I just wanted to post this short thread as a quick update to everyone planning to travel to Ladakh in coming days. Yes, you read it right. There will be no more camping at Pangong Lake allowed after 15th September. And this is not because the camp sites will wrap up for the season; but because they have been asked to remove their constructions permanently. The High Court has asked Leh administration to remove all structures around Pangong Tso. Even Indian army has been asked to shift their structures around the lake to some other area.
Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Pangong Tso
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 camp sites has resulted in an increase in all kinds effluents and contaminants; which poses 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.
Source: Greater Kashmir
What does this mean for you as a tourist? It means that you will have to chose 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.
Is it Justified?
What are my thoughts on this decision? I think as a tourist who wants to spend a night at Pangong, I will be disappointed. On an overall basis however, I think it was a much required step. Ladakh as a whole is a very fragile region and has been in talks recently about increasing levels of pollution and trash. About a decade ago, when I first stood on the banks of Pangong, there was absolutely no one else as far as the sight went. It was just me and my friend standing there, two people all alone at the lake; worried about where to go for the night.
Much however has changed.After gaining popularity in recent years, Pangong pretty much has a “Kumbh ka Mela” on its banks during tourist season. A lot of these people are irresponsible tourists throwing trash, water bottles, chips packets, disposable plates in the lake. I even noticed a bunch of drunk guys taking a leak in the lake during one of my trips. They than took up a challenge among themselves about who can throw the empty beer bottles how far in the lake. At this speed, I think it would take just another 5 to 10 years before Pangong loses its beauty; and becomes a contaminated water body with shit floating in it; much like numerous other destroyed lakes in our country.
No More Camping at Pangong
A similar step was taken a few years ago when authorities banned camping at Chandratal, another beautiful lake in Spiti valley. I think as citizens of the country, it is our responsibility to preserve the natural beauty around us. We however end up doing the exact opposite of it. Numerous such tourists places in our country have already been destroyed; and authorities are now taking steps to save others, like Rohtang Pass. If you consider that angle, I think banning of camping at Pangong Lake can be considered a wise step. What are your thoughts on it? Do let me know in comments section below.
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 Pongong 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 Pongong 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.