Eco-Tourism in Himalayas

Highest Himalayan Peak: 8,000 metres (26,000 feet).
Major Himalayan Peak: Mount Everest, Mount Kanchenjunga, K2 Mountain
Himalayan Adventure Sports: Himalayan Motor Rallying, Paragliding & Parasailing, Skiing in Himalaya
Himalayan Destinations: Lahaul & Spiti, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh

Nature worship and the conservation ethic have been an integral part of Indian thought and traditions and its also followed by India's Himalayan neighbours. For centuries, the country has nurtured the philosophy of the oneness of life, the tradition that humankind is a part of nature and one should look upon all creation with the eyes of a friend. It is tragic that in recent years, the mad pursuit for material ends has created in India and elsewhere a situation in which progress has become synonymous with exploitation of nature in all its manifestations. Today the entire Himalayan range, with its rich and unique biological diversity, is facing a deep crisis and is in the danger being destroyed. It is being relentlessly denuded of its rich forest cover. Fortunately, this has been led to some realisation, and now the beginnings of a new awakening about human responsibility towards nature are discernible.

Vales of Barren Splendour
Landlocked behind formidable mountain barriers in the western Himalayas, sheltered from the rain-bearing monsoon winds, the remote and desolate district of Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal is renowned not only for some of the wild, untamed and enchanting mountain scapes but also for its unique Buddhist culture.

Covering a total area of over 12,000-sq-kms, Lahaul-Spiti is the largest district of Himachal Pradesh. It shares a common border with Tibet in the east. A lofty offshoot of the great Himalayan range in the southeast separates it from Kinnaur. In the north, the Baralacha range separates it from the cold desert of Ladakh, while the Chamba and Kullu district lie to the west respectively.

Lahaul's only link to the outside world is by a road, which runs over the 3,980 m high Rohtang Pass. Lahaul is separated from Spiti by a high mountain range running towards the north from the great Himalayan range. A treacherous road over the Kunzam Pass connects the two valleys. Another road from Kinnaur links Spiti to the Hindustan-Tibet road.

Withstanding The Harsh Environ
Enmeshed in the folds of the great Himalayas, the climate is cold and arid, with very little rainfall. The topography, therefore, consists of dry, dusty desolate mountains, virtually devoid of vegetation spread endlessly in all directions like a moonscape, resembling Ladakh and Tibet. The monotony of this stark, haunting russet landscape is broken only by shades of green along the cultivated river valley.

Sculpted by the wind and moulded alternately by freezing cold and searing heat, the landscape of this frontier district has evolved a distinctive profile. Steep towering cliffs of hard rocks rise up into the perpetual azure sky all around, their slopes covered with heaps of weathered rocks. At the centre, the rivers have played their part, cutting deeper and deeper creating fertile banks. Few parts of the Himalayas can compare with Lahaul Spiti for sheer grandeur. And splendour of the mountains, for here nature holds sway in its wildest and grandest manner.

Mountains, forests and pastures are the mothers of rivers that sustain life. Their catchment areas are the water basins for hydel projects and dams. Destroy the forests and one will find dams silting and going dry; hydel projects will remain a dream and drought a common occurrence.

Scarcity of water will affect food production and there will be no answer to the frantic cries of the cities and villages for water between individuals, states and nations, and progres adversely affected due to lack of power.

Things Effecting Nature
Things Effecting Nature In recent years trees have so badly lopped that they are left only with a crown of green top; herbal collections on massive scales by agents of drug plant owners; uncontrolled grazing by animals; forests set on fire by villagers to get better growth for grazing with no thought for wild animals and birds; fish being electrocuted in mountain streams; large forest areas encroached upon by farmers and tourism developers; forest rest houses demolished by 'timber looters'; barren, hollowed out hillsides due to mining; murder of the majestic deodars by cutting a hollow at the base of the trunk and then setting it on fire. Land, water and forests resources are being degraded and depleted at a galloping speed.

With over-exploitation for agricultural purposes and to meet the ever-increasing demands of the cities, the sub-soil water is receding at an alarming rate. If the rivers too go dry, the holocaust can well be imagined. Deforestation will lead to desertification as is happening in parts of China where the desert sand dunes are spreading at the rate of 200-sq-kms per month.

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