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News & Events

Green Hiker & The Mountain Cleaners in Himachal

The Green Hiker Campaign and the Mountain Cleaners have joined hands this year for the conservation of the high altitude Manimahesh Lake, in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh (HP), India. Mythologically believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, the lake is visited by religious tourists every year from April to September. The lake receives an average of 700,000 visitors during the peak season (August-September). These tourists embark on a 14 km yatra from Harsar village to Manimahesh nestled at an altitude of 4,088 masl, to eventually bathe in its holy waters.

During the course of this pilgrimage, what they leave behind is plastic litter, left over food and wrappers along the trekking path; fruits, offerings, sheep and goat carcasses, and clothes in and around the lake, and tons of human excreta in the open. This could be attributed to the absence of a planned waste disposal system and toilets and the lack of awareness. There are also numerous tea stalls and tents erected along the path and near the lake. Other disturbing factors include thousands of vehicles at Harsar, diesel generators, blaring loudspeakers and the illegal extraction of medicinal plants.

Covering an area of 378.87 sq. km, from an altitude of 2,250-6,044 m asl, also lies the Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary in the same region. The sanctuary is the last home of the Himalayan Tahr in Himachal Pradesh and is also a repository of rare medicinal plants like the Gentiana kuroo (Karu) and Jurinea macrocephala (Dhup). These herbs are believed to be locally threatened due to over-extraction. A few other species found here are the Himalayan Black Bear, Brown Bear, Ibex, White-eyed Buzzard Eagle and Grey-headed Bunting. An alternative route to Manimahesh cuts through the wildlife sanctuary and the telling human footprint is visible here too.

It is therefore, imperative to help keep the lake and its environs free from pollution and degradation. WWF-India has been working on this since 2008, with the help of local support and partnerships. This is where the association between WWF-India and the Mountain Cleaners began. A group of volunteers with the mission to keep the mountains clean and garbage-free, the Mountain Cleaners took the initiative to interact with the local people and devise ways to collect garbage from the upper reaches of the mountains in HP and bring it down for recycling.

WWF-India, through the Green Hiker campaign, is helping spread awareness amongst the pilgrims and stall owners through visible signage, positive dialogue and support from the local administration and forest department.
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