Tourist destinations spoilt by us

Written by Himadri Paul

Tourist places

Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet, in some big cities of India, it’s growth is still a major concern. However, as life is creeping slowly towards the new normal, people from affected cities are moving out to countryside and villages solely for tourism increasing the number of tourist visits. Though wearing mask and keeping a safe distance with the locals is kept to stop spreading of the diseases, still, the virus has spread against all odds to such picturesque villages, some of which are now forced to shutdown tourism, sometimes their only way of livelihood.

But this is only for this year, when most of us are very much aware about the spreading of the unknown virus. There are situations when we are completely destroying the environment without even thinking twice about it. Some of the places have been shut only because the tourists have spoiled it to the point of no return. Let’s look at 5 important tourist places which we ourselves have spoiled due to our luxury, or customs, or laziness, or whatever, and try to figure out how we can solve such problems.

  1. Lahaul and Spiti:

This cold desert region of Himachal Pradesh is more like central Asia than typical country side of India. It’s unique eco-system, climate, landscape and culture draws tourists from all over India and abroad. However, to reach here, one has to go through treacherous roads of the Rohtang pass, where huge traffic jams for hours occurred daily, and even not counting the jams, it would still take over 6 hours to cross the pass. Now with the inauguration of the Atal Tunnel, this journey can be covered hassle free in just 30 minutes. After its inauguration on 3rd October, 2020, Lahaul witnessed a huge influx of tourists despite corona pandemic. While the Atal Tunnel was a major boon for the locals, the people of Lahaul witnessed a major challenge related to the tourists – Garbage disposal. The tourists have dumped a huge amount of garbage on the main roads and the tourist attractions wherever they went. The inhospitable, remote, and sparsely populated district did not have much garbage disposing facilities like it’s neighbouring district Kullu, and is facing a huge trouble removing all that the tourists have left behind. As rightly said by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, if the tourists themselves were aware enough, Lahaul and Spiti would have never got so much garbage. The locals are quite aware of their place and they have maintained their place very well. If everyone of us are not aware of the harm we are doing on the environment, then Lahaul may quite as well be a big dumping ground of garbage from all across India and may lose its charm as a serene, picturesque tourist destination. Himachal Government have already started imposing a huge fine on those littering places with garbage, and also there are limited ban and cap on tourist influx in the area, perhaps the only solution to protecting the sensitive environment there. If that meant you are missing out on Lahaul, you should believe the fault is with some of the tourists who toured before you.

2. Sea Beaches of Goa and Tourist:

The problem doesn’t lie just in the sea beaches of Goa, but in the most popular sea beaches of the country (not necessarily the most beautiful ones). Too much tourists crowding in a small place, too much hawkers encroaching the beach, and of course, too many hotels lining up the sea shore, almost touching the sea. Many of the hotels have been put up on illegally encroached beach. The hawkers will never lose a chance to sell anything, just anything in the beaches where tourists roam around. And of course, too much crowd just makes the sea similar to a swimming pool with waves. One of the most important remedy of this problem is the buying of land for hotels. Land may be leased, or sold but in a planned fashion. The state government should keep chalk out a plan with the Environmentalists on real estate, which lands to sell, and which to retain. Standard Operating Procedure and Environmental Impact Assessment must be carefully studied and followed to create minimum disturbance in the environment. In spite of following all this, controlling the crowd at peak season of tourism is quite challenging for which many tourists are now slowly shifting their main destination towards off-beat locations. Connecting the off-beat locations can suppress the growing crowd of the main hotspots.

3. Meghalaya and Tourist:

North-East India has a wide diverse ethnic groups, cultures, customs and religions. There are few practices common to many of the ethnic groups. One of them is jhum cultivation or shifting cultivation. It is very much true that much of north-east India is still very much covered in dense forests, rolling hills, and poor-in-nutrients soil. Hence people who have inhabited these lands have very much difficulty in growing agriculture. A traditional way of cultivation was shifting cultivation, or jhum cultivation, where a part of the forest is burnt to make the soil rich in nutrients, and after few years of cultivation it is shifted to another area. While this was done in old times, this caused a massive loss in forest cover and hence this practice was consequently banned by the Government. A similar problem have crept in current times – Influx of outsiders. Does outsiders means only illegal immigrants of Bangladesh? A visit to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya will reveal that most of the businesses operating in the area are run by the non-locals. Business opportunities have opened flood gates for the people from states as far as Punjab. That has been minimised to some extent by imposing 6th Schedule in the state. Still the business is very much run by the other committees which the locals don’t like much. Anger against the outsiders have only gone worse over years, and violence have just increased with the current scenario, including passage of Citizenship Amendment Act in the Parliament.

4. Sundarbans:

The world’s largest mangrove forest, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sundarbans of West Bengal are also wiping out thick and fast from the face of the Earth. Sundarbans, comprising of a large number of islands at the active delta region of the mighty Ganga, contains a unique biosphere in saline and alkaline soil. Home to a large tiger population, a large salt water crocodile population, and not to forget the sundari trees, which gives the forest it’s name. Over years, Sundarbans have protected Kolkata, the largest metropolitan in eastern India, from the fury of devastating cyclones of Bay of Bengal. How long will it protect is a matter of concern as the forests are disappearing faster than anticipated. The first and foremost cause is the encroachment. This is one of the most populated forests on Earth, and slowly people have started clearing the forests to build places of habitation, and small industries. This encroachment is now leading to frequent man-tiger conflicts in the Sundarbans region, as man have reached the home of the tigers. Hotels have sprung in places of buffer area of the forest. But apart from this, there is another major reason for the destruction of Sundarbans over years – the rise in sea level. The whole area lies not more than 1-2 metres above sea level, and hence even a slight rise in sea level will make a huge chunk of it to drown in the sea. This is what is actually driving the tigers away from the core area of the forest. Also the inhabited islands like Ghoramara, Mousuni, Patharpratima are being engulfed slowly but steadily by the rising sea-level. Not to forget the devastating cyclones of Aila in 2009, and Amphan in 2020 have left a trail of severe destruction in the islands of the Sundarbans.

5. Delhi and Tourist: It is not a surprise that the capital of India is on the list. Delhi has been ranked as one of the most severely polluted cities of India. Every year just after Diwali, due to bursting of so many firecrackers, dense smog engulfs the entire city and its suburbs. This has been so severe in recent times that people have aptly referred it to as Delhi smog. The Diwali firecrackers, coupled with burning of crop residues at the autumn in neighbouring states cause this dangerous smog. Air pollution in Delhi persists throughout the year with less severity due to high number of private vehicles, pollution from the nearby Badarpur power plant, smoke from surrounding industrial cities, and construction around the city. The atmosphere degrades so much in autumn that tourists have started avoiding Delhi for tourism, and the residents are suffering badly from various diseases caused directly by air pollution. Delhi, being the capital of India, and one of India’s ancient cities, have a huge chunk of income from tourism. Most importantly, Delhi has one of the highest death rates in the world due to asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases related to its pollution. Some of the steps taken by the Delhi Government are closing of the age-old Badarpur thermal power plant, closing of diesel generators in various unauthorised localities, avoiding any construction in autumn, and vacuum cleaning and water sprinkling in the roads. Other measures that we can take are minimizing fireworks in Diwali, using public transport like the Delhi metro and avoiding private vehicles as much as possible, cleaning the roads around the area, and wearing masks when outside (which has become quite a norm due to Covid-19 pandemic).

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