The mountains and specially the Himalayas are becoming highly vulnerable with trekkers and mountaineers leaving behind garbage on the climbing and trekking trails. To make matters right, the East Zone committee of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation in association with the Himalayan Club, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and different departments of the Bengal government has launched a cleaning expedition starting from the world famous Sandakphu-Phalut trail.
Trekkers leave behind discarded food cans, plastic packets and every other kind of trash along once-pristine mountains and streams. Last year alone 10,000 trekkers and tourists visited Sandakphu and Phalut.
Sandakphu at an altitude of 11,929 ft is the highest point of the state of Bengal. 21 km away from Sandakphu is the second highest point on the Singhalila ridge – Phalut, at an altitude of 11,811 ft. They are located in the Singhalila National Park, one of the highest national parks in the world. This national park is a bio-diverse hotspot with a total area of 78.9 sq km. It is the natural habitat for rare flora and fauna too.
More than 20 species of Rhododendrons can be found here and it is the house for the famous Himalayan Black Bear and the Red Panda. Sandakphu offers breathtaking views of the Mount Everest, Mount Kanchenjunga and is a famous sunrise viewing spot.
“The expedition along with cleaning garbage on this trail will educate both the tourists and the local residents about the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas. Along with spreading the spirit of adventure among youth, IMF is making a serious endeavor to clean the Himalayas,” stated Manik Banerjee, Chairman, IMF, East Zone.
Addressing the flagging off ceremony at the HMI, Darjeeling on Saturday, veteran mountaineer and Everester Lhatoo Dorjee urged the expedition members to encourage tourists and trekkers they meet along the trail to take part in the drive. “This will encourage them to maintain cleanliness and be more sensible in their future visits to the mountains,” stated Dorjee.
The expedition will start on April 30 from Sandakphu and move towards Phalut and will come down via Gairibas and Tonglu, concluding at Maneybhanjyang on May 9.
“Mountains and especially the Himalayas are a great healing experience. People like to visit but do not want to take responsibility to maintain the sanctity of the mountains. This expedition will emerge as an eye opener,” stated Joyoshi Das Gupta, District Magistrate, Darjeeling at the flag off ceremony.
The expedition led by mountaineer Prosenjit Samanta includes 10 climbers and nature enthusiasts from Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. “The expedition will motivate people to maintain the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas,” stated Dr. Kallol Das, Vice President of the Himalayan Club which is the oldest mountaineering club in Asia and second oldest in the world.
Responsible behaviour should be inculcated from a young age suggested Capt Rahul Goel, officiating Vice Principal, HMI, Darjeeling. “That is why we provide garbage bags to each of our students at the HMI. They have to dispose off their garbage sensibly or carry it back,” stated Captain Goyal.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) is one of the premier mountaineering institutes in the world founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, the institute is located in the picturesque hill station of Darjeeling which is a 45 mins walk from Elgin Hotels & Resorts, Darjeeling.
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