PAHALGAM: The popularity of trekking-tourism flow to Kashmir has grown significantly over the years. While only professional hikers, middle aged couples and foreign tourists used to come for trekking in the 1990s, the past decade has seen a surge in local youth and domestic tourists who come to Kashmir for trekking.
In Pahalgam itself, the trend has caught up with local youth massively ever since 2008, after the Himalayan Welfare Organization (HWO) started promoting trekking camps and expeditions for local youth with the social message of environmental conservation.
Participants in these treks are made aware of the dangers of pollution and environmental degradation and are trained and encouraged to collect and bring back any garbage that they find in the Himalayas mountain lakes and glacier regions that they trek to.
A large number of trekkers participated in such a trek which was recently organized by the HWO in collaboration with the Directorate of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir and were successfully able to recover a substantial amount of garbage form the source Lake Valley and Dabiyan valley.
Such ‘social trekking’ efforts by the organization have not only inculcated a sense of social responsibility among the young but has also made the idea of ‘low impact’ or ‘green tourism’ a part of popular parlance in the region.
The founding President of the HWO Mushtaq Ahmad and the man behind the concept is an Environmental activist and a Right to Information campaigner, known in the region for a sustained RTI campaign against land grab, encroachment of forest land, deforestation and illegal constructions in the region.
Mushtaq has also accompanied the youth on a number of trekking expeditions to Laddakh, Wadwan, Marwah, Kashmir and other destinations over the years under his leadership, promoting a society-wide culture of environment friendly and responsible trekking tourism in the valley.