What happened in Uttarakhand is truly tragic, and while tourism brings money and development to the region, it can also do unintentional damage to fragile ecosystems. Here are some of the key issues that face the conservation of natural resources in the state:
Forest fires: Every summer: hundreds of hectares of forests are affected by such forest fires. Wild fires lead to loss of human lives and wildlife speacies and also cause damage to the ecosystem. Almost every forest fire is caused by human beings. Some areas are set afire by local communities to reduce grass on the forest floor. Many fires are caused by travellers throwing cigarette butts on roads passing through forests.
Non-biodegradable waste: Today, even remote hill villages have a ‘Noodle Point’ selling packaged food, soft drinks and water in plastic bottles. A lot of this waste is carelessly strewn across natural trails and campsites. If burnt, they release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Counter this with the mantra of ‘reduce, reuse & recycle’. If visitors carried back empty bottles and packaging waste, it would go a long way towards keeping our wilderness pristine.
Water conservation: Given that some of India’s most important rivers originate here, it is ironic that water conservation remains a burning issue in Uttarakhand. A large number of natural springs that dotted the hillside have been damaged due to the cutting of slopes for road building or other unplanned activities. These have adversely affected the underground water table at many places.