The Manimahesh yatra is a pilgrimage which is held every year in Himachal Pradesh. It is attended by approximately 8 lakh people from across the country. The Yatra is held immediately after Janmashthami, in which Hindus celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. The hike starts from a place called Hadsar which is 12 kms from Bharmour. The road ends at Hadsar and from here starts a steep 14km climb.
- Mountain Cleaners presence – 1st August until 30th September
- 22nd August – Janamastmi (Krishna’s birthday)
- 5th September – Radhastami (Radha’s birthday)
Please note that there will be huge amounts of people making their way to and from Manimahesh at this time therefore arrival or departure on the 20th – 23rd August and from the 3rd – 6th September is not recommended for safety reasons.
Getting to Manimahesh
- Chamba to Bharmour: 63km (3 hour bus – 70 rs)
- Bharmour to Hadsar – 12km (30 min jeep – 20 rs)
- Hadsar to Dhancho: 7km (tough hike – 4 hour)
- Dhancho to Gauri Kund: 6km (moderate hike – 3 hour)
- Gauri Kund to Manimahesh Lake: 1km (moderate hike – 1 hour)
Plan of Action
We will have waste disposal and drop off points at Bharmour, Hadsar, Dhancho, Gauri Kund and Manimahesh. We will encourage as many people as possible to bring the waste they generate back to Bharmour and hope to be selling re-usable cloth bags at a subsidized rate for this purpose. We will recycle as much as possible and already have a local buyer for the recyclable items. There is no solution for non recyclable waste at present which highlights the need for the government to take necessary measures to avoid further dumping in our rivers and forests. At present the majority of waste at Bharmour is dumped into the river.
We are aiming to have ten people at each base. We’re providing a waste collection to all the shops and langars so the majority of what we’ll do is collect, segregate and bag up ready to go down. We’ll also be cleaning the 14km trail and collecting from chai shops that are in between the camps too. It’s not all about waste, we need people to provide information and sign up volunteers at each base, sell t-shirts and cloth bags, promote recycling, solar products etc. We want you to talk to people when you see them throw garbage on the floor and ask them to help us to keep Shiva’s home clean like theirs is. Not everyone can read so they might not understand why we are cleaning. If you are foreign please get someone to translate for you, people are happy to oblige. We will also be working in the schools continuing with the environmental education we started during last years Yatra.
Who goes where?
Let me know if you want to go up to the lake or prefer to stay in Bharmour. If there is a particular area that you’d like to work in or a preference for certain duties (see above) please let me know. If you’re not happy working with garbage you need to let me know asap. We still want you to come along and help and will certainly find you things to do.
The Mountain Cleaners (MC) is aiming to provide the following:-
- A daily waste collection service to all the lungars and shops from Hadsar to Manimahesh.
- Bags for all the above locations which will be cleaned as needed.
- Gloves, bags and items necessary for workers and volunteers.
- Cloth bags so people can bring their waste back to Bharmour, these can be washed and reused.
- T-shirts for volunteers and workers.
- Posters, banners and informative materials in English and Hindi.
- Training for all people involved.
- Minimum of 40 MC volunteers plus huge potential for volunteer recruitment at all camps.
- Media coverage via TV, newspaper and internet.
- Mass awareness about recycling and advantages of correct waste management.
- Composting of biodegradable items on site ie paper, discarded underwear, food waste etc
- Food and accommodation for MC volunteers.
- Clothes for the poor by washing and passing on discarded clothes to those in need.
- Recycling – we will record how much is collected and the value of it when sold so people can understand that their waste could potentially benefit them financially.
Bharmour (2195 metres above sea level)
There is a Himalaya Mountaineering Centre at Bharmour that has a hostel. We have requested space for our volunteers to stay here on arrival. Bharmour has shops, a post office and an internet café (30 rs per hour). There are 84 shrines in the temple complex some dating back to the 9th century. We will have a small structure in Bharmour that will act as an info point. Tetrapak have donated ten construction walls sheets made from recycled tetrapak for this purpose. Waste containers and the main recyclables drop off point will be in Bharmour.
Bharmour to Hadsar – 12km (30 min jeep)
The official end of the road and the start of the hike. The journey here in a jeep is an exciting one with spectacular views and occasional landslides! There are a small number of shops and restaurants. There are large amounts of langars set up here giving out free food and refreshments but also creating large amounts of garbage that is disposed of directly into nature. We will have waste and recycling drop off point in Hadsar to tackle this problem.
Hadsar to Dhancho: 7km (tough hike – 4 hour)
This is the main camping site. We have requested two large tents from the Himalaya Mountaineering Centre in Bharmour. They have the best camping locations at each site en route to and at Manimahesh lake. The HMC have in-between 30 – 40 tents located in Dhancho. The river runs through the camp giving us a constant supply of water. We will filter and purify the water for drinking. There are toilets, a large number of shops, langars and food stalls. We hope to have an undercover base for segregating waste, meeting together, recruiting volunteers, spreading awareness etc.
Dhancho to Gauri Kund: 6km (moderate hike – 3 hour)
This is where the main clean up is needed. There is a lot of waste left over from last year. The sacred but small lake looks green and polluted. This is where ladies can take a holy bath (wash). We have requested two large tents from the Himalaya Mountaineering Centre. There is a helicopter service here set up in 2007 by the Himachal government. It costs around 9000rs so not for those on a budget! Good in an emergency though. Water supply, toilets, shops, langars and base camp as above.
Gauri Kund to Manimahesh Lake: 2km (moderate hike – 1 hour)
Manimahesh Lake (5656 metres above sea level)
Our final destination! The beautiful snow capped peak, Mount Kailash (home of Shiva) towers above the lake and on a clear day you can see the reflection in the lake itself. The lake is considered sacred and the majority of pilgrims come here to bathe in the lake to wash away their sins. Swimming is not allowed so bathing consists of lots of men standing in their underpants having a holy wash. After dressing many people sling their wet underpants to the side of the lake. Pits have been dug by the organisers of the Yatra for burning waste. As we are providing an alternative to burning we have asked to use these pits for composting biodegradable waste including paper, food waste and yes underpants!
The lake is small and ringed by shops and lhungars. There is a shrine area and a place for sacrificing sheep and goats. Hundreds if not thousands of sheep are bought over the mountains from the Spiti valley for this purpose. We have been told that there is an area allocated for the carcasses.
The HMC have 20 tents mainly for VIPs, policemen, medical staff and representatives from the Public Works Department, Irrigation and Public Health Department, Forestry Department and Electric company. Water supply, toilets, shops, langars and base camp as above.
Langars are set up by wealthy businessmen or organizations who contribute and get good karma by providing free food to everyone attending the Yatra. This is usually dahl and rice. Please discourage the use of disposable plates as they are non recyclable and toxic and the food left on them makes our job much more difficult. The Mountain Cleaners will provide additional food including porridge, pasta, honey, jam, fruit, vegetables, dried fruit and nuts for their volunteers.
We will provide tents but bring a mat and a sleeping bag if you have one. Please let me know if you don’t. We can arrange to pay your transport from Bharmour to Hadsar and will provide food and some snacks for you whilst you are volunteering for us. Any money and valuable items you bring with you are your responsibility.
Mobile Phone Coverage
There is only network coverage from Airtel and BSNL at Manimahesh.
We have solar powered lanterns made by Choice Solar and D.light. Volunteers are welcome to use them.
We have backgammon, scrabble and a set of playing cards. Feel free to bring a book or a game especially if you intend to stay for a while. We will also be making wallets from tetrapak (juice cartons).
What to pack
- Hiking boots or walking shoes
- Waterproof Jacket
- Warm coat
- Hat, gloves
- Bottle for water refills
- Basic toiletries
This list is not exhaustive! Please note we will arrange for your bag to be taken up on a mule but don’t bring any unnecessary items.
We need as many volunteers as possible to arrive on the 1st August as this will enable us to set up the bases at each camp quickly and efficiently.
Volunteer recruitment will be relatively easy at the camps as people will want to help out. Setting up will take a couple of days and we need a good team of volunteers to get things started. Can you help?
I hope that you now have all the information you need. If I’ve missed something please let me know. Thank you taking the time to read this and for offering your valuable time to assist us. We have the opportunity to educate 8 lakh people and possibly the whole country that waste can be managed, we just need to change our habits. Let’s show people a different way and get to work on India’s garbage problem for the benefit of all that live here on Mother Earth.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Download: Mountain Cleaners Projects
Waste and Sanitation Issues in Himalaya: http://chimalaya.org/2011/07/11/sanitation-highlights-from-himalaya/
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