Dhabas on Treks, Yes or No? What do you think?

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Dhabas on Treks, Yes or No? What do you think?

Category Thursday Trek Talk Green Trails Indiahikes Impact

By Swathi Chatrapathy


Today we’re discussing a slightly uncomfortable topic — dhabas on treks. And we’d like to know what you think.

“Dhabas on treks have cropped up everywhere. Trekkers seem to love these dhabas. They are a welcome break on the trek, plus lots of goodies to eat. Especially Maggi, omelette, tea.

On the other hand, a dhaba on the trek can be an eyesore. They add enormously to the litter on the trail. Worse, if one comes up, then very soon others too,” wrote Arjun Majumdar, our founder, on the group.

And what he’s saying is absolutely true! When I went to Roopkund last June, there was a dhaba at 14,000 ft, near Kalu Vinayak. I was still coming to terms with it when I saw that higher up, there’s a full-fledged shop at Bhagwabhasa and worse, a chai wallah on the climb to Roopkund, at around 15,000 ft! I was wondering if I was on a train journey or a trek.

Trekkers have noticed this too. But most of them are torn between two thoughts — dhabas are truly unnecessary on trekking trails. Nobody wants to see them when you’re trying to get away from the clutter of city life. On the other hand, they provide employment to locals, nobody wants to discourage that.

We had a conversation about this on our Trekkers Hangout page a few days ago.

I’m pasting some strong voices from the debate here —

After reading all these comments, opinions and suggestions one thing most of trekkers missed to cover about SOLE PURPOSE OF TREKKING into Himalayan Range!

It’s not a Picnic!

At least to me Trekking is a break from much contaminated lifestyle of ours with junk food, unhealthy habits, inappropriate timings of having food, sleeping patterns and many more it’s unending list.

In My experience from past 4 Himalayan trek gave me enough realisation that it’s all about giving away your preferences, tastes, likings and accept what’s in front of you.

Dhaba’s came out of the need generated from the demand from mostly non responsible trekkers and not on localite’s own mind. Where there’s demand there’s opportunity for business and earning money!

Its next to impossible to refrain local residents from earnings through these Dhaba’s during specific time of year.

It’s going to be a aligning the demand vs supply equation wherein local, seasonal food should be promoted instead of packed, ready to eat and fast food.

This will also help in reducing the CO2 emission in bringing the supplies to the village by limiting movement of vehicles. At the same time the challenge of littering as well as waste collection and disposal will definitely get addressed.

Commercialisation of trekking in Himalayan range is another concern but there are good and responsible organisations like India Hikes helping to reduce impact on environment for sure.

Rest it’s how one takes responsibility on his/her shoulders and not only expect from someone else’s home. 

– Ravi Shinde

I wouldn’t want to see dhabhas on the trek trail…The treks are not so long that we cannot live without those so called fast foods. The food provided by IH is so nice that i did not have the need to eat maggi or the omelette…..as far as i am concerned big NOOOO to the dhabhas on the trek trail.

– Gopinath A Rao

There are a few that believe otherwise.

Neither we can stop the mushrooming dhabas nor mass trekking/tourism. Both are not meant for a privileged few.

What we can do is change our habits. While some groups carry out responsible trekking there are many who just come for fun (read: play loud music, consumer alcohol, etc).

I don’t understand the need to go gaga over soft drinks, maggi, packaged products on a 4-5 day trek. Stop consuming these and one shall see a culture change in dhabas too.”

– Eshant Shah

It’s not fair to call them dhabas, most of them are local people who are homely and provide local flavour, they maintain the spirit of the mountains. Private players should not see this as a business opportunity, rather the trekking community should support these people in any way possible.

– Anand Sonthalia 

Dhabas don’t add litter.. it’s the habits of people who patronise and maybe even those who run it… The concept is great..while boosting local economy, the sight definitely reassures a weary trekker in the wilderness.. you have mountain huts in the Alps too serving food. Haven’t seen much litter there though..

– Arun Nayak

It’s interesting to see everyone’s thoughts. And it’s more interesting to note that everyone has the same intention in their heart — that trekking trails don’t get polluted. We don’t want any other trek facing the same fate as Kheerganga.

The Indiahikes opinion

Frankly, we don’t see the need for dhabas on trekking trails. There are three reasons for this.  

One, they are indeed an eye-sore

It’s not a pleasant sight to see rows and rows of packets of chips and biscuits in the middle of a beautiful meadow. It just doesn’t blend in with the surroundings. And it doesn’t fuse well with trekking as a sport. The food served, the choices made are often unhealthy — exactly the opposite of what trekking stands for.

Two, they add greatly to the litter on trails

Even if they bring their litter back down to the base camp (which very few of them do), it’s not segregated and usually ends up in a landfill. Our Green Trails team has spoken to several dhaba owners several times requesting them to segregate at source, or perhaps hand over the waste to us, which we will segregate. But it’s very difficult to scale up this kind of an association.

Three, there are better employment options in the mountains

Most trekkers argue that buying things at dhabas encourages employment. But honestly, there are better employment options available today, even in the mountains. I’m saying “better” because running a dhaba is a job with very small returns. They lead a low quality of life, and don’t have great chances of scaling up and growing. In the long run, it isn’t going to help them or their families too much.

There are many other employment options. Our own staff members are from the mountains. They have jobs as guides, technical guides, rental managers, store managers, trek managers, cooks, helpers. And they all earn a respectable income. Many of them earn much like me and colleagues, a handsome salary at the end of every month throughout the year.

So if you ask me, there are enough job opportunities, not only with trekking organisations, but in other areas such as hospitality, retail and transport as well.

Outside this, people think Dhabas can be encouraged to sell only local food. As Indiahikes we have managed to convince a few dhabas to sell only local food. We are happy to see them come to terms with the arrangement. The litter is lesser and the margins more. Yet, the lure of biscuits and instant noodles are too high for most trekkers to resist. Trekkers ask for these foods and sooner or later dhaba wallas compromise. On trails where Indiahikes is absent, the litter from these packaged goods is enormous.

However, I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. I have put up this whole debate on our website. I’ve put in a poll too, to understand what the majority of our trekkers feel.

Drop in your thoughts as a comment below.

Don’t forget to choose an answer in the poll below!

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.


Swathi Chatrapathy

Chief Editor

About the author

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers.

A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content.

Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters's in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact on a person's mind, body and spirit.

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