There is a famous quote that says ‘Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.’ I totally concur with the saying. Travelling has uncountable benefits but at the same time is there a possibility that our wandering is proving to be dangerous and lethal for someone else??
I went for a road trip to Leh Ladakh and Himachal this year and believe me it was an incredible experience. I always fall short of words in describing the beauty of these places; they are nothing less than a paradise on earth. Every nook and corner is bursting of nature, splendor and happiness. There is no doubt that as far as tourism and exotic destinations are concerned, India has so much to offer. There is beauty with diversity, wherever you go. I wrote few blogs earlier on the magnificence of these places, my journey and experiences. But there is a part of my trip I haven’t written about still and which is quite worrying and disappointing, at least to me. The way we treat our tourist places, be it mountains or oceans or plains, is not just unacceptable but insensitive and unkind as well. We are moving leaps and bounds towards a precarious environment, which calls for an immediate action and awakening of mankind.
Leh Ladakh is home to various monasteries where we are supposed to find our inner peace and contentment, but what I found was extremely heartbreaking. My inner peace was almost shattered when I discovered a significant amount of plastic garbage piled up near one of the monasteries. At 13000 feet, where we should appreciate the tranquility and breathe-in the purest of air, we are pushing the place towards adulteration, everyday. And while we are strewing and littering our mountains, we don’t spare our rivers either. Kasol, also known as ‘Parvati Valley’ is a small hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India. The town is situated on the banks of river Parvati and undeniably the river is paying price for it. Hotels, restaurants, food trucks, all of them unload their garbage in the river or just throw it on the banks to decay and contaminate the water. If not taken care of, twenty or thirty years down the lane Leh, Ladakh, Kasol and every such tourist destination will be nothing different than what Delhi and Mumbai today are. Polluted, poisonous, putrid and pallid. In that scenario, I feel blessed to be visiting these places now, before they will be ruined and all I have will be pictures and stories for my future generations.
Leh Ladakh was more of what I experienced recently but there are plenty of such places in our country, which were once green, unpolluted and pure but now almost on the verge of extinction. An insensitive tourist does more harm to the place and environment than any other calamity could ever do. Each one of us could relate to this because either we might have been the culprit sometime or must have witnessed such callous behavior. Well, what do we exactly think while we pollute these places? Are they dumping ground? Or that why should we bother when we don’t belong there? Anyways we have to leave once vacations are over. Right?? A majority of us feel this way. But what we often overlook is, that, there exist inhabitants who are native to that area. Their bread and butter depend on the tourism. They wait an entire year for this time to arrive, so that they can make money and survive well for rest of the year. Tourism feeds hundreds and thousands of stomachs and strongly supports our economy. Our rivers and mountains, which we treat as litterbins are lifelines of our country, protecting and nurturing us from ages. They are the soul and blood of our nation and imperative for our mere survival. While we behave as cold-blooded tourists, we are not just polluting the environment and our rivers and mountains, but contributing towards the destruction of a local livelihood as well.
Questions often strike my mind while I travel to foreign countries and find a total metamorphosed version of us. Our behavior and etiquettes suddenly seems to be reformed. We suddenly become more careful, protective and thoughtful about environment. We follow all rules and regulations. We make sure to dispose garbage as per the instructions. We don’t litter public places or public transport. We don’t spit and urinate on walls and roads. Is that the fear of being caught and punished in a foreign country? The fear of bearing heavy penalties! The fear of being deported! Or we don’t want world to see the real side of us! Being a mutant for some time at some place doesn’t change our reality. It doesn’t change the fact that we are completely reckless, irresponsible and uneducated when it comes to the environment and cleanliness. We might think twice before throwing a piece of junk in some other country but not even once while we dump all our waste onto a barren plot next to our house. While we discharge all sewage and chemicals, untreated, into our precious rivers and oceans. While we throw bottles and plastics in a nearby stream. While we turn a beautiful mountain into a garbage bin.
This behavior of us might be influenced by various reasons, such as, the flexibility of getting away with any kind of penalties and punishments, seeing a majority of people around us doing the same, not being imparted the right education on pollution, waste management, environment, its importance and conservation. Also a very easy practice in our country is to blame the government and system for everything, right from our poverty, illiteracy, and population explosion to all the environment related pandemonium happening around. We easily blame them for being slack and insufficient, for not making stricter rules and better policies. But have we ever checked with ourselves, even for once? What are we doing to protect and conserve our environment? Are our practices safe and unhazardous for the environment? Are we raising our kids’ right? Are we doing all in our capacity to handle the current crunch? I am sure we never do that. The system might be malfunctioning, I agree, but its time to analyze if we are discharging our duties properly. If we are being a responsible and environment friendly citizen!
We often complaint of temperatures being higher than ever, air being toxic and water being poisoned. Glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, forests are diminishing, rivers are drying and rains are getting scarcer every season. We complaint of hill stations not being same anymore and our oceans getting brown instead of blue. We complaint of frequent natural disasters and unnatural deaths. But have we ever thought, why so many changes took place and are still underway at a terrifying rate? Why are we constantly being asked to monitor our behavior towards nature and environment? I have a very simple and straight answer to this question and that is ‘Nature is imperative for our survival.’ It doesn’t matter if we exist or not, nature will. But we can’t exist a day without nature. We all are a part of this colossal bionetwork that helps maintain balance between various elements and species of earth. We have absolutely no right to disturb this natural equilibrium. A small mistake results in a variance that we can never imagine. It affects the whole atmosphere and every possible ecosystem. It affects not just human beings but every species alive on this planet, be it in water, in land or in air. For now it might be just a plastic bottle we are throwing into a river, but in a larger run it can be the reason for the extinction of entire human race. What we have now is a very insignificant and selfish perspective, but what we require is a bigger and more selfless perspective towards our environment, towards our mother nature.
We boast the world about how beautiful, diverse and wholesome our country is. How rich our culture is and how strong our values are. We are emerging as a powerful nation in every field, be it of science or space or medicine. Nature has blessed us with everything from snow-laden mountains to deep blue oceans, freshwater rivers to salty backwaters, from dense forests to golden desert, from hot springs to soaring waterfalls. There is certainly no doubt that we live in a country whose exquisiteness and glory is unquestionable. But at the same we are dealing with a huge amount of environmental crisis. Leh Ladakh and Kasol are not the only victims but thousands of examples lay naked in front of our eyes. The heavily polluted Ganges and Yamuna river, dead lakes in many cities, persistent smog in the capital of country, the malodorous Juhu beach in Mumbai, tainted ghats of Banaras, the once white Taj Mahal in Agra, soiled kempty falls in Mussoorie, and the list continues.
We are losing all our exquisiteness and life to the hands of our self-centered behavior. We are converting our prettiest of places into nightmares. We are trading the fresh fragrance of flowers with horrendous odor of decaying wastes. We are trading the underwater life with untreated toxins and plastics. We are trading the oxygen in our lungs and blood with noxious gases. Knowingly or unknowingly we are creating a more poisonous planet every day, for ourselves and generations to come. We are being inhuman. The need of the hour is that we all should recognize the importance of a clean, green and healthy environment. We should understand and make others understand the value of our ecosystems. We should start being ecofriendly tourists in our country as well and realize that travelling grants us the access to unseen not to the destruction of a habitat. We should let a better environmental sense cultivate inside us rather than the fear of penalties and punishments. We should see a barren piece of land, not as a dumping ground but as an asset. We should realize that the correct place of garbage is in dustbins and not in the rivers and oceans. And that our mountains stand mighty to shield and guard us against our enemies, not to welcome us for making them dirty and tainted. Appropriate knowledge, mass awareness and safe practices are the only keys to a better sustainable environment.
There might be hundreds of articles and blogs related to environmental protection and conservation. My aim is not to add on to the list but to help people understand the gravity of situation and the importance of nature.
I don’t see a revolution overnight but if my blog can only help you think in right direction, we are a step ahead towards protecting our environment. We are a step ahead in being human.