LIVEABLE LEH TALK SERIES ON WASTEWATER AND SOLID WASTE IN LEH TOWN HELD

LEDeG organised 2nd takh show of Liveable leh talk series at LEDeG Office in Karzu on June 11. Tsering Wangchuk, President of All Ladakh Tour Operators Association (ALTOA), and Tashi Motup, President of All Ladakh Hotels and Guest House Association, were the speakers on the occasion and they spoke on the need for Solid Waste and Waste Water Management in Leh due to the booming tourism in Leh.

The prominent guests present at the occasion were Mohammad Iqbal from PAGIR, Bob Anderson and Sherab Woeser from Tibet Fund, Eshey Tundup, Principal of Lamdon Model School, Punchok Dolma from Women’s Alliance of Ladakh, Delex Namgyal, General Secretary of ALTOA, Rajesh Kunal from Moravian Mission School, Klaus Schaette from Amitabha Travels, and Lars Lidstrom and Thinlas Chorol from Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company.
Dr Norden Otzer, Executive Director of LEDeG, gave the welcome speech and shared with the audience the problems arising due to solid waste. He informed the audience that 14 tons of solid waste is generated in Leh each day and how LAHDC has conceptualised a Centralised Sewage System to overcome the problem of waste water, which would however cater to the only 40% of the Households, Restaurants, Hotels and Guest houses of Leh town. But the question remains, ‘What about the remaining 60%?
He asked the presidents of the concerned association about their Plan, Vision and Steps to counter the problems of Solid-Waste and Waste-Water arising due to tourist activities in Leh town.
Tsetan Wangchuk, ALTOA President, said that the uncontrolled nature of tourism in Leh is putting a lot of strain on its natural resources. He added that although actions are being taken in eco-sensitive areas and campaigns undertaken in unauthorised areas, it had a minimal impact in conservation of the environment. He informed the audience that wastes such as tins and bottles are dumped and set on fire during treks, whereas owners of camps bury these wastes in pits.
He said certain steps can be taken, such as segregation of the waste, wherein the biodegradable waste is used for composting and the non-biodegradable waste is brought to Leh town and disposed off. He stressed on the need to promote awareness campaigns and spread information to the concerned authorities about the lack of proper facilities in remote eco-sensitive areas. He also informed that ALTOA is carrying out clean up campaigns in remote areas, and working on installation of dry compost toilets instead of flush toilets.
Last year, ALTOA carried out a cleanliness campaign during Chadar trek. Tsetan shared that members of ALTOA collected almost three trucks of trash from the area, which included tins, bottles and human waste. He added that ALTOA would carry out a pilot project in collaboration with a Delhi-based tour operator to clean the Stok Kangri area. The cleanliness campaign, funded by the Government of India under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, would be conducted twice a year over the next five years.
Thereafter, Tashi Motup shared that the natural resources, such as drinking water, has reached an alarming level in the last decade. He pointed out flush water toilets as the reason for this situation and shared it will get worse if proper actions are not taken. He also expressed his displeasure over the time being taken for the completion of the central sewage system, and said the health of the people would continue to degrade until the completion of the Centralised Sewage System.
He said that it was the responsibility of the Government, Owners of Hotels and Guests houses and also of the general public to secure the environment in Leh. He cited two reasons for the contamination of ground water: A) inappropriate design of septic tanks, and B) Irregular cleaning of the septic tanks.
He said that the Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) constructed by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council with technical help from BORDA and LEDeG, has been a blessing for them. Earlier, they would spend Rs 10, 000- 12,000 for cleaning the septic tanks, but post-FSTP they only spend Rs 3,500 for a tank of 3500 litres. He promised to request the government to complete the central sewage system at the earliest so that the groundwater in Leh could be conserved.
The talk was followed by a Question & Answer session after which Tenzin Motup gave the ‘thank you’ speech.

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