The Himalayan environment : like a stray dog on a rubbish dump

What are we doing to our environment ? I took this picture in the Kumaon ranges in the HImalayas on the way to Mukhteshwar. I remember travelling here looking for locations for Masoom, my first movie. These were untouched places of immense beauty. This picture was shot at a point where people come to get views of the great Nanda Devi ranges. The second highest peak in the world. The ‘Langur’ that I photographed in this picture looked completely baffled by the rubbish left behind by the tourists, and then she gradually accepted her destiny started to rummage for food in the plastic and other rubbish. Like a stray dog on a rubbish dump in the city…..

All over I the Kumaon ranges the rich had cut into the mountains to build houses without any thought of the beauty of the mountains. Ugly structures sprouted everywhere. Nainital, Bhimtal and way beyond had turned into stinking streets amidst unbridled construction –
and the first thing that you see is not the hills, nor the green forests, but the immense amount of plastic ! the water bottles, the paan masala sachets ,- the plastic covers of chips and kurkere – any thing else that is bad for you – (the city ad agencies can sell you and the kids anything) – strewn everywhere. This plastic is choking the lilly ponds, clogging the water drains, making the local wild life sick.
There was a time when we travelled in the Kumaon ranges we loved to eat the fresh apples, the pears, the roasted chestnuts, the tender and raw walnuts, and at a stretch we would even eat bananas. These would be our snacks – all coming in organic bio degradable shells provided by nature. and so much more nutritious !
The construction is weakening the hill sides and causing landslides. To shore the mountains up people are puring concrete into the mountain sides that are turning the once beautiful and pristine mountains into unsustainable concrete jungles.
Why unsustainable ? Because the hills will soon run out of water. The new entrants are not the local people who have learnt over generations to respect and care for the environment – to live in harmony with it. These are city people building homes that express their ego’s rather than harmony in the beauty they have chosen, these are tourists that have no investment or love for the places they are visiting.
This is endemic. It cannot last – and if you think this is all – I was told that (and I did not see it because of the monsoons) that a brief view of the majestic Nanda Devi range was devoid of it’s snow peaks !!! N snow on Nanda Devi ? That’s impossible. But if true, we are in deep deep trouble,

14 thoughts on “The Himalayan environment : like a stray dog on a rubbish dump

  1. LOL This perhaps got typed in the wrong section…
    ‘Twas meant to be here
    We Indians need Proper ‘CIVIC SENSE’ Instilled from schooling itself!!!
    Yes Please!!!

  2. What are we doing to our environment, indeed!
    But why should that question be posed to litter-ers alone? Or to ‘city people’ spoiling the beauty or disrupting the ecology of a place?
    The ‘city people’ are doing enough and more damage when they continue to stay in cities. The carbon footprint of a person depends on how much air-conditioning s/he needs, how much petrol used up for transportation, and a whole bunch of other criteria ( So yes, while the question is pertinent, and it doesn’t matter where the inspiration for having asked it comes from, it is also far more universal. There is a lot more introspection required by the so-called upper classes, the educated classes, in what exactly is the impact of their lifestyle on the environment.
    Also, to point out an anomaly, while it is true that most indigenous people know the art of living in harmony with nature, it is also true that some of them don’t realize the merit of their way of living. Many of them equate success and progress with ‘city’ solutions like concrete. For instance, I was in Bhuj in Kutch last month, and realized to my dismay, how the landscape is changing… a ‘pucca’ house is an indicator of your wealth, and of course, in spite of its obvious disadvantages given the climate of the place, is still a welcome solution because of the low maintenance it requires. So a lot of the people who are better off have converted their houses to ugly concrete ones with asbestos sheets as roofs, in place of the wonderful bhungas of yore.
    The situation is similar to the one you mention in the hills of Kumaon. And even though we as ‘city’ people may not actually be the ones committing the crimes, we have laid conditions for it, and are equally, if not more, to blame. Certainly as people who have begun to realize how much harm we are doing to the environment by our wasteful ways, the onus to how find ways to turn things around lies with us.

  3. very distressing picture.
    time someone thought of making a mainstream movie on waste – with superstars, with evil and good defined in terms of the attitude to waste management. mebbe that’ll make the message travel far and wide.

  4. Shekhar – what did you do with those bio-gradable banana chilkas in your time? Did you properly dispose them off in your hotel dustbin or did you just throw them out the car window?
    The right thing to do is to leave no trace behind – if you just threw them out the car window, it is no less irresponsible than throwing out gutka packets.

  5. The Problem is India’s educational system, if we can teach kids about nature, natural resources, and the problems that they might face if they tamper with this, I am sure we’ll have more responsible civilisation. You go to places like Australia and you see students as young as prep-school going to the streets with their teachers cleaning it, you realise how ignorant and sad our system is, education is not just about degrees or deplomas there is more to it. A flawed education system of this country where the civilization is proving to be a failure after 15/8/1947. We didn’t really had visionary or great leaders at the time of our independence, no nehru or gandhi were enlightened enough to rule this country, Independence was just a small part in taking this country to the greatness we claim it to be…instead the country was thrown into a complete dark world of corruption and red tapism. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t born here or atleast wish that I never loved this land as much as I do..hate myself for that.

  6. Garbage is another grave urban issue strangely not being taken seriously.Mumbai garbage dumps are full.I know a remarkable lady Ms Poonam Huddar who runs an NGO called FORCE(forum for reclycling communities and environment).She lives adjacent to the Deonar garbage dump and started this movement fed up of the daily stink.Garbage segregation is the only solution to this monsterous issue.Convert wet waste into manure through vermiculture and recycle dry one.FORCE encourages buildings to compost their wet garbage and gives employment to ragpickers.segregation at source also gives dignity to the lives of our ragpickers who otherwise have to rummage thru garbage for their livelihood.I personally put my kitchen waste like cucumber peels,methi,coriander stems etc into my pots and find my plants growing with so much vigour as they get fresh,free manure.there are no mosquitoes,no stink unlike what many people doubt.There is such poor awareness about this issue it is apalling.the open garbage bins on every corner of our roads are health hazards breeding infections,rats,mosquitoes.and in the rains clog drains.I admire the work of this simple middleclass frail woman who works tirelessly to give us a cleaner Mumbai.Please lets all segregate garbage,put our kitchen veggies in our pots.we can grow our own tulsi,pudinah,kadhipatta,mirch(I do).Garbage is gold if seperated.selling the dry waste generates income.also rich manure is created thru composting.Dumping is not the correct way to disposing garbage.Burning causes pollution.right way is to recycle thru segregation.Shekharji,your picture prompted me to spread word about this issue.

  7. This is a painful picture. I had visited Mukhteshar about 3-4 years back and it was beautiful and untouched then. Lots of fruit orchards and the very friendly kumaoni people. I remeber sipping herbal tea at a quaint little shop. I knew Mukhteshwar was becoming very hot with the Delhi folks. I had some relatives who were considering buying property there and developments were mushrooming. You are right it is us folks from the plains who goto to the hills and violate them. Tourists who care a damn for the place.
    I have consistently had this kind of experience while trekking in the hills. I had blogged about a particular incident at the valley of flowers here
    Also, Nanda Devi without snow??? Global warming is upon far sooner than we anticipated. :((

  8. shekhar………i am headed for the langoor and her surroundings……soon ! i was looking forward to it ……..a ‘vacation ‘ from the city life………
    hopefully she has finished the cleaning job she took up while you were there…….by the time i reach…….:) ( joking ! )……
    will tell you if the nandadevi peak really has no snow………coz there will be no monsoon clouds when i go.

  9. I will keep my annonimity but i will speak and tell you…I too was on that road that day.I too saw “THAT PILE”,like I see it everytime I drive up, which is every two weeks.The pile just keeps getting addons of new junk food packets but THIS TIME there was a difference.There was a man dressed in khakis,an olive fog jacket,getting completly drenched in what was an endless downpour.He was sitting on his haunches.Attention zapped onto him first.What the hell was he doing? That pile of rubbish had become a usual part of the landscape for us.Scary…!But this mystery man in Khakis was sitting in such close proximity to a Langur.Face to face neither had fear and a few moments later when the animal felt he was going to be on camera he went about his task of rummaging thru the pile looking for his food.Twenty minutes and we were sitting in our car and watching this mystery man shoot away with his camera….not to get beautiful photographs but to carry the Himalayan story to all of us to AWAKEN .Such sensitivity–many salutations Mystery man!

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