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)
x
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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs