Recently one of the members of ALTOA (All Ladakh Travel Operators Association) published a very damaging article about Indiahikes on Facebook. Predictably the internet world went viral with it.
What’s not amusing about the story is that it is complete fabrication.
In his post the member wrote:
“INDIA HIKES, a Bangalore base travel Company is making Ladakh,a area of Garbage basin, This company is running Chadar trek since two years with cheapest cost and making Chadar trek a area of Human waste area. They use green Plastic bag for human waste collection and throws in the river and surrounding area, making whole surrounding and environment polluted with green bag containing human waste. ALL LADAKH TOUR OPERATORS ASSOCIATION, LEH Inspected this area and found the whole area filth and polluted. They pitched toilet tents in the river bed and thus again polluting the river and stream extremely undrinkable for human being. We request everyone to share this message and discourage good human being and responsible traveler to not to join this company for Ladakh Tour from 2014 onward.Photo by Dorjey Daya.”
Find the original facebook post here.
The reality is Indiahikes is perhaps the only organization that has done anything to save the fragile ecosystem of the Chadar. Indiahikes introduced the concept of bio-degradable bags to defecate. These bio-degradable bags are made of 100% corn starch. They degrade in a month leaving no trace. It is a terrific innovation combined with the introduction of camp toilet seats.
Trekkers can not only defecate in comfort and complete hygiene, there is also no trace of sight or smell. The system also ensures that the waste does not pollute the environment. The waste collected in the bio bags are buried in earth for natural decomposition. They decompose within a month even in the extreme cold conditions of the Chadar trek.
What is the reality of events? On the Chadar trek, after trek leaders Saranbir and Rashish had buried the bio-bags and left the camp, they were dug up again (gross!). A few hours later when trek leader Pradeep arrived with his team, members of ALTOA raised a hue and cry about bio bags lying around. They threatened Pradeep and made him sign a letter of acceptance (threatening they would disrupt the trek).
We want to reiterate a point here, incase you have missed the significance. The bio-bags were dug up again after they were buried! This is an atrocious and criminal act. Why would someone do this?
We strongly condemn this action. This has been a very damaging exercise by some members of ALTOA and brings ALTOA’s credibility in question.
We are here for the mountains and our trekkers vouch for that. We are committed to our green trail efforts. We will continue with our efforts. We have not only brought in innovation like the bio-bags, but every trekker of Indiahikes is now issued Eco-bags to bring back litter.
But frankly, these malicious postings by ALTOA members are not amusing any more.
If ALTOA is keen on the environment we have a few questions to ask:
- As ALTOA what have you done to protect Chadar’s environment? Apparently, you collect Rs 100 per trekker from every organization for this purpose. From some organization you collect more. How was this used on the Chadar? Can any trekker vouch for it (trekked with or without Indiahikes)?
- If you are so keen on the environment how come no one has heard of your environmental efforts during the Stok Kangri, Markha valley or any trek in Ladakh (not conducted by Indiahikes)? Are you interested in the environment or your business interest?
- If environment is your concern, don’t you think joining hands with organizations like Indiahikes in collaboration is more productive?
- How come in your post you mention words like “cheapest”? “Cheap” is an opinion. If trekkers have been paying ridiculous amount like a lakh for Chadar then you have been overcharging. Indiahikes has helped rationalise the cost. Even at our fee of Rs 22,950 we feel Chadar is a very expensive trek.