Yes abundance allows us to go into nature but one of our very own creation

The Indian wilderness is crumbling under the pressure of overpopulation.

Introduction

The Indian wilderness is crumbling under the pressure of overpopulation and overtourism. Although this is largely a population problem, it’s also got a lot to do with the dissemination of information among larger tourist groups and trekking organizations who solely operate for commercial gain.

The accessible sections of most of the wildlife reserves in the country are falling victim to forest fires, floods, landslides, and what not, with a million tourists visiting them and altering the landscape every single year.

The newfound wealth and abundance of the Indian middle class

Chances are you’re reading this on a tablet, a high end laptop, e-reader, smartphone, or even a macbook. But for the average middle class Indian, these modern gadgets haven’t been even within sniffing distance for most years of technological development. Those were the formative years where most millennials were holding their money close to themselves, saving up and investing in assets and other holdings that would secure their futures. Today, with most of them already having paid off their housing and car loans, and even having invested into the future, they are plush with a lot of disposable income. At least a bit more than what they had while entering the workforce.

And it’s this newfound wealth and abundance that is causing a sudden surge in the number of travellers indulging in trekking and other adventure activities in India. India is particularly known for its wild untamed nature, with the raw spectacular scenery from the tropical jungles of the South to the jaw dropping sights of the snowy Himalayan mountain ranges in the North.

Over the years, many an adventure seeker has ventured out to experience such sights or even to just travel inwards and find themselves. The trails weren’t regulated. Official trails were few and far between. And venturing into the forest wasn’t a crime as much as it is today.

Land Use Changes for farming and grazing have drastically altered the living environment of the areas surrounding wildlife reserves. Other factors such as climate change, the inauguration of new trekking trails, construction of homestays and the access roads leading to them, and an increasing number of people taking to hiking and wilderness exploration, all have a bearing on the deeper reaches of the forest and the kind of flora and fauna that is found in it.

Trails are no more “wild, undiscovered, and untouched”, even if no human has ever laid foot on them. Because it is the weather that we have managed to change. Weather that is a key determinant to a lot of the physical changes that forests undergo every year.

There are more fixed campsite treks organized today, than wild exploratory missions which take you deep into the wilderness. And by fixed campsite, I mean permanent fixtures, with the whole 9 yards: port-a-potties, tables, tents, benches, log huts, chairs and everything else in between. With trekking already 100% commercialized now, a steady stream of trekkers are guaranteed to enter these campsites each and every single weekend of the year. And this number swells to the hundreds of thousands during festivals and long holidays.

Unfortunately, the majority of this crowd aren’t “trekkers” in remotely any sense of the word. They are noisy, unruly, and quite frankly a wild untamed bunch who are venturing into the forests these days. And it is also for this reason that they’ve become a huge source of stress and tension for the forest department. Multiple trails around the Western ghats have to be closed during the monsoons and summer seasons as the number of unruly visitors are just too difficult to manage for the forest department.

One of my contacts and the the forest officer deputed at Kumara Parvatha (one of the toughest treks in South India), Mr Jayaraj, had this to say (translated) about the new crop of trekkers, and why they’ve had to resort to new stringent measures along with closing the trail entirely for most part of the year:

“These unruly gang of new trekkers come here to have fun and make merry, they are least interested in what nature has to offer. They drop lit cigarettes and cause forest fires, they get up to the peak and break glass bottles there after intoxicating themselves and behaving badly with us. They pollute the place with so much garbage that when we go there for inspection later on the weekdays, we find it a herculean task to clean up after them.”

The days of leave-no-trace camping are long lost to the present day of conveyor belt trekking where a steady stream of trekkers are constantly filling up these fixed campsites every single week.

There’s also:

  1. An increase in the number of yearly wildfires.

Personal experiences

Some of the South Indian jungles I’ve been exploring over the course of the last decade have themselves fallen prey to human-induced climate change, and I’ve started to notice a change in weather patterns during my regular treks there. Over the last 3 years, I started noticing a few changes in the South Indian trekking experience like:

  1. Frigid and unbearably cold nights have vanished altogether, negating the need for tents and warmer sleeping bags.

So, with all these changes in the natural landscape as well as the rules and regulations governing trekking in the country, nature is no longer what it once was, and the trekkers of today can at best get a very diluted and watered down experience of it, thanks to climate change and other anthropological factors. It would be in the best interest of world governments to impose curbs on population growth while at the same time restrict access to wildlife reserves, allowing only a certain number of trekkers onto a particular trail on any given day.

Final thoughts

It is apparent that an increasing number of people are coming into wealth and abundance every single day, which provides them the financial and time privilege to go into nature and discover our lost heritage. Alas, our “true heritage” has already been long lost, as the very physical and financial resources that have acted as enablers for people to go for long expeditions have also played a crucial role in altering the physical characteristics of the forest, making it to be one of their very own creation.

Do let me know your thoughts regarding this in the comments bar on the side.

I am an avid trekker, content writer, photographer and sports enthusiast. I write about trekking, society, overpopulation, lifestyle and veganism in general.