When you think of going on a trek or an expedition Uttarkashi should be one of the obvious destinations you should consider. Covid has affected the tourism sector all over the world and Uttarkashi is no exception to the problem. India is taking rapid strides in vaccinating its adult population and tourism may see some green shoots. In such a scenario, the district administration of Uttarkashi along with the support of the Uttarakhand state administration has taken many steps to boost this sector.
The livelihood of most of the locals is dependent on tourism, usually pilgrimage tourism to Gangotri or Yamunotri. Many work as guides, Dhaba or restaurant owners. “The challenges we are facing now are to sustain the livelihood of people and small scale industries here. So we are finding ways to have year-round opportunities here and not staying restricted to seasonal pilgrimage tourists and explore other opportunities like attracting high-end tourists who would be coming here and staying for a few days,” informed Mayur Dixit, IAS the District Magistrate of Uttarkashi.
Homestays have been promoted extensively in the district, There are presently 400 homestays in Uttarkashi at several locations. Anyone visiting Uttarkashi can stay in a traditional home and enjoy the local cuisine. Many students visit Uttarkashi for their research work as well. Mayur Dixit said, “These homestays are emerging as attractive destinations for tourists as they have their websites and are directly contacting many adventure tourists.”
The district administration has tied up with UNDP, the Government of India and Government of Uttarakhand in a Secure Himalaya project. The SECURE Himalaya project is a part of the Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development which is funded by the Global Environment Facility to promote sustainable management of alpine pastures and forests in the high range Himalayan ecosystems. “We are trying to build everything utilizing the local environment accessing the local community’s needs,” the DM informed.
Uttarkashi is the hub of adventure tourism. Bachendri Pal, the first woman who climbed Mt. Everest is from Uttarkashi. The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering is also located here. Various paragliding, parasailing and bungee jumping sites are being promoted. “This has been possible owing to the support of various entrepreneurs here. The topography of the place offers many opportunities similar to these,” Mayur Dixit, IAS added.
Uttarkashi is famous worldwide for its attractive expeditions. The district administration is promoting expeditions to high altitude mountains as well like Satupanth, Bhagirathi 1 and Bhagirathi 2. As Mayur Dixit informed, the number of expeditions are now increasing as the pandemic has slowed down at present.
The district administration has recently renovated the Gartang Gali working in extremely tough conditions. Gartang Gali is a wooden skywalk that was constructed hundreds of years ago which was an important trading route between India and Tibet. It is now open for tourists who would like to stay and explore nearby places.
India has young demography with many people taking to Video Blogging as an attractive proposition. The Uttarkashi district administration is working on setting up more mobile tower networks to facilitate such activities.
Attracting international tourists
Uttarkashi has emerged as an attractive destination for many international tourists. As soon as international flights normalise their operations this segment is expected to come back to normalcy.
Mayur Dixit said, “International tourists usually arrive in winter for hiking and trekking and staying in villages. Various guides and tour operators have been trained to cater to their specific needs.”
Tourism for all
To make tourism accessible to all, even those who are differently-abled, the Uttarkashi district administration is working on creating Instagram reels and movies. Moreover, to make this hill district tourism-friendly for the disabled we are ensuring toilets at many places and accessible roads.
“We are trying to start a helicopter service from Dehradun to Uttarkashi which will help the differently-abled who would like to visit the district,” Mayur Dixit, IAS informed.
Many initiatives have been taken to ensure that tourism does not disturb the ecology of the space. All the tour operators and guides have been instructed to ensure that wherever they are travelling the place is kept clean.
The district administration has started an initiative where they take caution money from the tourists and provide them with baskets to dispose of their waste. When tourists return from treks they return the baskets and get their caution money back. Local people have also been instructed to keep the places clean.
Awareness drives are held for local people who are instructed not to let anyone litter the place and not allow any plastic on the trek. The Forest Department is also active in ensuring that no illegal activities like smoking or lighting fire in the forest is allowed. Many NGOs are also very active to ensure that the pristine ecosystem remains unimpacted by ensuring that wastes are recycled in the cities.
Mayur Dixit said, “Tourists are aware in general. Whenever they see garbage littered they click photographs and forward it to the forest authorities who act upon it. In the new normal, all tourists are welcome once the monsoons are over as there are frequent landslides. However, they need to follow the Covid guidelines.”
If anyone is planning to visit Uttarkashi they have to get themselves tested for Covid at the district borders if not fully vaccinated. One may choose to get vaccinated as well in the tourist facilitation centers set up at the borders of the district.