Sunday, 13 October 2013

Stinking Earth:

Sitting outside in the balcony of a guest house overlooking the valley and snow peaks which were then hidden by clouds, my friend pointed to a small mud house in the distance. It was the only remnant of a time when the valley was filled with farms and beautiful village huts.  The valley and all the area around it is now covered by concrete constructions and garbage.  When my friend had first queried with the owner of the guest house on where to throw the garbage, she had matter-of-factly told her to throw it outside her balcony.  In the next few days, I noticed most guests living in the neighbouring guest houses dumping garbage and plastic bags into the valley and stream below. My friend walks a few kilometers to throw her garbage into a designated garbage dumper every few days.

Mud house in between concrete

This is how the present day Mcleodganj, Dharamshala and Dharamkot region in Himachal now looks. The quaintness and the beauty that I had found on my first visit to the same region way back in 2005 are long gone.  As tourists pour in every weekend changing the social fabric of the place with their rough behaviour and ‘eve-teasing’, the travelers have started moving further out changing the quaint villages into mushrooming concrete jungles with trails of garbage all around. The locals who have never known large sums of money get swayed easily and sell off their land. The money vanishes within years and most of them then have to migrate out in search of jobs or hard labour plunging their families into difficulties they had never anticipated.

Scenes of garbage all along Dharamshala and Mcleodganj

The vicious cycle continues and it doesn't have any immediate solutions. In the meanwhile, the beautiful valleys and quaint villages keep getting covered with plastic and garbage which neither the municipalities nor the local communities or the tourists want to take responsibility for.


Photo credit: Zalina Gamat

Abhijit Patil, a photographer, is using his art project Sadakchhap to create awareness about the menace of garbage in the mountains. Apart from showcasing the work of local budding photographers in the region, he will also create an installation made out of garbage. To know more about the project, get onto the Sadakchhap Facebook page.

Didi Contractor, a well known architect, uses local materials, knowledge and labour to make modern houses in the mountains. These houses are made of mud, costs much less than concrete houses, is eco-friendly and also do not require regular maintenance.

In an interview with HarmonyIndia, Didi said, “I am not against money but valuing things by money is a terrible mistake. The most valuable things are those we cannot buy, like love and sunsets. We have betrayed our relationship with nature. We should be ashamed that we are not leaving behind a better world.” (source:

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