As mountain states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal & Uttarakhand opened their borders for tourism, it’s the local communities that fear the risk of infection. We look at the example from Lahaul Spiti in Himachal where locals are protesting against the resumed tourism activities.

Lahaul Spiti is a tribal district in Himachal Pradesh with limited public health resources. Also, more than 50% population in the district suffers from hepatitis. In such a situation, locals are not happy with visitors coming from highly infected cities for a tour in the valley!  With a population of almost 13000, the district is located in the remotest part of the hill state. Spiti Valley is a favorite place amongst the young travelers coming from mega-urban hubs like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Nodia etc. But, at this moment, locals are opposing any kind of travel.

Things got ugly when women from Spiti Valley protested and blocked the way of the State Cabinet Minister who violated the travel norms, which required him to undergo a quarantine of 15 days. As a result, the minister lodged an FIR against the 200 women protesting against him!

They were protesting for a simple reason: the Minister was traveling from #Shimla to valley quite often (without self quarantining), exposing people in the valley to risk. This was being done especially when the health infrastructure in Lahaul Spiti is in great shortage.

(The analysis was originally curated on Foundation’s Twitter handle by Rishabh Shrivastava and Gautam Kumar. Designer: Radhika Sinha)

However, now the homestay owners and tourist operators are promoting a new model: rent a cottage or homestay for a month or 50 days and work from mountains. Sounds attractive and worth pursuing at first. But, extremely risky for local communities in hill towns!  Most of the hill towns (Mussoorie, Shimla,Kullu etc.) have limited health infrastructure. With tourists flocking in from highly infected cities, things can take a U-turn pretty quickly in these towns, which may end up risking the health of locals.

Thus, we should re-consider such models where there’s a potential to endanger the lives of vulnerable communities coupled with weak public health infra. More then economic revival and chill time, we need to ensure the safety of all. Even of those living in remote mountains!

We also urge every traveler to strictly follow the traveling protocols. This does not only ensure the well-being of those living in these mountain towns but your own safety too. Remember: Limited public health infra, makes them more vulnerable!

(By: Rishabh Shrivastava & Gautam Kumar)

Campaign Notes & Newsletters – Reporting beats on forests, water, waste, tourism and urbanization. An initiative by Editorial Team at Himalayan Watch. Write to us at contactsdcuk@gmail.com

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