In what will definitely be a heart breaking move for people planning to visit Ladakh this year, authorities have decided to ban camping at Pangong lake completely. This will be applicable for campsites and self-camping both. Bulldozers have been put in action and every structure on the banks of Pangong has been demolished. Campsites owners have been instructed to not bring up any more constructions near the lake, either temporary or permanent. People planning to self camp as well will not be allowed to pitch their tents anymore.
This step has been taken in order to prevent degradation of the lake by taking well planned, sustainable and scientific steps. After the recent boost in tourism in Ladakh, several camps, restaurants, huts have come up along the banks of Pangong. Most of these structures are illegal and have been set up without any permission. Too many tourists and too many campsites has resulted in an increase in all kinds effluents and contaminants; which poses a serious threat to the very existence of the lake; as well as the wildlife around. Steps are also being taken to seal all bore wells and hand pumps; which are operating illegally and without permission.
Actually, this decision was taken last year and was supposed to have been brought in effect effective September 15th. The law was put in place but never implemented though. Campsites continued to operate till the end of tourist season and no action was taken. This year, however, before the season began, it was made clear that there will be no more commercial structures around the lake on state-owned land.
What does this mean for you as a tourist? It means that you will have to choose from either of the following.
- Make a day trip to Pangong. Start early from Leh by 5 AM, reach Pangong, spend some time and return by evening.
- Look for a place to stay in the villages of Spangmik, Man or Merak if you want to stay close to the lake. However, considering the fact that these are just small villages and tourists arrive in thousands, chances are that you will not find anywhere to stay for the night.
- If you are OK with staying a bit far from Pangong, look for a place to stay at either Durbuk or Tangste. Both these villages are about 30 to 40 kilometers away from the lake. But these too will get crowded and accommodation at these places also will be a challenge.
No More Camping at Pangong Lake
There could be a change or at least a modification to the law later in the year after the season starts. Some campsites may get set up at some distance from Pangong but as of now, the ban is complete and absolute in terms of state-owned land. Locals at Spangmik or other nearby villages may bring about new constructions on their privately owned land later in the year but there is no update on it yet.
Camp sites are still operational at Pangong. Law was passed but not followed upon by the locals. Authorities too did not take any action. Below are some images shared by Kalyan Samaddar who recently traveled to Ladakh. In his words,
“There are plenty of cottages and tents. Rates are wildly fluctuating. If you book in advance from Leh then it might be around 1500-2000. If you reach Pangong early; and book the cottage on the spot then you can get at 700-1000 range. If you are a little late to reach in Pangong and most of the cottages has been filled up the the rate can sky rocket to 2000-3000 range!
We were moderately late and the first cottage asked for 1300! I said my foot! for this crap you want me to pay so much? Before I move to another place, another group snapped the cottage in front of me. I went to another one and the rate was absurd … finally had to pay 2000!!! Only consolation, this 2000 included dinner and break fast ..)
So the law is there but not in effect. Considering that the entire Ladakh is invested in tourism related ventures like this, I do not believe that the local authorities will take any actions either, unless the court or NGT cracks the whip even harder. I hope the information above was of help. If you have any questions; or need any other details; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.