The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) spans over 5.37 lakh km2 nearly 16.2% of the total geographical area of the country. Administratively, the ten states i.e. Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya are fully covered in Indian Himalayan Region, while West Bengal and Assam are partially covered including only the hill districts. 1
This region has a rich forest cover with more than 41.5% of its geographical area under forest cover representing one-third of the total forest cover in India. The region also covers a large portion of the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot and is home to some of the most important shrines and places of tourist interest.
The region is one of the largest producers of waste, with nearly 17.5 lakh Metric tonnes of waste production. Poor waste disposal and processing facilities in the Himalayan region are harming the ecology in this region. Of the 17.5 lakh metric tonnes, merely 5.4 lakh metric tonnes of waste was processed. This means roughly more than two-thirds of the total waste produced in the 10 Himalayan states, is not processed and ends up in landfills and pits, according to the data presented in the Parliament by the Union Ministry of environment, forests and climate change. State-wise statistics show that the state of J&K generates the most waste among the 10 states i.e. nearly 5 lakh metric tonnes. Waste processing is quite low in the popular tourist state with just 8% of this waste getting processed. Mizoram fared poorly in waste processing with just 4% being processed. Sikkim was the highest at 66% and Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand processed 40%.2 Thus a major part of the waste produced is either dumped in landfills or thrown across the mountains.
The state of Uttarakhand has 13 districts, but only one waste management plant in Dehradun. Recently, the Uttarakhand government set a one-year deadline to dispose off around 28 lakh metric tonnes of waste that has been piling up over 20 years. The state government is opting to treat the waste in different ways, by using it to generate electricity, biogas, etc.
Mountain tourism has been a major cause of environmental degradation and pollution of water sources. This is exacerbated, by the absence of adequate waste management infrastructure and implementation of solid waste management rules due to which waste contaminates the springs and water bodies in the mountains.
Educating those who run tea shops the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling plastic can also go a long way. Innovative and creative ideas along with determined and persistent action such as providing incentives to set up environmentally-friendly businesses need to reach the northern states.We as citizens also need to play our part by disposing responsibly and using environment friendly products as much as possible. After all, beauty lies in the pistine clear mountain ranges and not in the plastic that covers them.