We believe the spirit of trekking is incomplete without the immense love and respect for mountain environment. Our trek leader Gurdit talks about why keeping our mountains clean is of paramount importance.
Mountains are foe to none and friends to all. They are not just soil, forests, birds, animals and snow; they provide us with necessities to sustain life. Mountains are also generous sources of pleasure and delight, rest and recreation. The joy of watching the sunrise and sunset on snow-capped mountains with fellow trekkers cannot be matched. Not even by winning a lottery ticket!
However, from the way we are littering our mountains and their rivers, we seem to have taken them for granted. It is disheartening to see a huge dump of garbage on the slopes.
For me as a trekker, littering has a different meaning. If we are not bringing back our non-biodegradable things- plastic bottles, wrappers, foils etc- back to cities, we are littering the mountains. Just putting them in dustbins is not enough. In most of the mountain villages, there is no proper system to handle the garbage. They just burn or throw it into the streams, which is not a good practice.
I don’t expect city-dwellers to come and clean all the mess in mountains. But I do expect them to not litter. That alone can be instrumental in cleaning up of the mountains.
What difference can a single person make?
At Indiahikes, we give every trekker an eco-bag that is tied around the waist. All their non-biodegradable waste goes into the eco-bag. We also encourage them to pick the litter from the trail and keep it in their eco-bags. Once they reach the campsite, they empty their eco-bags into sacks. Once the season is over, we bring the garbage down and take it to a nearby city where there is proper system to manage the garbage.
A lot of trekkers think: “What can I, a single person, do?”
If everyone starts thinking like this, then nobody is going to do anything.
Some trekkers feel it is very difficult to be committed to picking up litter in a 6-to-7-day trek. Yes, I completely understand that when you are struggling to climb, it is difficult to pick things up on the trail. There are lots of ways in which we can make sure we do the cleaning and not feel taxed.
Let’s say we are on a 6-to-7-day trek. Rather than picking litter on all the days, we can choose 3 days on which we can do the activity. If you are not able to decide on which day you should do the cleaning, your trek leader can help you on deciding the days. I think it is best to keep the last or the first day as one of the days because this is when you get to see most of the litter. Even on your decided day, you can pick up the litter during the first half an hour of the trek, when you are full of energy and just half an hour before you reach the campsite.
After taking the rest at the campsite, when you go for exploring the area -keep your eco-bag with you. While returning to your campsite, you can pick up the litter on your way back. This is the best time. You have already explored your beautiful surroundings, now you can help keep it clean.
In mid-January, 2016, we – Jagdish, Dinesh, Chaman and I, all from Indiahikes – went on a cleanup drive to Kedarkantha after the season was over. We went to Hargoan, then Kedarkantha base and at last, Juda ka Talab ( JKT). After cleaning the sites, we started to return from JKT to Sankri. Just 20 minutes later, we reached another campsite and saw a lot of litter there – plastic bottles, chips packets, biscuit and chocolate wrappers, foils etc.
This litter could have easily been taken by trekkers back to cities. So, what is the reason behind leaving it there?
No one will do the same thing at their own house. I think the fundamental reason is the lack of responsibility towards Mother Nature. They feel a sense of duty when it comes to keeping their house clean, but they don’t feel the same towards nature.
So, there is an immediate need to make the trekkers feel responsible by telling them the consequences of their actions. Our Green Trails goal can only be achieved if trekkers feel responsible towards the mountains.
We returned from Juda Ka Talab with four sacks full of garbage. This cycle of going up in mountains and cleaning will continue until we succeed in making the present and most importantly, the future generation feel responsible towards the nature. We all are campaigning for “Swachh Bharat.” Bharat has mountains. Keep them swachh. I am sure all of us are familiar with the adage: cleanliness is next to godliness!