Srinagar, Aug 26: United Tourism Forum (UTF), amalgam of at least eleven leading and Apex Tour and travel Associations of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday urged authorities for allowing only locals to organize trekking and hiking in ecologically sensitive high-altitude areas.
A UTF spokesperson told Rising Kashmir that these adventure companies while organizing trekking in sensitive areas of Pahalgam, Sonamarg or Gurez have no regard for the environment. “They virtually plunder nature during their stay in these areas,” he said.
They said that locals are more concerned about the natural resources of Kashmir. In the name of trekking, Kashmir cannot afford destruction of its environs by these adventure companies.
“In Ladakh all the outside adventure companies were banned from organizing trekking. Authorities in UT of J&K should also ensure that only locals are allowed to organize trekking in the ecologically fragile wildlife and forest areas.”
General Secretary of travel agents society of Kashmir (TASK), one of the constituents of UTF, said that damage to the environment during treks is their primary concern.
The voices seeking action against these non-local adventure companies have gone louder after a video in which two laborers from tribal communities are seen digging huge trenches in the ecologically fragile Sakiwas wildlife area.
The boys in reply are telling the man that these are for Indian hikes and some other person whom they did not know asked them to dig the trenches.
The boys in the video are also telling the man that these trenches are meant for latrines and they have been asked to dig the same trenches at Lidderwat, Tarsar and Sundarsar, three other ecologically fragile locations for camping.
“We don't know about the permission. We are laborers and are making some earnings,” the boys can be heard telling the man when he asks them if these trekkers have been granted permission by the wildlife authorities.
Sharing the video and pictures of the trenches being dug in the woods of Pahalgam, many nature lovers sought stringent action against these adventure companies.
“Disaster under the garb of hiking and trekking.....lavatory construction,” wrote Raja Muzaffar Bhat.
“Been to Lidderwat yesterday. I was appalled when I saw the place, everywhere you can see the garbage, streams are almost full with plastics and polythene. Moreover, these so-called trekking companies are excavating the ground which they use for latrines not only in Lidderwath but Sekwas and Tarsar.
They have made these places disastrous, wrote another facebook user, Sajju Gulzar.
Recently a local NGO collected at least 5 quintals of garbage from different camping sites in the Sonamarg area.
Tufail said this speaks of the environmental degradation this adventure company’s cause during trekking and hiking.
“We appeal to the authorities to come up with some mechanism with regard to trekking so that environs are not ravaged during trips organized by these companies,” he said