and support the locals. Simple steps like using shared vehicles, stay and eat local are totally great ideas. ~ Ola @ WanderWithOla

  3. Whenever we decide to travel to different parts of the world, we should always try to be responsible tourists. I loved reading your text! 🙂

  4. I love our tips about traveling in a responsible way. I think these can really be used anywhere. I think it is pretty crazy the extent of the climate change there! It is scary

  5. Thank you for sharing such an important piece! It is vital that we reconsider our relationship with travel and acknowledge the devastating effects tourism can have. Those that are most vulnerable that are hit the hardest by the effects of climate change. It breaks my heart to see the struggles these beautiful places face due to our ignorance and greed. We need more blogs like this that examine what we can do to be better. Your tips are a great start to more sustainable tourism!

  6. As sustainable travel advocates ourselves we love the story you have told about this region and the future impacts tourism will likely have and how we can mitigate them. I think as travellers we should be setting an example for other people to travel more responsibly so places like this can operate better in the future. These tips can be transferred to any tourist destination in the world.

  7. I am so happy that responsible and sustainable travel have become such a “trend” over the last handful of years. It is so important to keep this earth beautiful and thriving so that we can enjoy it in our travels for years to come!

  8. You know, it’s places like Ladakh which make me so frustrated with people who actually try to promote the idea that climate change isn’t happening. It’s happening alright, and it’s totally effecting the lives of people all around the world in critical ways.

  9. It is very nice of you to write this blog post and make us aware of how climate change is affecting this region. Such information is needed because many of us are not even aware of how global warming affects people’s lives. To be honest, I’m really angry that we still use so much plastic. I would like to put a bail-in my country for plastic bottles, maybe it would help partially overcome this huge problem.

  10. These are some really useful tips to be a responsible traveler not just in Ladakh but any place which is ecologically sensitive. Sadly overtourism is partly guilty of amplifying some of the issues you’ve mentioned here. I believe we should always prefer the local community over commercial establishments whether it’s for stay, food or transportation.

  11. It does look like such a beautiful place. But you are right. With all the climate changes you will need to be prepared and make sure you are ready for whatever season you land in.

  12. This is such an interesting point of view. I believe in being a responsible tourist. I don’t like people trashing my country, so I don’t do that to the places I visit either. In the other hand, climate change is a real threat. All the things that has been happening around the world is just crazy.

  13. You’ve raised some excellent points about responsible travel here. I’ve never heard of this place, but travellers should do their best to always respect the environments in which they travel.

  14. This is such a thoughtful post and I totally agree with you. It is not only the locals’ but the tourists’ responsibility to preserve the natural attraction of a place.

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