How Tourism affects Mountain Environments
Impact of Tourism on Mountain Environment
Environmental History: A Global Perspective
Singh, SC. Impact of Tourism on Mountain Environment, Meerut, India: Research India
Publications, 1989, 377.
Deterioration of mountain environment is obviously not the only problem that
humans are dealing with in terms of pollution to the ecosystem. However, it is an ever
increasing problem, that is ruining vegetation, landscape and even mountain culture. The
book I have chosen to review is titled; Impact of Tourism on Mountain Environment. It is
not a story but rather a compilation of articles relating to the problems in the Himilayas,
specifically the Everest region. There were many articles, not all of them were related to
Everest, therefore, not all of the articles were reviewed.
Although there are many mountain environments that are falling prey to man’s
commercialization, Everest seems to stick out the most. It was in 1922 that the first
attempt was made to climb the highest mountain in the world. It wasn’t until 1953,
however, that a summit was actually successful, thus creating a beginning for
mountaineering in Nepal. The start of the tourist industry became a very important asset
to the Nepalese economy. The foreign exchange was one of the primary sources of
earning for the people and government. This happened to be one of the few positives that
came along with the commercialization of Mount Everest.
One of the articles I focused on the most is titled; Impact of Tourism on the
Ecosystem of Nepal. It discussed in great detail how important the land and its uses are to
the people of the Himilayas. At many of the bases of the mountain there is little
vegetation and forest remaining to cover the lower slopes. This article made it very clear
that man was creating a very big problem to the ecosystem of the Everest region.
All of the articles were very clear and concise in the way they presented their facts.
It was proven that there is pollution all along the routes, right through the base camp of
Everest, continuing up the summit itself. Direct evidence was found to back up these
statements made by the authors. Many things were found at tent sites, such as human and
animal excretement, unburnt wood, trash and various other forms of pollution. The
authors were very clear in pointing out exact locations and numbers in terms of where and
how much garbage was being left behind. It was also pointed out to the readers why
garbage breakdown is so difficult in the Everest region. Extremely low temperatures and
the limited space to allow garbage to disperse and degrade, has reached unmanageable
levels where the tourists are most plentiful.
The authors also had some positive things to say about Everest. It was pointed
out that several efforts have been made to clean up the garbage along the trails. One of
the earlier attempts was made back in 1973, by a group of students from Washington. In
a time period of approximately twenty days, they managed to bury about two tons of
garbage. The authors were also very quick to point out the many hardships that not only
were the Nepalese people suffering from, but the land and vegetation as well. After the
tourism era began, the Everest region was at the beginning of an ecological crisis. Its
many natural resources were being over-exploited in so many ways.
Each of the authors in this book are attempting to prove to the reader the affect
that tourism and commercialization are having on the Himilayas. Each article looks at
specific areas of the mountain region and what exactly is happening to them separately.
The authors have done this by breaking down the different regions and describing in detail
its areas that are falling apart and the reasons why they have become damaged.
As well, the authors were successful in proving that the Everest region is being
polluted and destructed from the intrusions of man. The charts, maps and graphs were
visual aids for the reader to interpret and understand exactly how bad things were. These
articles were detailed, concise, and strong in terms of proving the point of the
deterioration in the Himilayas.
However, there were some downfalls to the articles. Much of the focus was based
on tourist peak season and very little research was done on the permanent residents of the
Himilayas. Since the beginning of tourism in this region, not only have tourists created
plenty of damage but locals have as well. The reasons all being economic of course. The
money inflation has turned many locals to greed and driven away their environmental
awareness. Therefore, it’s unfair to conclude that all of the problems are because of
tourists. It is all about local people wanting to increase their income and because of the
rapidly changing demands of tourists, locals are complying with these demands at any
In conclusion, my understanding of the book overall, was to relay a message to the
readers that something needs to be done to help the mountain environment in the
Himilayas. Many people are quick to judge that all of the winter activities in this region
are responsible for its breaking down. It is all year round activity both from the local
people and tourists that contribute to the breakdown of the environment. When the
tourists leave after the peak season, the local people are still hard at work to prepare for
the demands of the tourists for the season that lies ahead. It is important to realize that
there are things that can be done to ensure the environment is protected. The authors
suggest that declaring a National Park in which reservation is the primary topic rather than
destruction would be ideal. On the other hand, one of the author’s noted that
“development brings people, and people act on nature, impact is than unavoidable” (Singh
1989, pg.32). I also understood from this book that the authors felt that even though
destruction was taking place, that tourism is a big part of the Nepalese Mountain
Environment and promotion for tourism was still very important for the economy. I also
understood that in order to accomplish anything, it was important for a compromise to be
made between the wishes of the tourists and the local people.
Unfortunately, as one author points out, the “majority of individuals and
institutions are turning to exploitation of nature with only an insufficient minority sparing
some efforts for sustaining it” (Singh 1989, pg. 24).