Ladakh, the trans-himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir and home to faunal diversity rarely found elsewhere in the country, is fast becoming a viable destination for various classes of tourism. Ever since the opening up of some areas close to the LoC as well as the elimination of the need for an Inner Line Permit in several of the areas to Indians and, to some extent, international tourists, the inflow of tourists to the region has increased from 527 in 1974 to 1,78,402 in 2011 (till October 2011, source: LAHDC Leh). Unfortunately, infrastructure in terms of waste disposal and management is still lacking. When my family and I visited the region in July 2015, I was shocked to see a large amount of roadside litter, glass bottles, plastic at lakesides and generally all along the otherwise barren landscape.
Himalayan Marmots are one of the more common mammals in Ladakh. They are found at altitudes of between 3,500m and 5,500m, and occupy bush-dotted slopes where soil can be dug out. Unfortunately, we saw a few individuals (including juveniles) feeding on the plastic thrown in the fields by tourists. Apart from this, I witnessed a dog trying to chase the marmots as well as heard reports that marmots around Pangong Lake are often fed biscuits by the tourists! Ladakh’s fragile ecosystem and landscape is likely to see a higher footfall of tourists in the coming years and it must deal with the growing problem of waste management sooner rather than later.
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Fragile Ladakh is seeing increasing numbers of tourists, with all the attendant problems of uncontrolled garbage and litter. Pernicious plastic waste is finding its way into the food chain.