First Green Trails trek report: Roopkund
The first Green Trails team had 18 enthusiastic volunteers from different parts of India. Apart from a massive clean-up operation, this pilot group also came up with ideas and solutions after studying the ground reality. Here, we have listed few of the challenges we face, a few solutions and possible future action.
Present situation and challenges
- Trekkers and porters pollute the trail. Wrappers and plastic are found in abundance on the trails.
- Cooks at camp sites litter the most. Staff members leave after the trekkers and trek leaders have left, so there’s little supervision or knowledge of how garbage is disposed by kitchen staff.
- Villages do not have a garbage disposal system in place. So garbage is buried, burned, or just thrown into streams.
- There are no signboards at camp sites or holy places to remind people not to litter. Layers of garbage around shrines on the way had to literally be dug out.
- Forest officials charge a fee from trekkers for maintenance but do not take the responsibility of cleaning up.
- There is a lack of coordination between individuals (trekkers, porters, guides, pilgrims); communities (villages) and institutions (panchayats, government and NGOs)
- There are no proper tools for picking up garbage.
Measures taken so far
- Didina, Bedni, and Bhagwabasa campsites were cleaned up to a large extent.
- Interaction with and education of villagers was initiated.
- All Indiahikes trek leaders and staff members at campsites were taught about proper garbage disposal.
- More dustbins were provided at each campsite.
- A kitchen staff member at each camp site has been identified and made responsible for cleanliness at each campsite. An added incentive has also been assured.
- Rahul and Bhuwantsingh ji met with the forest officials and updated them on the situation and findings. Their active support was sought.
- New toilet tents and deeper toilet holes leading to a pit has greatly reduced smell and unpleasant sights. A pipe extension has been put up at Bedni to fill buckets near toilet tents.
- Kacchars (porters and mules) have been assigned to bring down filled boris once a week, starting from Bhagwabasa all the way back to Lohajung.
- All trekkers will be given a bag to get back their own waste as well as some from the trail.
- We will continue interacting with the village people and local agencies to keep their localities clean.
- Incentive will be given to those who bring back trash that’s already on the trail.
- Collaboration with other trekking companies to see that this becomes a process and not just a one-time event.
- To start the next green trails from Wan and use the same strategy as in Didina – as Wan village and its surroundings are very polluted.
- At least two proper toilets will be set up at each camp (Bhagwabasa had only one and it was quite a mess). We’d like to look at better methods of dealing with human waste.
- Bhagwabasa needs saw dust to cover faeces, as it’s hard to get dry sand or dig deep pits in the rocky area.
- We plan to put up sign boards at base camps and places of pilgrim interest.
- Collection of non-degradable waste from all households in the villages (Bhuwantsingh ji agreed to look into this).
- To get local news reporters involved and create awareness through media.
- To source/design garbage picking equipment and garbage bags for trekkers to carry.
Here are some excerpts from the trekkers’ reports.
HV Singh: Cleaning the trail is not a-one time activity. A cultural change has to be brought in. Villagers need to be involved in Green Trails activities to make it work. We need to look into the possibility of generating gas from biodegradable waste in villages.
Sarath Champati: We need to create awareness through poster campaigns, street plays, video clips. Involve the Bedni Temple committee and the director of ecotourism to make the process sustainable.
Sanket Kulkarni and Chinmay Paranjape: Village homes to be provided with two containers each – for degradable and non- degradable waste. All trekkers need to be given garbage bags to get back their own waste as well as waste seen on trails.
Aashish Chawla: While picking up waste, my heart was filled with pride to be part of such a project. I promise to extend this drive to my local treks in the Sahyadris.
Amit Moghe: I think we should make a video showcasing Green Trails’ activities, with comments by experts in the field. Put up vinyl prints of Before/After pictures at base camps.
Naveen, Sandeep, Rajalakshmi, Arjun: Apart from toothpaste and soap, trekkers can be provided with degradable toilet paper. Organic dish-washing soap must be used.
Dinesh Musale: Water management to be done for toilet hygiene.
Vaishali Musale: With the help of local agencies, lobby the Uttarkhand government to ban plastic in the state.
Artika: An overall plan of cooperation, ‘Sahyog Plan,’ can be implemented with trekkers at its core.
Nipun: Focus on educating women in villages as they handle waste the most and can also ensure that the next generation will continue the good work. Involve local vendors so that they ensure that their cu
stomers are well-informed about waste disposal.