Ladakh, which hit the consciousness of the masses post the release of the film 3 Idiots in 2009-2010, is battling the downside of being a “popular” tourist destination. While tourists are bringing greater prosperity to the place, which earlier depended largely on income from agriculture, they are also causing pollution to rise. Global warming, too, is having its effect on Ladakh’s sparse dry desert-like conditions, with Ladakh now battling to conserve its environment, even as this part of the Himalayas faces a crisis.
“Ladakh has now started to see serious repercussions of global warming and pollution in the Himalayas. These mountains are the source of many rivers which feed large populations of the subcontinent. So if something is going wrong here, it will eventually affect everyone,” said Padma Tashi, president of Young Drukpa Associations (YDA). Considering the effects of global warming which have started to show in Ladakh, the community has taken matters in its own hands to do what it can for environment conservation. The Young Drukpa Associations (YDA), an NGO to involve the youth of Ladakh and draw their attention to environment conservation, was formed from such concerns.
In 2010, the YDA launched a plantation drive where a Guinness World Record for “most trees planted simultaneously” was set. The feat was achieved in half the stipulated time by 9,313 people who came from villages across Ladakh and planted trees on a piece of land near the Hemis Monastery. The previous record was set in Peru, where 27,166 saplings had been planted by 8,000 people.
His Holiness Gyalwnag Drukpa Jigme Pema Wangchen, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa of the Drukpa sect of Buddhism, who founded the YDA, said that it was started solely for the benefit of the future generations. “The first thing I want to teach the youth is how to live in harmony with their environment because they are the future and they will have to live here once we are gone,” he said.
Tashi and his associate Lynne Dipam, said that though they are grateful for the attention that the film 3 Idiots brought to Ladakh, it also had a negative effect. “At least now, people know where Ladakh is; earlier there were incidents where monks and nuns who would travel to central India were asked for passports and visas,” Dipam said. “It is very important that the national media pays attention to the plight of Ladakh and brings it to the notice of all. We are grateful for the boost in domestic tourism, but domestic tourists are very careless and insensitive and contribute to pollution; they should be more considerate,” she added.
Dipam gave the example of the Panggong Lake which, after being shown in 3 Idiots, has received a large number of tourists and now is choked with plastic waste. Tashi said, “Due to the scarcity of water in Ladakh, we are planning to build a water reservoir on top of the Leh Valley. This reservoir will have the capacity to serve over 1,000 families in Leh during the winter. This will also help in recharging the underground water.”