News / Asia

Surge in Tourism Impacts Glaciers in Northern Indian State

People sit on their all terrain vehicles at Rohtang Pass, India, Sept. 20, 2013. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)
People sit on their all terrain vehicles at Rohtang Pass, India, Sept. 20, 2013. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)
Anjana Pasricha
Environmentalists say retreating glaciers and melting snows on high Himalayan peaks could impact millions of people in the Indian subcontinent who rely on rivers fed by the massive ice sheets on the mountains. A surge in tourism is impacting the mountains in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state.  
Tucked in the high Himalayas, the picturesque hill town of Manali in the Kullu Valley thrives on the tourists who come to escape the scorching heat of the Indian plains.
D.S. Aditya, Manager of Sterling Resorts in Manali said a snow-covered pass that lies 50 kilometers up a snaking mountain road is a huge draw.   “Wherever you go there is one destination which is famous. If you visited in Manali, Rohtang is main attraction," Aditya said. "Because of the snow.”
Tourists flock to the Rohtang Pass, India, Sept. 20, 2013. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)Tourists flock to the Rohtang Pass, India, Sept. 20, 2013. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)
Tourists flock to the Rohtang Pass, India, Sept. 20, 2013. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)
Tourists flock to the Rohtang Pass, India, Sept. 20, 2013. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)
The Rohtang Pass hosts many more visitors now than it did a decade ago as rising prosperity in India’s middle class brings more tourists to the hill town. In summer months, more than 2,000 vehicles negotiate the narrow mountain road daily, making it resemble a clogged city street.

Ravi Thakur of Himalayan Caravan Adventure, who has been living in Manali since childhood, says “Twenty years ago, we could count how many cars are here in Manali. Now if you come in season time, we do have traffic jam for four, five, six kilometers on the Rohtang Road,” he added.
While tourists enjoy the scenic sight, environmentalists are cautioning about the swelling number of vehicles on snow capped mountains and nearby glaciers.

A senior scientist at the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, J.C. Kuniyal, who is studying the Rohtang region, said temperatures in the Kullu valley have risen by about point six degrees centigrade. That is in keeping with the global trend.
But more worrying, said Kuniyal, is the impact of uncontrolled tourism on the fragile mountain ecology. 

“I have seen that the regions which are facing a high influx due to floating population or human activity, there aerosols are increasing," Kuniyal said. "These are supposed to be the main causes to melt the Himalayan glaciers.”   

The aerosols come both from diesel exhausts of vehicles and burning of wood for cooking by local people. The smoke deposits black soot on the glaciers, which makes them absorb more heat.
Even as scientists collate data to study the impact of climate change and human activity on glaciers, local people are witnessing it firsthand. Ravi Thakur of Himalayan Caravan Adventure said he has been walking the mountains since childhood.
“When I was kid, I have seen a lot of snow here, compared to that, this time we don’t have that much snow here. When I have been on the glaciers first time, I have seen lot of ice. We keep going every year, almost through the same routes, and I have seen that glaciers, they are receding," he said. "There is a big change, in 15 years I have seen that big change.”
That retreat has raised concerns: these glaciers are the headwaters for rivers like the Indus and the Ganges that provide fresh water for millions of people in South Asia.
"If the present trend of gradual loss of net glacial mass continues, then over time the flow from the glaciers would reduce," said Pradipto Ghosh, a director at The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi. "The lean season flow in the northern rivers which are fed by the Himalayan ice and snow cover, that would be reduced, but it would not be zero.”
Scientists said concerns are greater for communities living close to the mountain ranges than for those who rely on rain fed agriculture in the plains.
Arun Shrestha is a climate change specialist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal. 

“It will impact their livelihoods quite significantly just by change in the water flow. Those communities, their agricultural system relies quite heavily on melt water coming out of the glaciers," Shrestha explained. "Changes in the melt water amount and timing also will have impact."
For the time being, hill communities like those in Manali are not worrying. The surge in tourism is bringing more money, more jobs and higher incomes. New hotels are opening every year to accommodate the visitors. And so far a gushing river nearby provides plenty of water for the lush apple orchards carpeting the valley. 
But some local residents like mountain guide Thakur occasionally worry about the consequences over time.  "Till I leave my life, we won't be facing those scarcity of water, but later on, the coming generation, they will have problems,” Thakur said.
Environmentalists still are trying to establish how deep those problems may turn out to be.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs