Fourth grade environmental studies was all about how much damage pollution could cause to our ecosystem. Be it through litter, noise or smoke, our seemingly small actions could cause irreversible damage to Mother Nature. Strangely, none of the textbooks mentioned the amount of pollution we cause as tourists! ‘Coz all tourists are looked upon as harmless campers with binoculars slung around their necks, out there for a happy time. Of course they litter, pluck flowers, pollute the water and leave behind a giant sized carbon footprint – but who takes all of that into account?
A lot of tourists the world over visit the Himalayas on vacation every year. Due to this the Himalayan ecosystem is an area that has for long now been struggling under the burden of increased human activity and climate change. The same area, otherwise renowned as the most sacred mountain range in Asia – now finds it hard even to guard its rich ecosystem and protect it from human harm. This is why WWF, an NGO that works to conserve the nature, has taken up the job of taking responsible tourism up to the Himalayas.
With the Green Hiker campaign, WWF plans to teach tourists and tourist operators to take responsibility for their actions. Citizens can also pitch in by joining the initiative and encouraging their friends and relatives to do the same. Before going out hiking in the mountains, you need to remember to keep in mind certain measures such as walking in a straight file to avoid soil erosion and keeping noise levels low while in dense forests.
As a Green Hiker, you need to practise and advocate sustainable measures such as opting for kerosene or fuel efficient stoves instead of using the tree branches as firewood. Also, learn to never leave a fire unattended and to refrain from burning plastic or toxic substances in the woods.
One of the biggest problems caused by tourism to fragile ecosystems is the litter spread by hikers and campers. Its high time tourists learnt to carry their waste back with them instead of leaving it behind. It takes hardly five minutes to collect all the waste in a bag and to fasten it tightly to prevent garbage from scattering and spreading a foul odour.
Simple measures, really. So this summer, before you pack your bags and set out, join the Green Hiker campaign and make a conscious effort to conserve our environment.