ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISM IN J&K

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISM IN J&K

                          



The primary habitats of fascination in Kashmir are its perfect nature, culture, and journey spots. Expansion in the number of travelers throughout the time in Kashmir has brought about the improvement of natural issues and concerns. For example, untreated sewage from small-scale industries and hotels has polluted various lakes, rivers, groundwater, and other water resources.


Gulmarg and Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra are the best examples of how mismanaged and unplanned tourism can hurt the ecological balance of a region. Similarly, Dal Lake in the heart of Srinagar has lost its sheen and attraction because of a lack of proper management and a social sense among tourists and is now polluted with animal carcasses, weeds, and leftover food and polythene. The main source of pollution in Dal Lake is the inflow of sewage.

Sewage production is directly related to the increasing demand of the tourism industry in the vicinity which prompts people to set up new hotels, lodges, and houseboats. The sewage emanating from these hospitality infrastructures flows into the lake and hence causes serious threats to its ecosystem. Some broad areas of tourism-related threats to the environment have been briefly discussed under the following sub-headings:


Solid Wastes and Littering


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One of the key factors responsible for environmental degradation is the production of solid wastes at an unprecedented rate. This is a serious issue on which all the travelers of Kashmir seem to have objections. Untreated and unmanaged strong squadrons have become a serious threat to the biological balance of these spaces. Solid wastes enhance pollution of soil and water, besides reducing the attraction of a certain place. An increase in the tourist influx to a particular area consequently imposes more pressure on the tourism-related services like hotels, restaurants, and retail shops, which in turn produce tons of wastage and dispose of it into the open. The effects of this problem are most serious in pilgrimage areas like Amarnath Ji Yatra, where a large number of people throng the holy stalagmite in a very short span of time. Moreover, indiscriminate littering of plastic wastes and other garbage by tourists in eco-sensitive places is threatening to the ecosystem and is causing environmental degradation.

Sewage


An essential driver of the destruction of water assets and their regular verdure is the intense expansion in sewage creation from inns and so on. However, tourism alone cannot be held responsible for sewage production. The movement of people from villages to city centers to enhance living standards is also partially responsible for the degradation of the environment by generating the bulk of sewage among other activities.


Furthermore, the development of the tourism industry attracts people for the availability of jobs and other business-related opportunities resulting in temporary and permanent settlement of a huge population which is also the main reason for the rapid urbanization of these areas. Consequently, a number of environmental problems including sewage production are generated due to urbanization. Sewage contains organic matter that is rich in nutrients and helps algae and other microbes to thrive, hence increasing the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) of freshwater. Lidder River among other new water sources is a significant casualty of untreated sewage in Kashmir.


Air Pollution


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A report framed by The Lancet Commission based on pollution and health puts the worldwide deaths caused by the bad air quality in the year 2015 at a staggering 6.5 million whereas India with 2.51 million deaths held the apex spot. Unorganized transportation and the use of pegs mainly increase air pollution in Kashmir which leads to various respiratory diseases. The air quality of Kashmir is worst in the autumn months when people start burning leaves to prepare for winter. 

According to the travel industry perspective, the transportation framework is the significant wellspring of air contamination in Kashmir. Rapidly increasing tourist arrivals to Kashmir have increased air and road transport over the recent past. This ascent in motorable vehicles has worked with the discharge of carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and ozone-depleting substances. As a consequence, the region has witnessed acid rains in the past, hence directly affecting the landscape, natural vegetation, and agro-based industry as well. The recently installed Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) at various locations in Srinagar city by State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) have only confirmed that the rise of pollution in the city is alarmingly high.

Degradation of freshwater resources


Water pollution is one more significant issue brought about by the travel industry in Kashmir. The quick tourism development has put substantial weight on water assets to the expense of the requirements of the nearby community. Although there has been a significant rise in the construction of inns, lodges, hotels, houseboats along with freshwater bodies, any scientific intervention for proper management of wastewater and water preservation has not been inducted. For example, sewerage from several dwellings and private homes on the banks of the Dal is managed in the lake, which damages its common fruit.


Floating vegetable gardens, a portion of Kashmir's greatest vegetable-producing areas and furthermore a focal point of fascination for an expansive number of sightseers, are additionally significant polluters. The requirement of fresh water and other local resources in Kashmir is already very high. Accordingly, there have been increasing pressures on these assets so the assets are exhausting at a quick rate.


Deforestation


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The quick development of tourism is one of the fundamental culprits for uncontrolled decimations of woods, in light of the fact that the developing interest of tourism has prompted expanding requirement for building material i.e.improvement of lodgings, restaurants, cabins, houseboats and for other provincial activities. An increase in tourist entry has prompted an increase in the interest for nearby forest resources by manifolds and this pattern pushes local communities to harvest more trees with a specific purpose to produce more crops.

Another vital reason for deforestation is the cost of land close to the tourist sites has expanded at a quick rate because of increasing demand for different tourism-related activities, which prompt unlawful infringement, logging, and chopping down of forest trees. With the rise in unmanaged tourist inflow, there arises a need for land clearance for new constructions, putting pressure on forest land. In 2010, the report of the Forest Department estimated the violation of 4877 hectares of land in Kashmir Valley. According to the forest policy of India around 33% and 60% of the aggregate region of plain and Himalayan areas respectively should be under forest cover, however sadly there is just under 22% of forest cover on a national scale and just 20% in J&K. 

Yet at the same time, the developing competition for the utilization of forest resources is causing degradation of these valuable assets at a high scale. In the meantime deforestation is bringing forth major issues, for example, soil disintegration, loss of biodiversity, environmental change, and furthermore affecting water cycle adversely and condition of the locality.

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Land Degradation


There has been great pressure on the natural land resources significantly because of rising in the construction of tourism and recreational facilities. Constructional processes include mining of sand, soil (for making bricks, etc), and other important minerals and can often lead to unchecked erosion and caving. In addition to that, tourists demand better facilities at airports, railways, golf courses, natural parks, etc. that leads to unwanted degradation of land resources, loss of flora and fauna, and deterioration of the landscape. Moreover, the plastic wrappers and bags used by travelers ameliorate the polluted state of land resources.


Degradation and Loss of Ecosystem


Unchecked development of tourism-related facilities (lodging, restaurants, entertainment, etc.) mining of sand and different minerals, deforestation, and construction of roads may result in the demolition of the biological community. Also, the development of air terminals, streets, rail, and roads causes the loss of wildlife habitats. Besides, the presence of visitors in a large number in close vicinity to wildlife habitats and their actions like horse riding, sledding, trampling may responsible for the extinction of numerous types of fauna, soil disintegration, loss of vegetation, decrease in air and water penetrability. Thus, modification of biological systems by visitors’ recreational exercises can lead to the degradation of natural habitats and further deteriorate the condition of the environment.


Change in Climate


Tourism, being a climate-responsive sector, is directly affected by any unpleasant changes in the weather of the region, like climate-change inflicted storms, floods, loss of snowfall, excessive rains, etc. Globally, tourism cannot be excluded from the list of climate change sources as it involves the movement of people and the creation of facilities for travelers and is hence a secondary source of climate change. It is been estimated that only the movement of people from one destination to another amounts to 50% of the total traffic (road, rail, and air), hence contributing substantially to the emission of greenhouse gases and other major pollutants. In the last two decades, the rise in average temperature in Kashmir valley as reported by IMD (Indian Meteorological Department, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Govt. of India), was 1.45oC as compared to 2.32oC in the Jammu region.


Snowfall imbalance


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Environmental change is severely harming the snowfall equilibrium of Kashmir valley. An enormous number of travelers are drawn to Kashmir due to their experience of sports-related snow. The recent rise in temperatures, no snow in the winter season, torrential rains is clear symptom of climate change making its presence in the valley. According to the findings of research conducted by the National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, Ladakh, Zanskar and Greater Himalayan ranges of J&K have witnessed a decrease in the glacier volume ranging between 3.6% and 97% in the past three decades, with most of the glaciers degrading by 17% -25%. 

The low snowfall amount is not only affecting freshwater sources but also poses a negative image for the tourism industry in the state. Hence sustainable development is required. Another facet of climate change is irregular patterns of rainfall. Therefore, droughts and flood-like situations have now become more prominent. The great floods of September 2014 can be attributed to drastic climate change over the recent past.

SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:


The above discussion shows that the unorganized and excessive growth of the travel industry is negative for the climate of the state. The travel industry must be regulated in an environmentally manageable, socially ideal, and financially viable way to ignore its devastating effects.Environmental Management

The following suggestions should be an integral part of the management policies for the area:

1) To avoid worsening the flimsy ecology of the state, the Ministry of Planning and Human Resources should account for the rules, regulations, and policies related to the environmental management of these areas. A reliable Environmental Management and careful development of tourism, as well as leisure and housing facilities like restaurants, hotels, houseboats, parks, etc, is required.

2) To reduce the ecological impact on flora, fauna, and vulnerable habitats, the ecology and environment of lakes, rivers, and other water bodies should be managed resourcefully.

3) The adoption of eco-friendly practices should be made compulsory to the tourism industry, encouraging the protection and promotion of the environment for a longer period in the future. In this context, ecotourism can be put in the spotlight, which is more dependable and is helpful in the conservation of the environment and wildlife of the area.

4) The type and amount of pollutants along with their sources should be identified. Appropriate measures must be taken to minimize them.

5) An active participation of the local population should be encouraged by the promotion of activities, in which people can be directly or indirectly involved in making judgments in the tourism-related activities, which affect their living and land.

6) Special services and investment layouts must be aided by the government to promote environmental conservation.

Increased Environmental Education and Awareness Programs


There is a need to educate the tourists to know the impact of their activities on the environment and measures to reduce them. Also, the local people need to be made aware of the benefits of keeping the environment protected and how this is important to maintain tourism in the state. The stakeholders can play an important role here as the knowledge of climate change and the environment is generally lacking in the J&K hosting community. The authorities must organize awareness camps for the local community, in collaboration with the Meteorological Department. This will help them in managing recreational and tourism activities at the tourist destinations more efficiently.


Management of Waste


For efficient management of the waste following things can be done:

1) The concept of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” should be made popular. The installation of dustbins and „Recycle Bins‟ is required at every corner of tourist destinations. Appointment of conservancy staff, proper segregation, and treatment of the collected waste must be done. Setting up waste recycling centers with proper techniques is required. Subsidy on the recycled products should be promoted.

2) Landfill areas must be identified. Harmful wastes from hospitals etc. must be disposed of at proper areas assigned by the government. The “Polluter pays” principle must be followed that penalizes those who dump the waste improperly and at unassigned places.

3) There should be a system of monitoring the hotel’s progress including waste management, water, and energy use on a regular basis.

4) Further, conferences, seminars, roadshows, etc. should be organized that help to solve problems related to waste management and disposal. There should be easy availability of data regarding the wastes and management to the researchers, users of the waste, and governmental organizations.

5) Environment-friendly measures like the complete prohibition on the use of plastic and the introduction of pollution-free battery-operated vehicles can help in ecological protection.


The problem of Sewage and Other Liquid Waste


Appropriate installment and management of wastewater using standard wastewater treatment systems can help in the improvement of sewage problems. Improvement in the drainage water purification system and prevention of mixing of sewage water with the lakes, rivers, and other water bodies must be done to minimize pollution. The construction and use of septic tanks and bio-toilets must be made compulsory at tourist destinations and housing facilities. Strict rules should be imposed, penalizing those who defy them, including cancellation of licenses of owners of service providers of hotels, restaurants, houseboats, etc.


Problem of Deforestation


To check the deforestation activities following things can be done:

1) Deforestation must be avoided, rehabilitating cut-down woods on a war footing. Native trees, shrubs, and other plants must be conserved. All the developmental activities including the construction of roads, buildings, tourism and recreational facilities, etc. must be monitored by the authorities for the minimization of harmful effects on the state forest resources.

2) Keeping in view the climate adaptable species, afforestation in the river catchments and nursery development must be encouraged for climate oriented eco-restoration. Appropriate measures for conservation of RET (Rare, Endangered, and threatened) species, medicinal and wild edible species must be used.

3) Any future projects that may have a negative impact on the environment of the area should be planned and executed sustainably without harming the fragile ecology of the state.

4) Enhancement of forest regeneration by planting native plant species can prove to be very effective in controlling soil erosion.

The problem of Air Pollution and Climate Change

The emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), CFCs, etc. from tourism and housing activities need to be monitored in order to control the rising climate changes and air pollution. Intelligent transportation such as battery-driven boats and other vehicles promoting the use of renewable energy should be established. Encouragement should be given to use public transports and thus reducing traffic burden and emission of harmful gases. All vehicles must be checked for emission levels. The increase in the use of solar-powered gadgets, CNG, and reduction of fuelwood, heating systems should be encouraged.

In addition to the above-mentioned points, there should be proper guidance to the visiting tourists to inform them about the eco-sensitive nature of the place and the care it seeks for. Strict guidelines and laws should be enacted to check the mismanagement of natural resources and action should be taken against the defaulters. This will surely help in sustaining the beauty of Kashmir for future generations.






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