The Chadar Trek is one of the best treks in the world, but what is happening to it is something that will make travellers very sad.
After being popular for so many years, the Chadar trek is now dying a slow death. This is partially because of global warming, and partially because of ignorant human beings, who are treading ahead without any care for the frozen river.
The famous Chadar trek was anciently a route taken by the natives of the Zanskar Valley. During winters, the mountains were completely covered with thick layers of snow and around the mountain tracks, walls of snow would block the route that led out of the valley. So, to stay connected to the world outside, the villagers decided to walk the frozen Zanskar River to get their supplies, and this resulted in the birth of the legendary Zanskar or the Chadar Trek in the winters.
The trek spans up to 105 km in total, and trekkers who are supposed to be at the peak of their fitness levels, are expected to walk at least 15-16 km everyday. The river is humongous, icy cold and more than once, people have died during this trek. The landscape is surreal, with vertical cliffs hanging loose above you and waterfalls frozen in motion. Not many people will argue against the fact that with every bend in the river, the scenery becomes a hundred times more beautiful. And as beautiful as this river and its surroundings are, it is equally harsh and ruthless.
Global warming is changing the ecology of Ladakh drastically. The intensity of winters in this cold desert have started to go down and much more greenery is seen around what used to be a rugged and barren terrain. There was a time when the layer of ice on the river used to be a few feet thick, though now it has been reduced to a bare minimum. According to a blog, Wander The Himalayas, Chadar has become an unpredictable, weather-dependant trek.
In 2015, trekkers were called back while they were only halfway through because a landslide near one of Zanskar's tributaries threatened to cause flash floods. Groups of trekkers had to come back without reaching Naerak Pullu, which is the final destination of the trek.
The year of 2016 had only a few batches of trekkers being given permits to walk on the frozen Zanskar river, to maintain the ecological balance.
But it's not just nature that is playing havoc here. Humans are equally at fault.
In 2014, local Ladakhi agencies launched campaigns against trekking companies who were leaving their trekking material and supply waste behind on the banks of the river. Trekkers were also leaving behind plastic bags and cartons, thereby polluting the otherwise pristine river.
A road is also being constructed across the river's face, so local Ladakhis can get to nearby towns with ease. While this development will make it extremely easy for people to reach Zanskar in the winters, it will change the river's walk-able future. The vehicles that ply on the road, will pollute the otherwise clean, crisp fresh air.
This post is not to discourage those who want to do the Chadar Trek, but more about discussing the problem at hand. It is about how beautiful marvels of our country will cease to exist if we responsible travellers do not make an effort to change the way things work.
Please make an effort to make sure that you do not damage the ecology of a place by your presence. Help local agencies promote eco-tourism, in which a more environment-friendly approach to travelling is pursued. We should make way for the generations to come, so they can see all the reasons that kept us wandering.
Travel is an art, it is not just about roaming around the world. Travel is about experiencing every single moment and documenting those memories. Making them an incentive for people to explore each and every corner of this big wide world, but doing so quietly, carefully and leaving the place just as we had found it. Unchanged and untouched, but taking a part of it in ourselves.
This article was originally published on Tripoto authored by Pritha Puri