Most of us like traveling to the mountains during the vacation season. The pristine air, the greenery, and the modest living of the people in these territories are what captivates us. While the boost in the number of travelers journeying the mountains has done marvels for the local economy, the pollution levels, primarily the abandoned plastic waste, are likewise rising rapidly.
In an endeavor to conserve the magnificence and the pristine greens in the Himalayan region, Pradeep Sangwan launched an organisation ‘Healing Himalayas’. Having always been a city inhabitant, his determination to shift to Himachal Pradesh in 2009 appeared as a surprise to those who knew him. He endeavors to maintain the Himalayas plastic-free. He treks for an average of 2,000 km every year and has supported collecting over 5 lakh kg of non-biodegradable waste in the last few years. Every cleaning campaign encompasses the regional community and forest departments, and 30 to 35 volunteers. He usually says: “Don’t ask me what I do for a living, ask me what I do for other living beings.”
He studied in the military school in Ajmer, so discipline was something that came quite naturally to Pradeep. Like his father, it was anticipated that he would similarly join the armed forces and serve the country. Though, life had distinct plans for him. While in university, Pradeep took an interest in trekking, and that was the beginning for him. He explains, “Bollywood plays a massive role in popularising the hills. Movies demonstrating friends going on vacations to trek and discovering themselves on these explorations have motivated many to reach here.”
Life in the Himalayas
He also says, When he moved to the Himalayas in 2009, he had no idea what he would do. It all took a while to come together.” One of the initial things that he did was to commence a homestay in Manali to finance himself. He was fascinated by the lifestyle of locals. The locals have an extremely sustainable lifestyle. "The citizens revere nature. While they are not educated in the formal sense of the term, they definitely understand how to care and conserve the environment they inhabit,” he anticipates. the habits that most of the citizens followed were all exceptionally eco-friendly, such as cooking in utensils that were owned by the community which left no requirement for plastic. Even the type of food they cooked and consumed was natural and organic. However, somewhere along the path, influences from outside began crawling in, which distorted their way of life. What emerges as a great concern.
Along with a group of volunteers, Pradeep set out with bags to return with bundles of disposed of waste along the paths. They collected more than 4,00,000 kilos of non-biodegradable waste and the number is growing. The waste that is gathered is sent to two recycling plants in the state, where electricity is produced by recycling waste. This is performed with the assistance of the citizens.
Healing Himalayas conducts special recreations, mass clean-ups, and events in the neighborhood and schools to generate awareness about the supervision and rehabilitation of the environment. The primary footfall of travelers is in areas like Manali, Shimla, Lahaul, and Spiti. Over the years, the raised interest in trekking is moreover popularising other routes. “Many of those who arrive here to trek has no understanding what to anticipate or what it even encompasses. They reach here carrying loads of food in plastic packets, water bottles, and loud music. In their journey to have a nice vacation, they pollute the area and leave it in tatters,” says Pradeep.
He registered the Healing Himalayas Foundation in 2016 and got to operate. The initial six months were directed to facilitating the procedure of how to gather and manage the waste. The treks usually commence in Shimla in March, measuring the snowfall and weather conditions. In April, treks are conducted to elevated altitudes such as the Parashar Lake, almost 50 kilometers north of Mandi, in Himachal Pradesh. The lake’s proximity attracts travelers for a pagoda-like temple structure, however, in recent years has furthermore become prominent camping and partying zone, extending waste management problems. In May, the treks are towards higher zones of the Kheerganga. Participants assemble at a base camp on Friday and they trek rugged to the chosen destination till Saturday evening, gathering trash on the way. On Sunday, the team returns to base camp with the pouches of trash. A procedure of segregation is inbuilt at the collection stage but occasionally, local assistance is employed to do the needful. Plastic bottles and wrappers are passed to recycling plants in Shimla or Manali. His pursuit is to assure that people appreciate the location as it is, without contaminating it.