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Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242

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Environmental Impact Assessment Review

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Environmental impact assessment of mountain tourism in developing regions:

A study in Ladakh, Indian Himalaya
Davide Geneletti , Dorje Dawa
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Trento, Via Mesiano, 77, 38050 Trento, Italy

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Mountain tourism in developing countries is becoming a growing environmental concern due to extreme
Received 25 August 2008 seasonality, lack of suitable infrastructures and planning, and interference with fragile ecosystems and
Received in revised form 12 December 2008 protected areas. This paper presents a study devoted to assess the adverse environmental impacts of tourism,
Accepted 15 January 2009
and in particular of trekking-related activities, in Ladakh, Indian Himalaya. The proposed approach is based
Available online 23 February 2009
on the use of Geographical Information System (GIS) modeling and remote sensing imageries to cope with
the lack of data that affect the region. First, stressors associated with trekking, and environmental receptors
Trekking potentially affected were identied. Subsequently, a baseline study on stressors (trail use, waste dumping,
GIS camping, pack animal grazing and off-road driving) and receptors (soil, water, wildlife, vegetation) was
Impact map conducted through eld work, data collection, and data processing supported by GIS. Finally, impacts were
Spatial modeling modeled by considering the intensity of the stressors, and the vulnerability and the value of the receptors.
Scoping The results were spatially aggregated into watershed units, and combined to generate composite impact maps.
The study concluded that the most affected watersheds are located in the central and southeastern part of
Ladakh, along some of the most visited trails and within the Hemis and the Tsokar Tsomoriri National parks.
The main objective of the study was to understand patterns of tourism-induced environmental degradation, so
as to support mitigation interventions, as well as the development of suitable tourism policies.
2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction parts in lowland regions, and poverty is still a fact in many moun-
tainous areas, even in developed nations (Godde et al., 2000; Messerli
In many developing countries, tourism is widely acknowledged and Ives, 1997). Infrastructure development is hampered by difcult
as a way to stimulate local economic development, thanks to service access and harsh climate (Singh and Mishra, 2004). The drawing of
provision, job opportunities, and overall foreign revenues (WTO, 2005; policies and plans is less effective in mountain areas, because histor-
Gurung and DeCoursey, 2000; Brohman, 1996). Tourist ows have ically these areas have been of marginal concern for decision-makers,
been increasingly growing in the South: according to recent estimates, and therefore neglected in development priorities (Messerli and Ives,
international tourist arrivals in developing countries represent roughly 1997). Moreover, policy implementation is undermined by political
one third of international arrivals worldwide (WTO, 2007; Gssling, instability, which often characterises mountain areas due to their
2000). Environmental degradation is one of the shortcomings com- proximity to national and international borders (Nepal and Chipeniuk,
monly associated with tourism in developing regions (Brohman, 2005). On top of these factors, there are peculiar conditions of moun-
1996). This is caused by a number of factors, among which poverty and tain areas that make them more vulnerable, such as environmental
the difculty to earn an alternative livelihood, the lack of infrastruc- fragility and tourism seasonality. High-altitude ecosystems are inher-
tures, and the lack of policies and planning. Frequently, in developing ently fragile and characterised by low resiliency, and therefore they
countries, tourism policies are outdated, incomplete, or poorly applied are particularly susceptible to human interference, such as soil and
(Singh, 2002), and tourist attractions, such as natural parks, do not vegetation trampling, disturbance to native wildlife, and waste dump-
have management or land use plans (Nepal, 2000). ing (Arrowsmith and Inbakaran, 2002; Buckley et al., 2000). High-
The environmental impact of tourism is particularly critical in altitude recreation sites are characterised by extreme seasonality,
mountain regions, where the above-mentioned factors are magnied. because accessibility and favorable climatic conditions are restricted
Mountain communities are typically less afuent than their counter- to the short summer season. Consequently, human-induced distur-
bances on the environment are concentrated in this period, that is also
the peak season for several biological processes, such as mating,
Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 0461 882685; fax: +39 0461 882672.
vegetation growth, migration, spawning, etc.
E-mail addresses: (D. Geneletti), Tourism in mountain regions worldwide has developed rapidly in (D. Dawa). the last decades (Moss and Godde, 2000; Price, 1992). Hence, it is not

0195-9255/$ see front matter 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
230 D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242

surprising that mountain tourism in developing countries is becoming common approach to trekking impact assessment consists in carrying
a growing environmental concern, as testied also by the scientic out eld surveys to compare environmental conditions around trails
literature (Saffrey, 2000; Tonderayi, 2000). Recent studies related to and in undisturbed areas. Deng et al. (2003) adopted this approach,
recreational ecology showed that mountain tourism in developing and developed a set of soil and vegetation impact indices, by surveying
regions had adverse effects on natural areas, protected areas, and both selected visited spots, and control areas. Analogously, Chatterjea
wetlands (Stevens, 2003; Buntaine et al., 2006). For example, in Nepal, (2007) employed a transect-oriented sampling framework to system-
which experienced an unprecedented tourism growth in the past atically quantify the impacts of hiking on a set of soil properties (e.g.,
25 years, the impact of tourism development on forest resources and moisture, compaction, inltration rate, organic matter content, root
alpine vegetation biodiversity has been well documented (Stevens, density, litter cover), using undisturbed areas as a reference. Nepal
2003), as well as its impact in terms of air pollution and noise (Shah and Way (2007) found signicant differences in a set of variables (e.g.,
et al., 1997). Typical mountain recreation activities in developing herbaceous cover, exposed soil, species richness), measured in control
countries include trekking, climbing expeditions, cultural tours, river plots and in plots located nearby trails with different intensity of use.
rafting and bird gazing. In particular, high-altitude mountain trekking Leung and Marion (1999) proposed a survey method to describe the
experienced a signicant rise in popularity over the last decade that location and extent of common trail problems. Similarly, Nepal and
has lead to a steep increase in the number of trekkers (Chatterjea, Nepal (2004) adopted a method based on the collection of trail data
2007; Nepal and Nepal, 2004). Trail use is one of the fastest growing in critical areas to characterise overall trail conditions, as well as to
recreational activities, and it is causing widespread impacts on eco- determine the state of site variables (e.g., aspect, slope, soil type and
systems (Lynn and Brown, 2003). moisture, vegetation cover) and impact indicators (e.g., incision, root
In Ladakh, a remote region located in Indian Himalaya, trekking- exposure, multiple treads). Subsequently, regression analysis was used
related tourism has been steeply increasing in the last decade. Tourism to associate trail conditions with both environmental and human-
in Ladakh is characterised by all the factors described above: extreme related variables. Farrell and Marion (2001) conducted eld observa-
seasonality, lack of suitable infrastructures and planning, and high tions to classify the magnitude of trail impacts in a national park, and to
interference with fragile ecosystems and protected areas. Despite correlate it with the level of use.
the rapid pace of development, tourism is still a nascent industry in Fewer studies addressed the impact of trekking-related actions,
the region, and its effects have been poorly studied so far. This paper such as camping, pack animal grazing and waste dumping. Marion and
presents a study devoted to assess the adverse environmental impacts Cole (1996) conducted a plot study around campsites to correlate
of tourism, and in particular of trekking-related activities in Ladakh. trampling intensity with soil and vegetation conditions (vegetation
The proposed approach is based on the use of Geographical Infor- cover, oristic dissimilarity, soil thickness, felled trees, etc.). Smith and
mation System (GIS) modeling and remote sensing imageries to cope Newsome (2002) surveyed biophysical variables (tree damage,
with the lack of data that affect the region. Basic environmental data erosion, tree seedlings, woody debris, etc.) to compare the impacts
layers were generated, combined with tourism ow information, of high-use formal campsites and low-use informal campsites. Cole
and used to model the spatial distribution of environmental impacts. et al. (2004) conducted plot surveys to study the effects of pack stock
Eventually, the main objective of the study is to understand patterns grazing on mountain grasslands in three characteristic meadows
of tourism-induced environmental degradation in Ladakh, and to within a national park. Kuniyal (2005) quantied and characterised
support future mitigation interventions, as well as the development of the different types of waste left behind by trekkers in the Himalayas
suitable tourism policies. The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 trails, and proposed sustainable management options. Knight and Cole
contains a literature review on the environmental impacts of moun- (1995) investigated the effects of visitors on wildlife behavior. Miller
tain trekking. Section 3 provides a geographical and environmental et al. (1998) conducted a similar study, specically focused on bird
prole of Ladakh, as well as a description of tourism trend in the communities.
region. Section 4 presents the method adopted to conduct the study, A common feature of the studies found in the literature is the fact
whose results are then described in Section 5. Finally, Section 6 dis- that they were carried out at a plot scale, using extensive eld obser-
cusses the ndings of the paper, and Section 7 draws some conclusions. vations and measurements. Very few publications presented applica-
tions at regional scale, based on the use of GIS modeling. Arrowsmith
2. Environmental impacts of trekking and Inbakaran (2002) used GIS to model the effects of trampling,
and to estimate environmental resiliency to human impact in a
Typical physical impacts caused by trekking are trail widening national park. Regional-scale trail sensitivity maps were carried out
and incision, multiple treads, muddiness, soil erosion and compaction by Whinam et al. (2003) by combining basic GIS layers. Cakir (2005)
(Leung and Marion, 2000; Monz, 2000; Buckley et al., 2000). Biologi- predicted trail problem locations using GIS-derived data as input for
cal impacts include vegetation trampling and degradation (e.g., root degradation models. However, these three works focused on specic
exposure), forest thinning (e.g., use of rewood by campers), decrease elements of trail use, rather than addressing the impact of trekking
in biodiversity (e.g., loss of fragile species), wildlife disturbance, and its related activities as a whole within a study region.
habitat fragmentation, and introduction of exotic species (Buckley
et al., 2000; Leung and Marion, 2000; Marion and Leung, 2001). Waste 3. Prole of Ladakh
dumping in campsite areas or along the trail may result in surface and
groundwater pollution (Leung and Marion, 2000). Pack animals, The region of Ladakh belongs to the State of Jammu and Kashmir
besides contributing to the above-mentioned impacts on soil and (India), and it is divided into two districts: the Kargil district and the
vegetation, may cause overgrazing in favorable located grasslands, Leh district (Fig.1). The region borders with Pakistan occupied Kashmir,
with subsequent loss of productivity and biodiversity (Cole et al., 2004; Chinese occupied Aksai Chin, Tibet, and Lahul Spiti (Himachal Pradesh,
Buntaine et al., 2006; Leung and Marion, 2000). Additionally, trekking India). Elevation ranges from 2900 to 7600 m asl. Ladakh hosts three
activities determine a number of indirect impacts, such as increase in mighty parallel mountainous ranges of the Himalayas: the Zaskar, the
trafc, and therefore air and noise pollution, off-road driving, land Ladakh and the Karakoram Ranges. Between these, the rivers Shayok,
occupation, soil loss and deforestation due to the construction of Indus and Zaskar ow. The region has a population of about 400,000.
campsites, accommodations, and tourism infrastructures in general Apart from Leh, the capital city with a population of 30,000, settle-
(Stevens, 2003; Shah et al., 1997; Buckley et al., 2000). ments are small and mainly scattered around the banks of major rivers
Most of the literature reviewed on trekking impact assessment and streams. Leh district has 112 inhabited villages and one unin-
proposes small-scale and eldwork-based analyses. In particular, a habited village, and Kargil district has 129 villages (LAHDC, 2004). The
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242 231

Fig. 1. The Ladakh region and its location in India (International borders drawn according to UN maps no. 3953 Rev. 1 and No 4140 Rev.2. The UN does not ofcially endorse or accept
all boundaries). Map projection: UTM; Datum: WGS84.

region is spread over an area of 45,000 km2, which makes Leh the including an abundant migratory bird fauna (Humbert-Droz and
largest district in India. Dawa, 2004). There are several protected areas in the region, among
From an ecological standpoint, Ladakh belongs to the Trans- which: Hemis National Park, Changthang High-altitude Wetland
Himalayan ecosystem (Namgail et al., 2006), that is a high-altitude Reserve, which is recognized by the Ramsar Convention on wetland
cold desert, where ora and fauna are characterised by low distri- conservation, and Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary, whose boundaries
bution density, as well as high adaptation to elevation and aridity. The have been not delineated yet.
region has a complex hydrological system of rivers, lakes and enclosed Economically, most people rely on subsistence agriculture (Good-
basins that allowed the development of important wetlands. These all, 2004). The main crops are wheat, barley, pulses and potatoes. In
ecosystems function as oases of productivity in an otherwise arid addition, horticulture has been developing rapidly in recent years. The
environment. They host varied plant communities, including most of main productions are apricot and apple, and in western Ladakh also
the bushes and trees found in the region, as well as a diverse wildlife, almond and grape are grown. The fruit production is either marketed

Fig. 2. Digital elevation model and main trekking trails of Ladakh.

232 D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242

Table 1
Scoping matrix.

Receptors Impacts Stressors

Trail Waste Camping Pack Off-
use dumping animal road
grazing driving
Physical Soil Soil
Water Groundwater
Surface water
Biological Wildlife Habitat
Vegetation Vegetation

Potentially signicant impact, Minor impact (not studied).

in Leh or supplied to the defense forces stationed in the region (LAHDC, Fig. 3. Tourist, porter and pack animal inow on trekking trails (2006).
2001). The region has inherent physical constraints, like prolonged
winter, scanty rainfall, rugged mountain terrain, and limited avail- by Indian domestic tourist policies, as well as improvement of civil
ability of fertile land. Therefore, agriculture is mainly conned to the aviations and infrastructures. The growth of Phase III is being pro-
river valleys. Nevertheless, agriculture and pastoralism are the main pelled by a more stable political situation, by the crisis affecting neigh-
livelihoods in the region, although these traditional sectors have been boring Himalayan states, and by the investment in marketing and
adversely affected by the development of tourism and government promotion. A map showing trekking trails that were operating in 2006
services (Bhatnagar et al., 2006). There are vast stretches of desert is presented in Fig. 2.
available for irrigation facilities, but land reclamation projects for
agriculture and afforestation were largely unsuccessful and economic- 4. Methods
ally unfeasible.
In the last 30 years, tourist inow pattern in Ladakh can be divided The adopted method is structured into three typical sequential
into three phases (Department of Tourism, 2007): Phase I (1974 stages of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): scoping, baseline
1989), Phase II (19892002), and Phase III (2002present). Phase I study, impact modeling. Scoping aims at determining the most impor-
presented a slow and steady growth in tourist inow, that peaked in tant impacts to be taken into account, and consequently at setting the
1989 with about 25,000 visitors. Phase II showed high uctuation: content and the boundaries of the study (EC, 2001; Wood, 2000).
from less than 8000 to slightly over 20,000 visitors per year. Finally, Scoping required to identify the sources of disturbance (or stressors)
Phase III is characterised by an exponential growth, which reached associated with the activity under analysis, the environmental com-
50,000 visitors in 2006. Each of these phases was governed by two ponents potentially affected (or receptors), and the impacts caused by
main factors: policies and accessibility. Steep decreases in Phase II their interactions (Treweek, 1999). A baseline study on receptors and
were determined by political crisis aroused in Himalayan states and stressors was then conducted through eld work, data collection, and
regions (Dhariwal, 2005), whereas abrupt increases were fuelled data processing supported by GIS. Finally, impacts were modeled by

Table 2
Overview of the approach to model the selected environmental impacts.

Impact Stressor intensity Receptor vulnerability Receptor value

Soil degradation by trail use Trekker, porter, pack animal inow Soil erosion susceptibility (RUSLE) Soil fertility index
Soil degradation by off-road Off-road tracks and vehicles inow Soil erosion susceptibility (RUSLE) Soil fertility index
Groundwater pollution by Amount of waste in dumping sites Groundwater pollution vulnerability All groundwater bodies considered
dumping along trails equally valuable
Groundwater pollution by camping Camper inow, average waste Groundwater pollution vulnerability All groundwater bodies considered
production equally valuable
Surface water pollution by Amount of waste in dumping sites Distance from surface water bodies All surface water bodies considered
dumping along trails equally valuable
Surface water pollution by Camper inow, average waste Distance from surface water bodies All surface water bodies considered
camping production equally valuable
Habitat fragmentation by trail use Trekker, porter, pack animal inow Trail fragmentation index IUCN classication of endangered species
Habitat disturbance by trail use Trekker, porter, pack animal inow Distance between trails and habitat areas IUCN classication of endangered species
Habitat disturbance by camping Camping size and campers inow Distance between camping sites and habitat areas IUCN classication of endangered species
Habitat disturbance by off-road Vehicles inow Distance between off-road tracks and habitat areas IUCN classication of endangered species
Vegetation trampling by camping Camping size and campers inow All vegetation types considered equally vulnerable Vegetation naturalness
to camping
Vegetation damaging by off-road Off-road tracks and vehicle inow All vegetation types considered equally vulnerable Vegetation naturalness
driving to off-road driving
Overgrazing by pack animals Pack animal inow Grassland vulnerability to overgrazing All grasslands considered equally valuable
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242 233

Fig. 4. Dumping sites and campsites.

considering the intensity of the stressors, and the vulnerability and environment and trekking trails), and complement it with eld
the value of the receptors. The results were spatially aggregated and surveys and interviews with local government, research centres and
combined to generate composite impact maps. environmental NGOs ofcers. Fieldwork was conducted during the
summer months of 2005 and 2006. Following an approach commonly
4.1. Scoping adopted in EIA, the receptors were identied by decomposing the
environment into physical components (soil and water), and
Scoping was performed by using authors' knowledge of the biological components (wildlife and vegetation). Stressors included
study area (one of the author has excellent knowledge of Ladakh the actual trail use, waste dumping, camping, grazing by pack animals,
234 D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242

Fig. 5. Off-road driving tracks and vehicle inux in the Changthang region.

and off-road driving. As shown by the scoping matrix presented in number of tourists and the intensity of the selected stressors, such as
Table 1, the main impacts originated by the interaction between waste disposal (location of dumping sites and amount of waste),
stressors and receptors are: soil degradation, groundwater and surface presence of porters and pack animals, overgrazing, etc. In the Markha
water pollution, wildlife habitat disturbance and fragmentation, Valley, the survey focused on the Markha trail, the most-trekked path
vegetation trampling, and overgrazing. All interactions (impact by visitors in Ladakh. This trail has a length of 70 km, and was entirely
types) considered potentially signicant have been addressed in this surveyed. Along this trail, campsites and informal dump sites were
study, as described below. mapped using a Global Positioning System (GPS), and the amount and
Trail use causes signicant effects in terms of soil degradation, due type of waste disposed by trekkers were estimated. Direct observations
to erosion on the steeper slopes and trampling, which affects physical were conducted, complemented by interviews with campsite owners,
soil properties, such as water storage. Disturbance and fragmentation ponymen and porters. In all three areas, eldwork included data col-
of wildlife habitat were also considered as important because trekking lection at hotels and campsites, as well as interviews with local tour
routes criss-cross the habitat areas of endangered species, and the operators. Additionally, in the Changthang area, vehicle inow data
presence of tourists may cause temporal or permanent habitat loss available in checkpoint register books were collated, and off-road
(Geneletti, 2008). The effects of trail use on vegetation were con- driving areas were mapped. The information collected in the sample
sidered less signicant, due to the general absence of vegetation on areas was used to estimate the intensity of the stressors in the rest of
trails. As to dumping, its potential impact on both groundwater and the trails of the region, under the assumption that they are pro-
surface water bodies was considered. Campsites affect soil and vege- portional to the distribution of tourist ows. As a result, for each trail
tation due to the presence of the facilities and trampling by campers. the following data were generated: trekkers and porters inow;
Water pollution caused by waste disposal, and disturbance to wildlife location of dumping sites and amount of waste; size, capacity and
habitat by campers were also addressed. Although campsites might occupancy of campsites; pack animal heads along the different trails.
cause disruption of habitat patches, this was considered a minor Regarding receptors, at the time this research was initiated, there
effect, due to the compactness and small size of camping sites. Pack were very few environmental data available for Ladakh, due to re-
animals may cause overgrazing, especially where the slope allows moteness, security reasons, and lack of expertise. Joshi et al. (2006)
easy access to nearby grasslands. Finally, the signicant impacts of carried out a oral biodiversity characterisation in Trans-Himalayan
off-road driving include damage to soil and vegetation structure, and ecosystems using global land cover facilities, and then developed a
wildlife disturbance. Habitat fragmentation was considered as a minor vegetation cover map for Ladakh. Most of other environmental studies
effect, because most off-road tracks do not interfere with the pattern- in Ladakh focused on the geological setting of the region (Jade et al.,
ing of habitat patches. 2004; Weinberg and Dunlap 2000). Therefore, in order to generate a
spatial database with a suitable scale for this study, available data were
4.2. Baseline study: stressors and receptors collected and integrated with layers generated from scratch, such as
land cover, Digital Elevation Model (DEM), and precipitation maps.
Regarding stressors, information on overall tourism presence, A land cover map was obtained by classifying satellite imageries
trail use, and bed occupancy was collected at relevant governmental freely available on the Internet acquired by Landsat TM and ETM+
agencies in Leh. Subsequently, a eld survey was carried out in three sensors. Ladakh depicts a land cover with scarce vegetation, pre-
sample areas, that were chosen among the most-visited sites: Markha dominantly with barren rock and barren soil, followed by snow and
Valley, Nubra Valley, and Changthang wetlands (see Fig. 2). The glaciers cover, patchy vegetation in the valley bottom and sparse
eldwork aimed at understanding the relationship between the bushes along the hilly region (Joshi et al., 2006). Low chlorophyll
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242
Fig. 6. Vulnerability maps of environmental receptors (1: high vulnerability, 0: no vulnerability). a) Soil erosion susceptibility, b) Groundwater vulnerability, c) Trail fragmentation index, d) Overgrazing vulnerability.

236 D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242

Fig. 7. Watershed-based impact maps combined along stressors. a) Trekking, b) Camping, c) Dumping, d) Pack animal grazing, e) Off-road driving.
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242 237

content, high mountain topography, uneven vegetation cover make The value of different soil units found in the study area was
land cover classication from satellite imageries particularly complex. assessed by considering their fertility, which was estimated by using
Therefore, supervised and unsupervised classications were improved soil type and texture of soil association 1 and soil association 2 (Soil
by computing indices to separately discriminate vegetation, water, Survey Staff, 1999), according to formula:
and glaciers: the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI,
Myneni et al., 1995), the Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI, SFI = 2 = 3asso1 + 1 = 3asso2 2
Sidjak and Wheate 1999), and the Static Water Index (SWI, Gao,
1996). Eventually, all the indices were aggregated and overlaid to Where:
produce a land cover map for the study area. Barren rocks and barren
soils were then classied mostly through visual interpretation. The SFI Soil fertility index
classication process was supported by ground truths. More details on asso1 Fertility of association 1 (soil class)
the method used to classify land cover can be found in Dawa (2008). asso2 Fertility of association 2 (soil class)
The 90-m resolution freely available DEM generated by Shuttle
Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) was used in this study. At the time Regarding the impact on groundwater, vulnerability to pollution
the research was initiated, the available SRTM data required intensive was assessed by combining in a multicriteria fashion runoff estimates
editing due to the presence of voids, i.e., lack of elevation data, that (based on soil, land use and hydrologic condition) with groundwater
affected water bodies and areas with complex topography. Voids were mapping data. To this purpose, the approach proposed by Gemitzi
lled using the techniques proposed by Dowding et al. (2004), and et al. (2006) was applied, even though, due to data limitation, some
integrating the results with other available sources of elevation data. of the factors related to aquifer characteristics were not taken into
A rainfall precipitation map was generated by interpolating global account. All groundwater bodies were considered to have the same
climatic variable obtained from Climate Research Unit, University of value. Regarding the impact on surface water, vulnerability to pollu-
East Anglia (New et al., 2002). Further details on the methods adopted tion was assessed simply by computing the distance from pollution
to generate the DEM and precipitation layers can be found in Dawa sources to streams and lakes. Also in this case, all surface water bodies
and Geneletti (2008). Habitat maps showing the distribution of six were considered equally valuable. As to wildlife habitat fragmenta-
animal species, a soil map, and a groundwater map were provided by tion, the vulnerability was computed using the Infrastructure Frag-
the Wildlife Institute of India. Habitat maps were available for the mentation Index (Romano, 2002), adapted to trail segments:
following species: Siberian ibex (Capra ibex sibirica), Tibetan argali X 
IFI = LsWs NpA = P  3
(Ovis ammon hodgsoni), Ladakh urial (Ovis orientalis vignii), Hima-
layan blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Tibetan gazelle (Procapra
picticaudata), Tibetan wild ass (Equus kiang), Snow leopard (Uncia Where:
uncia), Brown bear (Ursus arctos). Soil and groundwater were mapped
at 1:100,000 scale, using the USDA classication system (Soil Survey IFI Infrastructure fragmentation index [dimensionless];
Staff, 1999) and a fuzzy approach to estimate groundwater abundance, Ls Length of trail segment (m);
respectively. All input maps were converted in raster form, using a 30- Ws Weight for the segment (m);
m cell size. A Area of habitat units prior to fragmentation (m2);
Np Number of fragmented patches (dimensionless);
4.3. Impact modeling and mapping P Perimeter of habitats units prior to fragmentation (m).

An environmental impact can be dened as a change in the state The vulnerability of wildlife to disturbance was assessed simply by
of an environmental parameter caused by a human-induced activity. computing the distance from the sources (trails, camping sites, off-
Impact modeling requires knowledge on the intensity of the activity, road tracks) to habitat patches. As regards value, the importance of the
as well as on the vulnerability and value of the receiving environ- different animal species was assessed according to the IUCN Red List
mental component. For each impact type identied in the scoping classication system, by assigning high value to critically endangered
phase, these three factors were estimated (Table 2). Regarding activity species, intermediate values to endangered and vulnerable species,
intensity, the data previously collected were used to generate maps, in and low value to low-risk species. Regarding the impact on vegetation,
which each stressor received an intensity value (e.g., trail map in all vegetation types were considered equally vulnerable to trampling
which each trail is assigned the number of visitors). To this purpose, and damaging by camping and off-road driving. This was due to the
the following data were used: trekker inow; location of dumping high sensitivity of all high-altitude vegetation types. Vegetation values
sites and amount of waste; size, capacity and occupancy of campsites; were assessed by resorting to a naturalness scale (see Usher, 1986),
pack animal heads; off-road tracks and vehicle inow. Receptor vul- according to which higher values were assigned to natural vegetation
nerability and value were modeled through the approach briey types (grasslands, riverside formations, etc). Finally, grassland
described below (full details can be found in Dawa, 2008). vulnerability to overgrazing was estimated by combing slope and
Regarding the impact on soil, soil erosion susceptibility was distance from water points. The method relies on the work of Bailey
modeled by applying the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation et al. (1996), according to which grazing of large herbivore animals is
(RUSLE; Renard et al., 1997): largely controlled by the presence of water and by the slope factor. All
grasslands were considered equally valuable.
E = RKLSCP 1 Impact maps were generated by spatially combing the intensity of
the stressor (e.g., a trail map in which each trail is assigned the
Where: number of visitors) with the vulnerability and the value of the
receptor (e.g., a map representing soil vulnerability to erosion and a
E Average annual soil loss [ton ha 1]; soil fertility map, respectively). In this work, empirical models linking
R Rainfallrunoff erosivity factor [MJ mm ha 1 h 1]; intensity and vulnerability of the impact types were lacking, or
K Soil erodibility factor [(ton ha 1) (MJ mm ha 1 h 1) 1]; impossible to apply due to data limitations. Therefore, maps of stressor
LS Topographic factor [dimensionless]; intensity and receptor vulnerability and value were rst normalized
C Cover management factor [dimensionless]; over a 01 value range to make them comparable, and then multiplied
P Support practice factor [dimensionless]. by one another. In this way, a dimensionless 01 impact scale was
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242
Fig. 8. Watershed-based impact map combined along receptors. a) Soil b) Water c) Wildlife d) Vegetation.
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242 239

Fig. 9. Watershed-based composite impact map (impact of all stressors on all receptors).

constructed, where one corresponds to the highest impact (i.e., highest amount of wastes disposed during the tourist season, which is about
intensity occurring in the most vulnerable and valuable areas), and 100 days long. Informal solid waste dumping sites along trails are
zero to no-impact conditions. associated with campsites for overnight stops. In Fig. 4(b), campsites
In order to improve the visualisation of impact distribution and with seasonal tourist presence are depicted. Seasonal vehicle inow
the readability of the results, impact maps were aggregated and estimated for 2006 is represented in Fig. 5. This activity is particularly
combined. The aggregation aimed at representing impacts at water- widespread in Changthang due to vast and at highland.
shed level, rather than at cell level. Watersheds were selected because Modeling vulnerability of the different environmental components
they represent meaningful units in terms of both ecological processes lead to the results presented in Fig. 6. This gure shows soil erosion,
and land-use management. The study area was rst subdivided into groundwater, wildlife habitat fragmentation, and overgrazing vulner-
watershed units using the hydro-processing functions of the GIS ILWIS ability models. The Zaskar region resulted particularly susceptible to
3.2. Then, each watershed was assigned a value representing the aver- soil erosion, due to climatic conditions and soil types characterised by
age impact value occurring within its boundaries. Map combination high erodibility. The valleyoors of the Zaskar Range and the lower
was then performed by summing watershed-level impact maps along part of Changthang wetlands are the areas more vulnerable to ground-
the columns and rows of the scoping matrix. As a result, ve impact water pollution. Grasslands prone to overgrazing are scattered in
maps that summarise the overall impacts of each activity (trail use, small patches within the lower slopes and close to water bodies.
dumping, camping, pack animal grazing and off-road driving), and Wildlife habitat areas most vulnerable to fragmentation are located
four impact maps that summarise the overall impact on each envi- in the southern and central part of the Zaskar Range, as well as in
ronmental component (soil, water, wildlife and vegetation) were ob- the south-western sector of the Ladakh Range. As to receptor values,
tained. Finally, a combination of all impact maps was also performed highest soil fertility is found along the narrow valleybottoms, thanks
to generate a composite map of all activities on all environmental to alluvial depositions; wildlife values are highest where the Snow
components. Map combinations were performed by simple summa- leopard and the Ladakh urial are present, both classied as endan-
tion, without giving preference weights to the different factors. gered by the IUCN Red Lists; vegetation naturalness is higher
especially along water bodies, but also in grassland patches.
5. Results Due to the high number and poor readability of the cell-level impact
maps, only impact maps aggregated at watershed level and combined
The estimated number of trekkers, porters and pack animals along along the row and columns of the scoping matrix are presented here.
each trail is presented in Fig. 3. As can be seen, Markha trail is by far Fig. 7 shows the composite impact maps of the ve activities on all
the most visited one with over 3000 trekkers per season, whereas six environmental components, and Fig. 8 presents the composite impact
other trails, located in central and southwestern Ladakh, are also quite maps on the four environmental components. As can be seen, impacts
popular. Fig. 4 (a) shows the location of dumping sites and the estimated caused by overgrazing and off-road driving concentrate in few areas
240 D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242

along the Markha trail (Nimalang and Kandala), and within the Moore was conducted to validate data layers and to collect locally available
Plains and Changthang wetlands, respectively. Trail use-related impacts data (e.g. from travel agencies), but also to conduct survey of the most
are highest along the Markha valley trail, Hunder trail, Lamayuru trail, visited sites. The study can be improved by carrying out campaigns to
and trails located in the Changthang wetlands. These trails have high collect plot-scale data, aimed at complementing and validating the
inux of tourists, pack animals and porters, and cross areas chactac- models, and in some cases also at quantifying impacts that here were
terised by valuable and often vulnerable environmental components. predicted using dimensionless scales. For example, attempts can be
Predictably, impacts generated by campsites show a similar pattern, made to predict the amount of yearly soil loss in the different water-
which is directly related to bed-occupancies, and hence tourist inow. sheds. Another possible improvement concerns the estimation of
Soil degradation is most critical in the central part of the region and receptors' vulnerability and value. In some cases, these factors were
around the Changthang wetlands, due to both trekking and off-road considered not to change across the study area. This was mainly due to
driving. The composite impact map of all activities on all environmental lack of data that did not allow to meaningfully conduct more detailed
components (Fig. 9) shows the patterns of tourism-induced environ- analysis (e.g., it was difcult to assign different values to grasslands
mental degradation in the region. The most affected watersheds are without species information). Additional eld surveys, as well as the
located along a strip of land that goes from the northernmost part of the use of high-resolution and/or hyperspectral remotely sensed images,
Darcha trail through the Lamayuru, Markha and Rupsho trails, and can help overcome this limitation. For example, grasslands could be
clustered in the proximity of the Changthang wetlands, and particularly classied and assessed according to species composition or biomass.
around the Moore Plains area. However, given the size of the region, eldwork-based analysis must
be targeted at selected impact hotspots. The nal output of this research
6. Discussion is instrumental to the identication of such hotspots.

The study provided many useful insights into the environmental 7. Conclusions
consequences of tourism in Ladakh. Camping and waste dumping are
critical trekking-related factors in the region because trails are not The rise in the popularity of high-altitude mountain trekking
provided with waste bins and campsites are often informal and poorly induced a steep increase in trekkers over the last decade in Ladakh, as
planned, due to the rapid and recent tourism growth. In general, waste in many other Himalayan states and regions. As a consequence, moun-
accumulation is high when the campsite is far from settlements, tain tourism has become an important source of income, providing a
whereas it tends to be lower when there are villages thereby. There- signicant contribution to the economic development of the region.
fore, the problem is particularly serious in remote and poorly- However, tourism development is posing a threat to the conservation
accessible areas. More specically on the spatial distribution of of Ladakh environment, due to the fragility of its ecosystems, as well as
impacts, a striking factor is that, despite the vastness of the region, the lack of adequate infrastructures, policies and planning tools. This
tourist ows concentrate in very few trails. All remaining trails are study aimed at providing a rst contribution to this problem. Over-
virtually unknown to tourists. To fully understand the burden borne by views of the most critical areas were generated, by overlapping the
the visited trails, one must notice that trekking expeditions in the distribution of sensitive and valuable environmental resources, with
region make use of roughly seven pack animals and ve porters every the one of trekking-related activities.
ten tourists (see Fig. 3). The scale at which the study was conducted is suitable to support
In Changthang area, off-road driving pose a threat to the unique the drawing of tourism policies and plans. One of the immediate
assemblage of ora and fauna species hosted by the wetland, several decisions the local authorities will have to face relates to the possi-
of which appear in the IUCN Red List. Changthang is not signicantly bility of opening the whole region to tourism. Currently, approxi-
affected by overgrazing, due to large availability of grasslands, and mately half of the region is accessible to tourists. Opening the rest
the low presence of pack animals. However, this area is affected by of the region is still a controversial issue, due to national security
vegetation damage, which represents a problem also in areas reasons. Environmental concerns could have a stake in this, and play
where campsites are located nearby riverside vegetation strips a role in decision-making, provided that the environmental impacts
(e.g., Darcha trail). Together with the Nubra Valley, Changthang of current and future tourism strategies are studied, modeled and
wetlands are also particularly affected by campsites, because they disseminated. If new areas are opened to tourism, measures must be
have been opened to tourism only recently, and therefore have few taken to prevent environmental degradation, and these measured can
hotels and tourism infrastructures. By comparing the composite be inspired by the results of this research. The results of the study
impact map (Fig. 9) with the location of protected areas in the region, can also be used to suggest impact mitigations. For example, trekker
it can be concluded that two areas are particularly exposed to inow could be diverted towards less sensitive areas (e.g., outside
environmental degradation by tourism presence: the Hemis and the some of the protected areas) or more homogeneously distributed
Tsokar Tsomoriri National Parks. Hemis National Park resulted badly among the different trails.
affected by tourism, mainly due to its proximity to the city of Leh, the A nal consideration is that impacts of tourism as a whole are
main tourist hub of the region. This Park does not have a management difcult to estimate because tourism comprises a complex network of
plan, and the analysis conducted here could be used to suggest a direct and indirect effects. This study addressed impacts directly
zoning scheme or other forms of managements that can help prevent related to trekking, which is the most popular tourist activity in the
further environmental degradation. region. The research can be extended to include other types of envi-
Most studies related to tourism impact in Ladakh addressed the ronmental impacts. In particular, an issue that emerged as very sig-
socio-economical aspects (Norberg-Hodge, 1992; Michaud, 1996). nicant during the study is the urban development within and around
Very few studies were carried out on the environmental consequences the city of Leh, largely driven by tourism. Both legal and illegal
of tourism development, and their purpose was to describe the envi- buildings are mushrooming, often occupying poorly suitable locations,
ronmental conditions and highlight critical issues, rather than to such as riversides and low hills. Hotels and other tourist infrastruc-
model and assess tourism impacts (Jina, 1994; Jina, 1996; Humbert- tures are encroaching the agricultural land in middle and upper Leh.
Droz and Dawa, 2004). The lack of environmental data that affected Houses, or the mere walls, are built in the outskirts of the city and
the region when this research was initiated forced us to invest a lot of on the surrounding hills to occupy vacant land while awaiting for
resources into the construction of a suitable geographical database. its value to increase. Urban sprawl in Leh, and its relationship with
Hence, tools as remote sensing imageries and GIS were largely em- tourism growth, must be studied and monitored in order to support
ployed for the baseline study, as well as the impact analysis. Fieldwork the proposal of suitable spatial planning policies.
D. Geneletti, D. Dawa / Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29 (2009) 229242 241

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