Ladakh, located in the Trans-Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, has become a popular destination for tourists all over the world. The Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh has now come up with a practical solution to use all of the plastic waste that is left behind by tourists every year. This decision was made keeping in mind the idea to protect the ecology and reduce carbon footprints.
Plastic Pollution and Carbon Neutral Ladakh
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats that our planet faces. Ladakh, being a hot spot for tourists, has been struggling with the ongoing plastic waste that’s been left behind by tourists for a while now.
With a local population of about 274,000, the population almost doubles when tourists visit. While the exponential rise in tourism has certainly pumped up the economy, it has also brought with it a warning on the depletion of Ladakh’s natural resources. The more tourists there are, the bigger the growing problem of improper garbage disposal and plastic waste.
Aparajitha Goswami of Zero Waste Ladakh says although Ladakh has always been a zero-waste society, with the tourists coming in from all around the world, there is a large portion of inorganic materials found, such as plastic, cement, glass, metal, ceramics, polyester, rubber, and much more, which are polluting the pristine environment in this region.
“In tourist season, every day, 300-600 cars visit Pangong Lake, carrying approximately four persons per car and each passenger buying at least four single-use plastic bottles,” Konchok Norgay, who works with Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh and Himalayan Institute Alternative Ladakh said. “All these 5,000-10,000 bottles are recklessly littered in the valley without thinking who will clean up their mess once their trip ends. Since there is no proper waste management system in Ladakh, the plastic waste remains discarded, forever, in the open area, sometimes reaching inaccessible lands where tourists cannot reach.”
Experts note that Ladakh never had a problem with waste disposal until two decades ago. The local population always recycled most of the waste that was generated, but with the tourists that come in, there is no guarantee that they will respectfully manage their waste and dispose of their plastic waste responsibly. This plastic waste pollutes the land, air, and water in the region.
Thus Ladakh is on a mission to become a carbon-neutral Ladakh one day. First they started with banning plastic water bottles in government offices. Now they have made the decision to start building roads using plastic to help reduce the carbon footprint.
Ladakh building roads with 10% of plastic waste
Ladakh will soon be building roads using 10% of their plastic waste. This plastic waste used will contain thrown away plastic bottles, containers, etc. The Department of Ladakh is also planning to install machines for shredding plastic in Leh and Kargil and use 10% of the plastic for the construction of the roads.
In order to find a sustainable solution to the problem of plastic waste, all the bituminous roads in Ladakh shall contain at least 10% plastic waste including plastic bottles, containers, etc., the order reads.
The Ladakh administration has approved a legal timeframe to begin the construction of the roads. The Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) New Delhi is also organizing training for the local engineers, Border Roads Organizations, the rural development department and the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation in Leh and Kargil to work on this project. According to reports, five scientists from CRRI will provide this training to help in constructing the roads and other activities in the cold conditions of Ladakh.
“The training brings improvements to the road construction activities in the cold climatic conditions of Ladakh and helps the engineers better utilize the plastic waste in road construction technologies,” said Commissioner Secretary Ajeet Kumar Sahu.
With proper training Ladakh officials and engineers will work more efficiently which will help protect the fragile environment of this region in accordance with the vision of making Ladakh carbon neutral.
It is not too late for us to protect Ladakh, and as tourists we can definitely make a huge difference by utilizing reusable water bottles, disposing of our garbage responsibly, using eco-friendly cutlery, supporting the local farmers, and wasting less water.