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Oct 31, 2003 | From the print edition

-- (Credit: EMKAY)Huge tourist inflows often spell doom for a region's ecology. But things may turn out quite the opposite for Ladakh, as the Leh Autonomous Hill Council (lahc) plans to make visitors share conservation costs. The responsibility is, however, to be shouldered by foreign tourists only.

The lahc proposes to charge from the next season an "environmental restoration" fee of us $10 per head. This money would be used to counter the ecological damage caused by human intrusion. The tourists would, in return, be given a souvenir of their visit to the region. According to lahc chairperson Thupstan Chhewang, the previous state government had approved the proposal.

About 30,000 tourists -- of which 18,000 are foreigners -- have visited the region so far this year. These numbers can spell disaster for the area's ecosystem. "The main towns are already under pressure. Trekking routes in the Himalayas are now facing the threat of getting converted into garbage dumps," pointed out Chhewang.

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