INDIA'S tourist spots are under attack. As waves of travellers unpack a trail of filth and detritus, hill stations andbeach resorts have turned into veritable waste dumps. Snatching solitude fromthese spots, the urban 'literati' selfishly leave the once-idyllic hideaways unclean and gasping for fresh air.
Traffic snarls in Manali, heaps of discarded beer bottles in Dhanaulti, empty Coke cans in the snow-clad Auli, tetra-packs amongst the seashells at Goa's Calangute beach, piles of polythene in the Ranthambore Park, meaningless graffiti in the Konark temples and instances of eve-teasing on Mussoorie's Mall Road warn of the disaster ahead. And speak of the callousness of the Indian tourist.
His personal stereo blaring, his children litteringthe hillside with candy wrappers and his chauffeur negotiating deals with the local cops for access into areas where vehicles are forbidden, Bombay banker Kuldeep Chibber feels that Mussoorie has become too 'crowded'. Sipping beer at Shilton Hotel, he reminisces: "It was so peaceful here. But now there are too many people. These places have become like metros...10 years have ruined everything." And Chibber has helped.
Ironically, the likes of Chibber become model tourists when abroad. "Not a chance of catching them soil Singapore on a shopping spree. They know the rule—litter and be punished," observes president of the Indian Tour Operators' Association, Subhash Goel. Stringent laws, he says, may be the only way out. In this,the government is as duty bound to clean up its act as the tourist.
"Our prime destinations are so ill-maintained. Which man will look for a dustbin in Agra? The entire place is like a garbage dump. Why blame the tourist alone?" asks Pradeep Sankhla, owner of Indian Nature Expedition, an outfit that promotes eco-tourism. With 'indifferent and arbitrary' rules granting no more than three hours to tourists who want to cover a 40 km trail in Ranthambore, says Sankhla, it's hardly surprising that the National Park is treated like a movie by many. "Have your popcorn and litter the hall while at it," an irate Sankhla says. The writing on the wall is distressing. Chiselling obscene messages on monuments is another temptation. Says Achala Moulik, additional director general, Archaeological Survey of India: "How can 50 available attenders keep a check on 12,000 people who visit the Taj on a good day? The best safeguard is the tourist's conscience—that has to be awakened through awareness."