SOME SUGGESTIONS ABOUT ECOLOGICALLY SAFER AND FRIENDLIER TRAVEL
Now we address a pointed and painful issue -- that of ecological destruction of almost-pristine natural areas in the Himalayas, Indukush, Karakoram and Pamirs mountain ranges in the North of Pakistan. (Technically Pamirs are in Central Asia but let's stretch mental borders for a minute....) Following are sone completely randomly complied tips. Hope travelers can practice one or more of these while abiding by the absolute essentials. Thanks.
GARBAGE (key Rule: every person manage their own. Then collect it all and dispose/process.)
• First, just don't throw it. Not on roads, not in rooms. Not near lakes or in mountains. Not chupke chupke when no one is looking; you are an honorable human being... you look at yourself..
Garbage will get stuck in and poison the water supplies and that can lead to BIG problems very fast.
• One suggestion is to keep a bag in your vehicle in which all junk is deposited until it can be put in official garbage cans or ad-hoc boxes people place around their shops.
• IT IS NOT SHAMEFUL TO LOOK FOR A DUSTBIN.
It is the sign of civilization, nobility and honor.
Even if your group is laughing at you, do it.
Soon they will be impressed by you and may be even join you. Be a guardian of the environment will earn you LOADS OF respect and honor. Locals are watching and they will REALLY APPRECIATE your efforts.
Ask at shops and restaurants for a dustbin/trash can.
If it isn't there don't shame them. Locals in mountains are living a life close to hell thanks to VERY LITTLE INFRASTRUCTURE and support.
Also they had a near zero-waste lifestyle. Junk is something very new to them.
CONSERVATION & CLEANING
• Try and bring CLOTH BAGS and TIFFIN BOXES and THERMOS/Flask, and put food and groceries in them. I must admit I am personally failing at this. I need a couple of nice cotton bags.
Insist upon taking your groceries in those bags. Keep one for dry items, one for fruit and vegs. DON'T worry about staining them. They are your servants not masters.
• Some kind of flexible woven TOKRI/basket is also good. You may enhance its look by putting some sticker or something on top that lets people know you are an EARTH GUARDIAN.
The flasks can be used to carry tea; and the tiffin can be used for takeaway. Once again. I myself need these! Used to have a better practice back home... 😑
• Spitting etc in constructed public places is out of question. Go to a proper place if you need to let body fluids out and do your business.
• PLEASE DO NOT USE JUST ANYTHING TO WIPE YOUR FACE AND SHOES. We've had tourists who picked our laundry and cleaned shoes with it.
Ask when using given products. (Some travelers wipe their shoes with room towels.) Better to carry your own toiletries. Close them in a bag when used. (Carry a laundry bag. Good practice... you won't find cleaners and washers in most places here.) In a proper place and when you have time, wash them. Or ask for a person who will wash for you and pay them per load (aik balti).
• Keep small packets of non-harsh detergent with you. Better still use traditional bar-shaped soaps for washing clothes. If they are large cut them into pieces. Thet are great for washing!
Sometimes needy people do spot jobs. They can do your cleanjng. Taje their mobile number and nane, give a missed call, and hand them your laundry. Ask your hotel/campsite manager to identify the worker as a local they can find and trace.
Please don't try to underpay them. Fear God and spread the wealth a little at a time!
• Fruit and veggie peelings make excellent compost or food for cows and goats. Put all of them in one bag if you are cooking. Bury in earth px mix with some soil so they will compost. Or hand the bag to a perdon who needs to feed the cow.
• Ask staff at hotels if garbage is sorted. Some kitchens keep a separate bin for bread and veggie leftovers. Cows and goats eat it. Think about them.
• Be careful not to drink straight from a stream.
Some are for drinking and some are sewage!
Carry water purifying tablets if necessary.
Minimize on mineral water. Carry a FLASK. You can bottke it up with FILTERED WATER available in many mountain villages.
• No pee poo or spit in water! Use a field.
Dig up earth to do your stuff or carry MITTI/Sawdust/lime with you in a box or bottle and cover your business with these. Carry water in cans in your transport for wash-ups.
•Start and close bonfire carefully.
• Carry a lighter / matches. Your Own tiny stove if you need.
• Don't dance or sing loud near a settlement ir a village. Keep noise to a mknimum anyway. Wildlife is disturbed.
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By Rmala Aalam
The author writes on Facebook by the name Rmalas Projects