Free from diseases and other civilization-borne vices, they survived happily in close communities at heights higher than 1,300 fit above the sea level where the scarce vegetation was enough for the sustenance of a population with a density of 2 per sq. km.
With the opening of the valley to uncontrolled tourism, pressures on the limited resources of the fragile ecosystem have been extreme, calling for subsidised supply of firewood from places as far as Chandigarh. With the removal of grass and junipers, the wild herbivores and all the available endangered species are forced to remain in the higher reaches even during the winter months.
The conflict of ecology and economy is a general one. When a tourist visits a place he goes there with three primary expectations that it will be a nice place to see, there will be activities to participate in and there will be nice memories o bring back home.
And he disobeys all laws that prevent him from achieving his objectives. The government policy should be whenever there is a clash between tourism and the ecology; the decision should always go in favour of the ecology.
Eco-tourism is largely a participatory process. In Lachung in Sikkim two young locals have taken the entire responsibility of guiding and educating the tourists. Being natives of the laid, they feel for it in a way that no outsider would ever be able to,
Eco-tourism today is a concept that has just begun to catch on. At present only 2 per cent of the market share of world tourism can be attributed to such specialised tourism. But with time, the figures should change.