Movies like Zindagai Na Milegi Dobara, 3 Idiots, Dil Chahta Hai and others, which show a group of friends travelling to various exotic places, have inspired ordinary Indians to explore uncharted territories. Which is a good thing but littering the place when travelling or trekking is not good. We often read reports about how mountaineers litter the Himalayas with plastic waste and their trekking equipment. Healing Himalayas, an NGO, is on a mission to clear the litter in order to heal the mighty Himalayas.
Pradeep Sangwan, founder and promoter of Healing Himalayas Foundation, says, “I come from an Army background and have studied at a military school because of which the concept of discipline was introduced to me at an early age.” He adds that he has always been an adventure junkie, but he came up with the idea of Healing Himalayas during his college days when he started noticing litter in different trekking routes and observed that no concrete steps were being taken to tackle the problem.
Garbage is being dumped for years together in the foothills but no one pays any attention to it. “The Himalayas have become quite popular with a lot of tourists for various reasons but along with the number of tourists, the volume of litter has gone up as well,” he says. Even the most untouched parts in the Himalayan terrain are facing issues with litter and waste management. “There are several illegal structures and buildings in the middle of the forest which simply add to the mess,” he says.
Explaining how they are dealing with the problem, he says, “We do have volunteers who wholeheartedly come forward and there are a lot of trekkers who believe in trekking with a cause and they are a big help.”
Even though the work they have undertaken is going on smoothly, they want to make the school children in the area aware so that they too can contribute in their own little way.
“We are now educating the villagers on how waste can be disposed off so that they do not litter. They themselves have seen a positive change around them because of which they have started contributing to the cause,” he adds.
Healing Himalayas conducts activities and clean-up drives for the mess which has been accumulated in the foothills. “We organise special activities and events in the communities and schools to raise the awareness level,” says Sangwan and continues, “Our mission is to maintain cleanliness in the foothills of the Himalayas so as to develop a comprehensive and holistic waste management programme which in turn will help protect people, animals and the environment from toxic materials generated by plastic and other types of waste.”
Talking about the challenges, he says, “It is very difficult to change the behavioural pattern of people.” Even though the government is now trying to bring things under control, the awareness level among people is still low, which makes it really difficult to take the NGO’s vision forward.
“People do not believe in advocacy because of which we practise what we preach,” adds Sangwan.
He mentions that people on pilgrimages often tend to litter near the temple areas with plastic and flower waste. “But even when it comes to tough climbs like the Shrikand Mahadev Yatra route people still join hands to clean and heal the Himalayas,” says Sangwan. He believes that cleaning up the hills is their devotion to the deity up in the hills.
Sangwan says that he has a vision in mind, where all the trekking routes in the Himalayan terrain one day will be clean and free of waste, making it a beautiful route to trek.