Hem Bahadur Gurung, 52, is a native of Chomrong, Annapurna Circuit. He is the owner of Excellent View Top lodge. He recalls how he started his career as an owner of a small tea-shop. As a child, he grew up in a family that still runs Himalayan Guest House. Since childhood, he was aware that income from tourism is important not just for him and his family but his whole village. It was true that the large number of tourists arriving in his village to see the breath-taking view of Mt. Annapurna brought with them plastic waste that could not be recycled or processed in their area in environmentally friendly ways.
One most important necessity for all tourist trekkers is water. Water packed in plastic bottles and sold with a price as mineral water is a well selling commodity for the villagers however the plastic bottles in which they are packed polluted the nearby environment. Fifteen years from now, he and his best chums Gunja Man Gurung and Najar Man Gurung started raising awareness about the issue of plastic pollution in their area. If they respected their profession, as lodge owners, they had to take some action to stop their beautiful environment from pollution.
Since, the last twelve years they have successfully banned the sale of mineral water bottles packed in plastic bottles in their area. He recalls, “At one time, I sold 80 boxes of mineral water bottles from my own lodge alone during a peak tourist season. There are 55 lodges in Chomrong. Imagine how many bottles sold in all those lodges in just one season! Those bottles don’t need to be here because fresh delicious water flows in the rivers that form from melting snow right here itself, why do we need to buy water packed in plastic bottles somewhere else?” As put it : “ We survived centuries without plastic bags and bottles. As for the water, we sell to trekkers filtered water and we actually make more – and clean – profit! This is sustainable! ”
When asked about his struggles to launch the campaign he said that at first the people would sell water secretively because it sold for a higher price than the market and meant direct profit. But nowadays, people of Chomrong are much aware that they should not sell mineral water bottles because their environment is priceless.”They seem to have realized that it is so much easier to keep their village clean and pollution free because they don’t need to carry all that plastic waste down the mountain” says Hem Bahadur Gurung.
Tourism is a vital industry in Nepal. The effort of Hem and his friends is worthy of praise because it is people like them who help to keep the beautiful scenic Himalayan environment as it is for future generations of proud Nepalese and eager tourists. We are hopeful that the whole Annapurna circuit trail bans the sale plastic bottles and instead installs water filters to facilitate the tourist populations. We must realize that sustainability is key and the effort of one individual is powerful enough to bring a mighty change. As a conclusion, he added: “ Following the natural flow of rivers, we should stop using plastic from the top of the mountains towards the plains.”
February 14, 2014