Healing Himalayas Foundation organises trekking expeditions to obscure Himalayan summits. However, to join them you have to keep gloves and jute sacks ready – to collect non-biodegradable garbage from these trek routes and protect the mountains. Founder Pradeep Sangwan believes that with Bollywood movies like Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Highway, 3 Idiots portraying the magical thrill of mountaineering, more and more youngsters are setting out on trekking trails in the Himalayas. Trekking clubs and travel agencies are mushrooming everywhere, luring the enthusiastic explorers with panoramic sunset points or foggy waterfalls.
The reality, however, is a far cry from the calendar photographs, with heaps of plastic waste cluttering the pristine Himalayas.
33-year-old Sangwan narrates how irresponsible tourism is devastating the serenity of the Himalayas, and how he embarked on a mission to keep the mountains clean from 2014.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
“I had to lose everything to start Healing Himalayas Foundation”
Born and brought up in a strict disciplinarian family, Sangwan was expected to follow his father’s suit and join the army. During his college days, he started trekking as a hobby and before long, he found his calling in the mountains.
After graduating, much to the disapproval of his family, he permanently shifted to Manali to live his passion for trekking. To support himself, he started a homestay business in Manali.
Within the first few years, Sangwan started to notice that with the growing popularity of mountain tourism, plastic waste has also started piling up in the pristine valleys, beside the mountain roads and in the picturesque lakes. “At one point, it became the unsaid norm to indicate the direction of a trekking route by asking one to follow the garbage trail. That deeply affected me,” shares Sangwan. He shares, “If you look at the local shepherds; they are mostly uneducated, but they live in such a sustainable way. They treat the mountains as their God. Unlike us urban people, these villagers lead a life full of immense hardships. They go beyond limits to protect every bit of the environment. I was determined to make their mountains beautiful again.”