Since 2016, Healing Himalayas has been organising treks that double up as cleaning drives on the mountains. We speak to the founder and avid trekker, Pradeep Sangwan, to learn more about his endeavour, inspiration, challenges, and 2021 trek calendar. By Rashima Nagpal
How and when was the idea of Healing Himalayas conceived?
I had no qualifications in the field of environment. But I had been trekking for a long time. Initially, a trek was just a race to reach the top. But as the process became meditative, I couldn’t overlook the deteriorating conditions of the mountains. So, I decided to do something about it; I would promise my friends a trek or a party in the mountains to make them help me clean the garbage.
Is it still a one-man army?
With the help of friends and social media, I now have an army of volunteers from across the country. But I have no full-time employees yet. I take care of everything, be it making a poster for a cleaning drive, talking to a porter for transportation, or making arrangements for food and lodging.
What kind of activities does the foundation do?
The cleaning trek, which welcomes up to 25 volunteers, is a regular weekend activity. I am planning the 2021 trek calendar, and it involves locations such as Kheerganga, Chitkul, Malana, Parashar Lake, Shrikhand Mahadev, Jogini Falls, Hadimba Temple [in Himachal Pradesh], and Rishikesh [in Uttarakhand]. We’re also focussing on building small-scale waste collection centres with the help of the forest department. We’ve built the first one in a village in Kinnaur; it will process waste from three villages, army units, and several other establishments in the vicinity.
What do you think is the solution for waste management in the long run?
Travellers need to be considerate. If you’re buying anything in the mountains, bring the empty packets back to the cities [to dispose of them]. The most common way of managing waste, globally, is to produce energy or electricity from it. Unfortunately, the concept hasn’t worked well in India. One of the major reasons is that the waste isn’t segregated properly. The [segregation] process can be monitored only if there are small-scale collection centres where waste is segregated before being sent to mass conversion plants.
Some offbeat trekking destinations in the Himalayas that you recommend?
Tirthan Valley near Kullu and Miyar Valley near Lahaul are lesser known but slowly getting attention from trekkers.