Tourism grows in Leh, so does concern about its environmental impact


The opening of the Atal tunnel at the Rohtang Pass in October 2020 has facilitated an unprecedented increase in vehicular traffic in the region, over the past two years. Most of these vehicles are likely to be with tourists going towards the city of Leh in Ladakh or Himachal Pradesh’s scenic Lahaul valley.

  • Around 250,000 tourists visited Leh in two months, June and July, this year, breaking previous records. The tourist population in two months is about eight times more than Leh city’s local population.
  • Environmentalists are concerned that rapidly growing tourism is compromising the sustainable way of living in Leh, with increasing waste generation, water demand, vehicular traffic and construction activities.
  • While more infrastructure develops to support tourists, some NGOs and environmentalists are demanding restraint on tourist movement, promotion of responsible tourism and mindful travel in Leh.

The traffic inflow from Rohtang Pass, before the opening of the highway tunnel, was 4.5 lakh (450,000) vehicles between January 2018 and October 2020, when the tunnel opened to the public. After that, over the next 22 months, from October 2020 to August 2022, 17 lakh (1.7 million) vehicles crossed the Atal tunnel, revealed data from the Himachal Pradesh police. In effect, in the two years since the tunnel opened, traffic inflow increased by approximately 400% compared to the two years before the tunnel opened.

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