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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.