The Green Hiker Travels to Gosainkunda
“The underlying goal of the expedition was to educate the trek leaders on responsible tourism practices so that they would further such principles and values in their work allowing for effective replication in the larger trekking and outdoor sports community in Nepal,” stated Mr. Chandra Ale, the organizer of the expedition from Initiative Outdoor. “We chose the Gosainkunda trail for this expedition because while being a high altitude wetland and an important religious site, it is ironically one of the most polluted trails during the pilgrimage season; the trek leaders therefore need to be made aware of their broader role in such heritage treks,” he added.
Starting at Thulo Bharku in Langtang, the expedition ended at Sundarijal in Kathmandu covering a total distance of 80km across 15 different settlements and a highest altitude of 4,610 masl at Lauribinayak Pass.
Throughout the expedition, the Green Hiker team practiced responsible tourism and interacted with the local communities to educate them on the importance of conservation, waste management and community-led solutions to sustain tourism gains in their areas. The team stopped over at local tea lodges and sourced local produce for all meals in a bid to contribute to the local economy rather than setting up separate camps and bringing in foodstuff from Kathmandu for the expedition. The team also picked up waste along the trail to dispose them appropriately in designated collection centres while working with the communities in finding solutions to waste management. The communities were taught to separate degradable and non-degradable waste; mechanisms were also suggested for transporting non-degradable waste such as plastic bottles and cans to the nearest road-head so that they could be brought to Kathmandu for recycling and reuse.
“In all my previous treks, my job was focused on ensuring the safety and comfort of my clients,” stated Mr. Riten Jangbu Sherpa, one of the participants of the expedition. “After this expedition, I have redefined my responsibility; I will now ensure that I also spend more time speaking with the local communities along the trekking trails to understand how we can work together in promoting sustainable tourism and conserving nature,” he added.
Towards the end of the expedition, the Green Hiker team also interacted with the officials of Langtang National Park with regard to improved management in Gosainkunda during the pilgrimage festivals which occur at least three times in a year. Waste and water pollution problems are rife during these festivals with thousands of pilgrims visiting Gosainkunda to take a dip and offer prayers in its holy waters. The team suggested that the National Park authorities place stricter controls on the service providers during these festivals while working with local clubs and communities to manage waste during and after the festivals.
“Gosainkunda and its associate lakes is an important conservation site for WWF Nepal. With its declaration as a Ramsar site in 2007, WWF Nepal has worked with the local communities and local clubs in helping conserve this valuable freshwater reserve,” stated Mr. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. “The Green Hiker campaign in Gosainkunda has today helped create ten ambassadors of change who will now take forward the message of conservation and responsible tourism through both word and deed,” he added.