Next time you land in Leh, be ready to dish out money to protect the cold desert's fragile environment.
For the first time in Jammu and Kashmir, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, has made it mandatory for the tourists to pay environmental fee to maintain the ecology of the region.
Every domestic tourist shall have to pay Rs200 while a foreigner is charged Rs300 as the environmental fee by LAHDC to keep Leh clean. LAHDC has so far collected Rs1.4 crore from tourists and laborers which ought to be used for creating eco-friendly facilities in the cold desert.
This year the money was collected from those domestic and foreign tourists who visit the protected areas only. But LAHDC is planning to collect the money from the tourists across the board from next year to generate more revenue for preserving the environment.
“We are using this money for maintenance and conservation of Leh. Several facilities for environmental preservation have been taken and the money collected through environment fee will help in our endeavor to make Leh pollution-free”, said Rigzin Spalbar, chief executive councilor LAHDC, Leh.
Public convenience, mechanised garbage disposal and effective cleanliness drive are all planned to make Leh a pollution-free destination.
“Lots of work has been carried out in Leh. Seeing is believing and you can see the difference in Leh. We have formed different committees which will suggest further measures for effective maintenance of the environment”, said Spalbar.
Situated at an altitude 3,524 metres, Leh is the favorite spot for tourists, mostly foreigners. Majestic mountains, serene lakes, gushing rivers and world famous monasteries are the biggest draw for the tourists who visit Leh every year. Around 1.78 lakh tourists including 38,000 foreigners have visited Leh this year so far.
“People mostly foreigners are very conscious about the environment. They will not mind paying fee for preserving the environment. However the environment fee should not be taxing," said Talat Parvez, director tourism Kashmir.
LAHDC, Leh is planning to open a counter at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee airport to collect the environment fee from tourists and other people on arrival. Besides this, authorities are also planning to establish counters on highways to collect the environment fee from the people visiting Leh by road.