About Zero Waste Ladakh
Zero Waste Ladakh is a registered charitable trust working together with individuals and local communities for addressing the problem of waste proliferation in Ladakh.
Ladakh is a high altitude, desert region in the Indian Himalayas, known for its breathtaking landscapes and extremely harsh winters. Due to its inaccessible geographical location, Ladakh remained cut off from the rest of the country until as late as the 1970s.
In the 1970s, a military base for the Indian army was established in Ladakh for its strategic position bordering Pakistan and China. A massive program of infrastructure construction followed, under which, hundreds of kilometres of national highways and roads were laid across Ladakh, and facilities such as airports, fuel stations, government offices and provision stores were set up all across the region. Thousands of army personnel now resided in Ladakh, and never before seen tourists, both foreign and Indian, started flocking to the region.
With the birth of tourism in Ladakh, dozens, and later hundreds, of hotels, restaurants, cafes, home stays and shops opened in the region. Hiking and mountaineering trips to pristine, remote and dangerous spots started being conducted for tourists. The population of Ladakh saw a sudden increase, attributable to army, tourists, and migrant workers, who were brought in, in thousands, for doing the construction works. All these developments altered the character of Ladakhi people's lifestyles and surroundings.
Today, Ladakh faces many challenges, the foremost being preservation of its natural beauty and environment. One of the main causes of damage to the environment in Ladakh is waste proliferation and mismanagement. Traditionally, Ladakh was a waste-free society - every waste material was put to some use. However, after the 1970s, new waste materials appeared such as plastics, cement, ceramics, rubber, glass, Tetra Pak, paperboard, metals, polyester, and e-waste. These, the local community had no means of disposing and had a limited ability to reuse.
Having no environmental pollution until very recently, the effects of overabundance and improper disposal of waste perhaps show more conspicuously here than elsewhere. In recognition of and as a response to the waste problem in Ladakh, an effort was made by Aparajita Goswami in 2019 to study and document the waste problem and mobilise local youths for actively participating in managing waste at the ground level. In this regard, a charitable trust by the name Zero Waste Ladakh was registered in 2021.
Zero Waste Ladakh is an action group of sensitive, self-driven individuals, working to research and spread awareness on the waste problem, advocate for behavioural change to prevent waste generation, and recover and repurpose products and materials that are destined for burning or dumping, with the broad goals of saving resources and keeping them within the local economy, reducing the increasing waste in the surroundings, restoring the natural beauty of the region, addressing the waste-related problems in the community, and changing the common perception that waste has no value.