Coke Cans, Empty Wrappers: Ladakh Faces the Ugly Side of Tourism
The sparsely inhabited Leh district in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir has been one of the cleanest areas of the state. The famous water bodies of this high altitude cold desert, such as the Indus River and Pangong Lake, faced little pollution until recently.
But an enormous increase in tourism to this corner of the Himalayas has started to change this. Last year, the region received a record number of tourists, with 2,77,255 people visiting Ladakh. This is more than double the entire population of Leh district.
The area around Pangong Lake in Ladakh was not popular among Indian tourists until Bollywood blockbusters ‘3 Idiots’ and ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ were filmed there in 2009 and 2012.
Today, thousands of tourists visit the lake often via the ecologically fragile Khardung La pass, which is over 5,300 metres above sea level. The Pangong lake straddles India and China, over 750 square kilometres, and is one of the largest lakes in the region.