“Don’tmake Singay Tsangpo (Indus River) another Ganga”, “We don’t want to see this like tourists and pilgrims in Ladakh. Don’t be gamma in the land of Lama,” these are a few tweets that have gone viral with pictures of garbage littered alongside the Indus River that flows through Leh in Ladakh.
The tourist spots in Ladakh are witnessing heightened plastic pollution with the increasing number of tourists visiting the cold desert region and this has raised concern among environmental activists in the cold desert region.
As a step towards realising the long-term goal of carbon-neutral Ladakh, the Union Territory (UT) administration has already ordered a complete ban on the use of plastic water bottles and other plastic-made objects in government offices and other institutions.
However, the picturesque spots continue to be polluted with plastic waste, particularly by tourists.
The issue of plastic menace in Ladakh was raised in the recently held Mountain Legislator’s Meet (MLM) at Darjeeling by Tashi Gyalson, chief executive councilor (CEC) of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh and Ragzin Spalbar, former CEC LAHDC.
Gyalson highlighted that with growing pressures from tourism and the fragility of the ecosystem in Ladakh, there is a need to consider environmental concerns in decision making.
He further highlighted the problem of legacy waste that still needs to be dealt with in Ladakh and also explained the implications and concerns of climate change in Ladakh.
In light of the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh and given Ladakh’s increasing challenges with impacts of climate change including receding glaciers and drying streams, increasing frequency of natural disasters, changes in weather patterns, and higher intensity of rainfalls in the region.
The population of Ladakh doubles in summers when around 3,00,000 tourists visit there.
The Women’s Alliance of Ladakh with about 4000 volunteers is fighting the rapidly spreading plastic pollution in Ladakh.
The level of the problem can be gauged from the fact that more than 50,000 plastic bottle waste weighing about 16 tonnes is generated per day during the tourist season in Leh.
Plastic pollution has triggered the problem of the rapidly increasing population of feral dogs that attack women and children and also kill endangered species of birds.
Principal Secretary, Forest Ecology & Environment, Dr. Pawan Kotwal recently convened a meeting to review the formulation of District Environment Plans in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
Principal Secretary highlighted the need for the creation of a database to assess the disposition of bio-medical waste, plastic waste, solid waste, etc in Ladakh.