Rising Pollution in Ladakh: The first time I visited Ladakh nearly a decade ago, I remember riding on Manali – Leh highway all alone for miles before we would come across a person. There were just kilometers and kilometers of a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. It felt heaven, far away from our daily city lives filled with every kind of pollution. A place that defined the very word “solitude”. It felt scary knowing well the fact that if our motorcycles broke down, we would be stranded here for god knows how long.
The first time I set foot on the banks of Pangong, I and a friend of mine were the only tourists there. There was no one in sight and the only signs of civilization were an Army post and the small village of Spangmik over the hill. During my first visit to Nubra, we were the only tourists in the entire village of Panamik and sat in that hot water spring of this village like kings. Only because there was no one else.
Much has now changed. Ladakh has now changed. It is no longer the place where last available mechanic was either in Manali or Keylong. Now there is a Mechanic in Jispa as well and during my last visit, I even noticed a mechanic setting up camp in Sarchu. Ladakh is now no longer the place that people just heard of being a part of India. Now this is a place well known to all, as well as well seen by all, thanks to recent Bollywood movies. After the recent Chinese incursions, government has also taken steps to boost tourism in the region. Inner line permit is no longer required and Indians are free to visit Ladakh as they are to visit any other part of India.
While this definitely helps with locals earning a better living form tourism, there is also a downside to it, traits of which I already witnessed when I visited Ladakh last.
There is not even a single tourist place in India that has not either been vandalized or polluted by people. Places that are not so famous are clean while the well known tourist destinations are as polluted as any other metropolitan city. The same effect can be seen in Ladakh as well. Flying chips packets, empty water bottles, poly covers are now becoming a common sight on both the roads leading to this paradise. Same can be seen on the banks of Pangong as well.
More people are eventually resulting in ruining the beauty of Ladakh. It is as if we just do not care about anything but our own homes. We do not think before throwing a water bottle out of a moving car or throwing an empty packet up in the air. Within the walls of our own house, we do not even let dust settle over anything but out there, in the society, around the ancient monuments and beautiful regions we ourselves become the dirt that pollutes.
The rising piles of garbage, traffic pollution has already set off the alarm bells. Related to the recent boom in the number of people visiting Ladakh, a senior health department functionary Shameem mentioned in an interview to Times Of India, “You won’t be able to make out all the adverse impacts of this boom. They would become visible in a few years. Leh has now traffic jams. Everyone is driving down. Even foreign tourists are hiring rickety cars and vans from Punjab and Uttarakhand. Pollution in Ladakh is rising as result”
Also read: Why I go to Ladakh?
I couldn’t agree to this statement more. I have myself witnessed a traffic jam in Leh which was quite surprising. You will often find people, especially cabs; driving in the city and nearby areas with huge amounts of smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. Per the authorities, the delicate eco-system of Ladakh cannot bear the burden of rising pollution and for now it is just a start. I even found empty beer cans and bottles lying around the road-sides and floating on Pangong.
While I definitely support the fact that more tourists means better lives for people here; there are several things that we need to take care of as tourists. Throwing garbage anywhere we want is no way civilized, be it Ladakh or any other part of the world. There are animals, birds and rare flora and fauna that this region caters. Let us be sensitive towards that. Another thing that we really need to consider if taking our self owned vehicle is to get a pollution check done. If your car or motorcycle is throwing out a lot of smoke, please get it fixed first. It’s better for you as well to ensure that your vehicle is in good condition. If hiring a taxi, please do the same. If you think that the vehicle is polluting the environment, please do not hire it.
Also read: 10 Reasons Why you should NEVER visit Ladakh
As Indians, we must realize that it is a part of our country that we are all proud of. We all need to do our part in order to ensure that this heaven remains heaven.
Rising Levels of Pollution in Ladakh
Sometime ago I received an email from an NRI who was settled somewhere in Europe. He wanted to know if Ladakh and Pangong was really worth visiting; because some of his Europeans friends were here and they told him that it is all just overrated. My reply to him was that yes, someone in Europe would definitely feel that it is just way too overrated. Why? Because they have other lakes like Pangong over there; bodies of water they care about and keep beautiful and clean. Out here in India, every single lake has people squatting next to it every morning, forget about anything else. Out here, we do not have clean and beautiful lakes. The ones that still exist are polluting fast so yes, it is definitely a rare sight for us.
So if you are planning a trip to Ladakh this year; I would request that you please be careful and ensure that you are not polluting the area. Get your vehicles checked and do not litter. I do not live in Ladakh but I am absolutely in love with the place. It is my own request that you please be a responsible tourist. Feel free to share your own views on the topic at either our Community Forum; or in comment section below.