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Himalaya, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives
The countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, India and Sri Lanka present some of the world’s poorest living conditions. According to the United Nations 2010 Human Development Report “environmental degradation intensifies inequality through adverse impacts on already disadvantaged people and inequalities in human development amplify environmental degradation”. Travel companies and the travelling public can contribute to this mutually inclusive and destructive relationship, making matters worse. World Expeditions’ choose however to make a difference by putting in place initiatives that reduce our impact and give back to the places and people we encounter.
There is no better example of this than the permanent eco-campsites that we have built throughout the Everest region in Nepal. Tourism has brought financial prosperity to the Sherpa people living in the Everest region of Nepal, but nowadays the environment and its biodiversity is under serious threat from severe deforestation and pollution, both directly linked to the growth in tourism numbers. Significant numbers of lodges throughout the region have been constructed to meet the tourist demand and they rely heavily on wood for heating and cooking. The continuing use of firewood by teahouses has contributed to the thinning of forests and the depletion of juniper within the national park and the forests just outside the national park, which have been heavily thinned over an extensive area. Recognizing this grave problem World Expeditions has developed a sustainable tourism alternative ... permanent eco campsites. The environmental and social aims of the development of these permanent campsites include:
1. To ensure that the environmental footprint of our permanent campsites is significantly smaller than that of a tea house/lodge based trek through close scrutiny of the following components:
- Water usage - all campsites use a rainwater tank
- Waste management - all non-biodegradable refuse is carried out and composting toilets are used
- Contribute in a positive way to the social, cultural and economic aspects of life for the Sherpa people by providing employment and training, purchasing goods locally and interacting with the local people respectfully and with high regard.
2. Minimise deforestation to:
- reduce the threat to the biodiversity of the regions flora and fauna.
- reduce the risk of landslips, which can be catastrophic for villages in their path.
3. To set the benchmark, demonstrating how commercial trekking groups should be operating in this delicate environment.
We plan to extend this concept beyond the Everest region and into Nepal’s other popular trekking region … the Annapurna Region.
Nepal: Our porters always carry efficient kerosene or other liquid fuel stoves. This adds significantly to our costs but maintains our minimal impact policy and commitment to responsible travel, ensuring that our trips do not contribute to deforestation and associated erosion or loss of biodiversity in regions that are struggling with these serious threats.
India: We employ a generous number of porters on trek in order to implement our minimal impact policies. These extra porters carry kerosene fuel in and take rubbish out.
Sikkim: Campfires are not used to avoid the depletion of the forests and dead wood and driftwood are not used to light fires since it is an important resource for the locals in the colder months.
Sri Lanka: Every year following the diving season and coinciding with the commencement of the monsoon, we organise a coastal cleanup campaign. Additionally, to propagate the idea of preserving nature among the school children we coordinate tree-planting campaigns among the school communities.
The Maldives: The crew onboard our Dhonis are well trained in educating our passengers in the responsible way to snorkel, dive, fish and partake in other water based activities to ensure that no harm comes to the delicate corals and other sea life.
Bhutan: Previously our mantra has been “take only photographs, leave only footprints”. But now we’ve extended it to “take only photographs and 10 pieces of litter, leave only footprints”.
Often the places we visit are remote. It’s one of the reasons we find them so alluring. In developing countries these places often have limited infrastructure ... no ‘council rubbish collection’! In fact there is likely very limited rubbish disposal options at all and until relatively recently there was little in the way of litter because there was no packaging made from glass, metal or plastic, it was all biodegradable. Largely because of this local villagers and herders have commonly left any ‘packaging’ lying around. This wasn’t a problem when it was a broken piece of pottery, a wooden pot or bamboo basket However with the increasing uptake of modern packaging and the onset of tourism into these areas, non-biodegradable litter has become more and more prevalent.
World Expeditions aspires to the principles of Leave No Trace. We endeavor to operate our treks in a way that the waste generated is disposed of in the best way possible. In remote areas combustible litter is burned as cleanly as possible and non-combustible litter is carried out. In the heavily trekked Everest region, we have taken the initiative of building rubbish incinerators in various locations.
But now we take it one step further!
The 10 Pieces iniative began in the spring season of 2014 in Bhutan. When a section of trail has been identified as a ‘hotspot’ for rubbish collection we let our travellers know about it upon booking. Upon arrival at their destination the guide reminds them about the initiative and they have the option to participate. We provide them with a rubbish collection bag as well as a small sack to place their gloves in following the collection. On the trail when they reach the section that requires cleaning they’ll take a small amount of time to collect 10 pieces. Remembering that our individual effort collectively makes a big difference.
Our local crew ensures that the rubbish is carried out and disposed of in a responsible manner (incinerator, landfill and/or recycling plants) in the closest city.
Any questions or comments regarding this initiative should be directed to our Responsible Travel Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Social and Cultural
Protecting our porters
Porters are an integral part of the World Expeditions philosophy and style of travel. We strive to take our travellers off-the-beaten track, avoiding the congested trails, to experience our remote tent-based adventures … this style of trekking is enabled by porters. Porters are as important to us as our travellers. Without them, we would not be able to run our quality programs. When we trek, the entire group - travellers, guides and porters alike - are a team who share the same needs for safety in the mountain environment. For this reason, all World Expeditions porters are provided with the following:
- A good working wage
- All food for porters while on trek
- Accommodation while on trek
- Work related clothing and equipment *
- Income protection insurance
- We also provide emergency helicopter evacuation if required
* The most visible sign of this porter protection is the equipment we provide: wind and waterproof jacket and over-trousers, 2 pairs of woollen socks, 2 pair of leather shoes on long treks and 2 pairs of canvas shoes while on short treks, woollen gloves, warm cap, sunglasses, mattress and sleeping bag and tent as well as cooking utensils, stove and kerosene fuel.
World Expeditions will stand by its commitments and abide by its porter protection policies because it is the responsible thing to do. We will continue to campaign to ensure that all trekking companies adopt similar policies because we strongly believe the welfare of the entire trek crew, from porters to the most senior guide, is the responsibility of the company that sends them out there.
World Expeditions supports the good work of two international organisations that operate to ensure the health and well being of porters, they are: International Porter Protection Group and the International Mountain Explorers Connection
Nepal: We immerse our travellers in the local culture in a way that is inclusive and positive, through the sharing of stories, songs, poems and the expression of appreciation for the villages, children, dress, and culture and mountain scenery. In turn, this inspires the local people to be proud of their culture and to protect their surrounding environment, providing an incentive to resist resource exploitation and the Westernisation of their culture.
India: Employing local people in our offices and in the field ensure that a good proportion of your trek fees remain with the people who are custodians of the places and cultures we visit. Additionally, there is no better person to teach about the landscape and culture than a local person.
Bhutan: We send all provisions required for the duration of a trek from our Head Office in Paro. Minimal purchases of fresh vegetable are made en-route to ensure that we are not depleting the resources for the locals.
Sikkim: Because of limited food resources in the villages we pass through we carry all food with us that are purchased in larger towns and cities. We encourage our clients to purchase local handmade handicrafts.
Sri Lanka: We support the economies of local communities by purchasing products and harnessing the skills of the communities we visit. For example, during our camping nights and jungle treks we endeavour to support the local communities by employing them to prepare our food and supply the ingredients.
Nepal: Since 2005 we have completed 11 community projects in Nepal including renovations of numerous schools and medical centres as well as the construction of waste management systems. Along with our community projects we have had many school groups and private groups travel with us in Nepal with the specific purpose of partaking in a grass roots type of community development project. Some of these projects include:
India: In recent years we have renovated a playground in one of India’s children’s orphanages and renovated a rural school in Rajasthan via the community project program
Bhutan & Sikkim: We contribute to schools and health posts during our itineraries through the donations of funds and learning and medical materials.
Sri Lanka: We coordinate volunteer placements of English language teachers in the homes of students requiring tuition.