3.3.1 Environmental impacts
There are many examples of negative environmental impacts of tourism on the environment. Oneimportant example is the tourism-related wastewater pollution of coastal Adriatic Sea in Italy inthe late 80s. It caused substantial reduction in the number of tourists visiting the country whichaffected the whole industry seriously. At present, tourism generates up to 180 liters of wastewater per tourist/day and contributes about seven per centof wastewater pollution in the Mediterranean(UNEP 2003a). On an average, an international tourist in Europe generates about one kg of solidwaste per day (IFEN 2000). Usually tourists from developed countries produce more waste (up to2 kg/person/day). Based on these rates, tourism related total global waste in 2001 was estimatedto be no less than 4.8 million tons (UNEP 2003a). The European Environment Agency estimatesthat tourism is responsible for five to seven per cent of the total emissions in Europe.In the case of Nepal, the environmental and natural resources situations may be broadlycategorized in two major geographic zones, viz., a) mountain and b) the middle hills and terai plain. Usually the tourist influxes are towards the mountain region and thus the government’semphasis is on environmentally sound tourism development in this region. Some of the major tourism related impacts are degradation of mountain environment by human waste and trashes, burning of wood for fuel, abandoned climbing gear and cultural transformations. Many studiesare available on tourism impacts in Nepal, especially with respect to the environmental problemsin the Everest and Annapurna regions. However these studies, being either donor driven or conducted by independent researchers in their own interests, have no coherence in the subjectmatter and integration in the overall framework (Nepal 2000).The most evident impacts in those areas are garbage dumping and deforestation, which areattributed largely to growing tourism, lack of proper policy, monitoring and managementstrategies. Nepal has earned infamous qualifications often in the world’s tourism andenvironmental literature. Himalaya is quoted as “the world’s highest junkyard” by Sir EdmundHillary, the first successful Himalaya climber, while the trail to the Everest base camp has beenquotes as “the garbage trail” (Shrestha 1989; World Conservation Union 1992). The region of Mount Everest in general and the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park in particular, a WorldHeritage site, has been often reported as a vivid portrait of ecological, environmental and culturaldisruptions (Hillary 1982; Byers 1987; Fisher 1990; McConnell 1991; Byers and Banskota 1992;Stevens 1993; Robinson and Twyman 1996).In the Annapurna Conservation Area (7,629 km
) – the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal, many tourism-related environmental and economic problems have been observed in the past two decades (Gurung and de Coursey 1994). Heavy demand for firewood and for timber for the construction of more than 700 lodges and teashops have caused localized deforestationaltering wildlife habitats, loss of the famous rhododendron forests and sizeable soil erosion in thesurrounding hills.Despite fragile and weak ecosystems of mountains and hilly areas with a limited tolerance for human activity (UNEP 2003a), the mountains of Nepal have been under severe tourism pressure.Tourism in Nepal has proceeded in a largely ad-hoc, demand-driven and unplanned manner damaging the mountain environment in some parts of the country. The most visible impact of trekkers in the Himalaya region is the growing amount of trash left behind (Rowell, 1989).Though some climbing gear is being recycled by local residents either for their own use or for resale, more than 50 tons of plastic, glass, and metal were dumped in the Himalaya region in pastfour decades between mid-1950s and the mid-1990s (Shroder 2004). An estimate indicates that itwould cost approximately $500,000 to clean up that trash.
Published in “Geen Field”, Journal of Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology, Kathmandu, Nepal, Jan-June 2007,Vol.5, Issue 1.