Tourists Involvement in Solid Waste Management in Himalayan Trails: A Case Study In and Around Valley of Flowers, India

Jagdish C. Kuniyal and Arun P. Jain

DOI: 10.2190/G67A-NRLC-XLL5-B9L9


The study investigates the annual visits of 116,000 tourists to Hemkund Sahib and Valley of Flowers, India, within a four-month season. Most tourist inflow was Sikh pilgrims. Very few visitors (2 percent) came to Valley of Flowers for purely recreational purposes since the flowers in the valley become replaced by weeds. The study region is world-famous for its religious-cum-recreational significance. Unfortunately, these once neat and clean trekking areas have become a solid waste (SW) problem due to absence of appropriate technology for solid waste management (SWM) and the inadequate carrying capacity of existing infrastructures. The 288 g per capita waste generated by the visitors exceeds that in many Indian cities. In a detailed study of visitors perceptions, 23 percent realized that they themselves were responsible for creating a SW problem. Many of the wastes remained lying in and around trek stalls, apart from rare containers placed either by stall keepers or concerned authorities. Regarding SWM options at local level, some religious tourists agreed to carry back garbage to roadheads if the Sikh priest (Granthiji) would issue a religious decree to Sikh pilgrims during prayer. Cold drink bottles and plastics comprised 92 percent of the non-biodegradable wastes (NBW) available for reuse and recycling. The remaining readily biodegradable wastes (RBW) and biodegradable wastes (BW) are suitable for micro-level biocomposting. The common discarding practice by visitors considering things straightway valueless that immediately turns the things into wastes needs to be given up. The visitors ingrained habits of discarding once-used items as valueless need to be changed. This study investigates some of the cultural and practical challenges this entails.

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