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Considerations for Responsible Trekking

June 11, 2009

trekking

Trekking can place great pressure on wilderness areas and you should take special care when trekking to help preserve the ecology and beauty of the country or place. The following tips are common sense, but they are also mandated by some governments, and you, or your guide, could be fined for not observing them.

Rubbish

  • Carry out all your rubbish. If you’ve carried it in you can carry it out. Don’t overlook those easily forgotten items, such as silver paper, cigarette butts and plastic wrappers. Empty packaging weighs very little and should be stored in a dedicated rubbish bag. Make an effort to carry out rubbish left by others.
  • Minimize the waste you must carry out by reducing packaging and taking no more than you will need. If you can’t buy in bulk, unpack small packages and combine their contents in one container before your trek. Take reusable containers or stuff sacks.
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons and condoms should also be carried out despite the inconvenience. They burn and decompose poorly.

Human Waste Disposal

  • Contamination of water sources by human faeces can lead to the transmission of hepatitis, typhoid and intestinal parasites. It can cause severe health risks not only to members of your party, but also to local residents and wildlife. A toilet tent can or usually is set up at each camp; please use it.
  • Where there is no toilet tent, bury your waste. Dig a small hole 15cm deep and at least 100m from any watercourse. Consider carrying a lightweight trowel for this purpose. Cover the waste with soil and a rock. Use toilet paper sparingly and burn it or bury it with the waste. In snow, dig down to the soil otherwise your waste will be exposed when the snow melts.

Washing

  • Don’t use detergents or toothpaste, even if they are biodegradable, in or near watercourses. For personal washing, use biodegradable soap and a basin at least 50m away from any watercourse. Widely disperse the waste water to allow the soil to filter it fully before it finally makes it back to the watercourse.

Erosion

  • At some places, hillsides and mountain slopes, especially at high altitude, are prone to erosion. It is important to stick to existing tracks and avoid short cuts that bypass a switchback. If you blaze a new trail straight down a slope it will turn into a watercourse with the next heavy rainfall and eventually cause soil loss and deep scarring.
  • If a well-used track passes through a mud patch, walk through the mud: walking around the edge of the patch will increase the size of the patch.
  • Avoid removing the plants that keep the topsoil in place.

Wildlife Conservation

  • Don’t assume animals found in huts to be nonindigenous vermin and attempt to exterminate them. In wild places they are likely to be protected native animals.
  • Discourage the presence of wildlife at the camp by not leaving food scraps behind.
  • Do not disturb or feed wildlife or do anything to destroy their natural habitat.

Cultural Conservation

  • Respect the culture and traditions of local people, whether they are villagers, your camp staff or your horse drivers, especially if you’re in a foreign country.
  • If applicable, do not give sweets, money, medicines or gifts to local people, particularly children, as this encourages begging.
  • If applicable, do not buy local household items or religious artifacts from villagers.


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