This NGO Is Revolutionising Sustainable Tourism In The Himalayas

Collaboration among stakeholders, exemplified by initiatives like Healing Himalayas, alongside individual and business efforts, is crucial for fostering responsible tourism and ensuring a resilient future
Tourism in the Himalayas has surged in the last decade
Tourism in the Himalayas has surged in the last decadePhoto: Shutterstock

Wth its rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes and vibrant communities, India has become a sought-after destination for domestic and international travellers. However, as tourism flourishes, there is a need to embrace sustainability practices to ensure the long-term well-being of the environment and local communities.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation defines sustainable tourism as an approach that considers the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism activities while also addressing the needs of visitors, the travel and tourism industry, the environment and host communities. In essence, it seeks to balance the benefits of tourism with the preservation of natural resources and cultural heritage.

India's tourism potential is immense, but so are the challenges it faces in ensuring that growth is sustainable and inclusive. Recognising this, the government has taken significant steps to promote sustainable tourism practices. The National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism, formulated in 2022, aims to mainstream sustainability in the tourism sector and ensure more resilient, inclusive, carbon-neutral and resource-efficient tourism.

Pradeep Sangwan, the founder and promoter of the Healing Himalayas Foundation
Pradeep Sangwan, the founder and promoter of the Healing Himalayas FoundationOfficial Website/Healing Himalayas

However, achieving sustainable tourism goals requires more than just government action. It necessitates collaboration among stakeholders, including government bodies, businesses and local communities. While the government plays a crucial role in policy formulation and implementation, businesses and individuals also have a significant part to play in driving sustainable tourism practices.

In the last decade, tourism in far-flung locations in the Himalayas has increased manifold. At Healing Himalayas, we have identified locations with substantial tourist footfall in the upper Himalayan region, such as the Atal Tunnel in Lahaul and Spiti, to set up material recovery facilities (MRF) with a storage capacity of 100 tonnes. While streamlining solid waste to MRFs and further for recycling is a tedious job, we have achieved a circular supply chain in waste management.

We have already set up six MRFs, with three more becoming functional this year. We are also setting up community centres in two locations this year to host tourists, travellers and volunteers for an experiential tenure. This five to seven-day programme will impart an understanding of how an MRF functions and provide hands-on experience in door-to-door waste collection and segregation. From a cultural point of view, we will introduce visitors to local festivals and weddings, while from an adventure travel perspective, we will offer trekking and camping opportunities.

Individual travellers can make a difference by adopting responsible travel habits. This includes researching and planning trips responsibly, choosing eco-friendly transportation options, respecting local cultures, and supporting local artisans and businesses. Businesses operating in the tourism sector can contribute to sustainability efforts by adopting eco-friendly practices, collaborating with local communities to create economic opportunities and supporting conservation initiatives.

Pradeep Sangwan, the founder and promoter of the Healing Himalayas Foundation, is committed to clearing tourist-generated waste in the Himalayas

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