Whether you are a first-time traveller or an annual pilgrim to the Himalaya, the Uttarakhand calamity must be a turning point in your understanding of the great mountains and your way of interacting with them.
Facebook walls and social media timelines are ablaze with impassioned, conflicting opinions: Must tourism be banned in Uttarakhand? Must pilgrimage be regulated? Must tour operators be licensed? Is the calamity being politicized? How can we mitigate the threat of climate change in the Himalaya? How can you contribute to the future of Uttarakhand, and to disaster mitigation in the wake of natural calamities?
This flood of questions begs answering. Yet, the most we can salvage from the torrent of media is a confused picture of reality.
The choice boils down to you, dear traveller. How can you make a difference? How can you become a better-informed and responsible tourist who understands and respects the sensitivity of the Himalaya to man-made interventions? How can you make your travel choices accordingly?
Seek out the answers in a live discussion with our panel of Responsible Travel entrepreneurs.
Minakshi Pandey, Rajesh Ojha, Sunny Narang will converse with Yahoo! India’s Tisha Srivastav and Bijoy Venugopal about ‘Responsible tourism in the Himalaya: What you can do?’ on Thursday, June 27 at 2:30 PM IST.
Our panelists, all under 50, are either directly engaged with tourism in the Himalaya or have supported sustainable projects. Do note that they are not talking heads as seen on TV but practitioners with a record of environmentally conscious action behind them.
Get your questions ready and register to be reminded when the chat begins.
About the panelists
Minakshi Pandey is one of India’s first female white-water rafting guides. A guidebook writer, she lives in a small Kumaoni village, Bhakrakot, in the northeastern periphery of Corbett National Park. With her husband Ritish Suri, she ran Camp Forktail Creek for 12 years. A low-impact experience with tents and mud huts, Camp Forktail Creek was set up in a natural clearing. Minakshi and Ritish regenerated the forest, which over the years acquired a reputation as a birding destination and a haven for wildlife watching using conventional, unobtrusive tracking. In 2010, Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) recognized Camp Forktail Creek with a Wildlife Tourism Award and commended it for being India’s most inspiring eco-lodge. The camp was closed in 2012 and Minakshi, when not teaching the village kids, is now training and preparing to address the garbage menace around Corbett National Park. She is a hotel management graduate from WGSHA and continues to keep her love of gardening and cooking alive on her patch of home. Photos here: http://www.campforktailcreek.com/
In 1993 Rajesh Ojha and Capt. Ajay Sud found their way to the stunning Kinnaur region in Himachal Pradesh. This entire area had been closed off after the Indo-China war due to its proximity to the border. Only Indians with Inner Line Permits were allowed in. When the government began to permit access to the area they explored the idea of making hitherto unexplored high mountain areas accessible to those willing to travel harder and farther. And thus was born the story of Banjara Camps & Retreats. The initial offering was luxury tents. Today they have an extensive network across the Himalaya from Kinnaur, Spiti and Kulu valleys, to the Northeast and Ladakh. Theirs is an ongoing hands-on dialogue into what responsible tourism can mean in remote valleys and how to meet the urban need for middle and upper middle-class ”different” holidays. Rajesh himself is a genial hardy lover of the mountains who hails from Gorakhpur who studied in Punjab. He lives in New Delhi, where he co-runs a zero-grid restaurant, Café Roots, which runs exclusively on solar energy and serves seasonal Himalayan fare. More information: http://banjaracamps.com/
With a passion for rural development and making it self-sustaining, Sunny has facilitated grassroots micro-enterprises to innovate and thrive in the urban and global markets. He has been involved in integrating design-based and traditional craft-based enterprises to reinvent as creative industries providing employment and economic growth at the village level. He has initiated merchandising systems for craft and design retail. Sunny has angel-invested/mentored and supported design-led enterprises and retail. He is a sitting board member in non-profits with extensive networks in media, technology and academia. He believes that an enabling environment and an ecology of mentors, advisors, financial and networking support systems needs to be created for talented individuals and groups for sustained growth.
Sunny recommends you familiarize yourself with these topics for a firmer grip of issues during the chat:
Managing Treks – the Bhutan example [PDF; opens in a new window]
Controlled Tourism in Bhutan
An inquiry into fragile Himalayas
Tisha Srivastav manages Yahoo! India’s video site, Screen. An unstoppable traveller, she was part of the award-winning team of India’s first environmental news magazine on national TV, Living on the Edge. Tisha has worked as a freelance rural affairs journalist and reported and produced news campaigns as a bilingual correspondent for NDTV. From her school days in the Himalayan town of Mussoorie to her annual trips to the Himalaya, she is witness to the ecological breakdown of the bond between the city and the mountain.
Read her recent blog posts on the Uttarakhand flood
Bijoy Venugopal is editor of Yahoo! India Travel and founder-editor of The Green Ogre, one of India’s most enjoyable nature blogs. A travel writer and journalist, his passion for the Himalaya was stoked during childhood escapades into the literary realms created by Ruskin Bond, Jim Corbett and Bill Aitken. Though he has walked in the Himalaya on several occasions, he returns each time with an overwhelming sense of loss. Connect on Facebook and Twitter